70 Years of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Chapel

Celebrating 70 years since the laying of the Chapel's Foundation Stone, bringing the community together for various events and creating cherished memories.

On Wednesday, 31 May 2023 we celebrated 70 years since the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Chapel.

The Foundation Stone was laid by His Eminence Norman Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney replacing two earlier chapels built into the Boarding School. This created a place for our community to come together. Today we use the Chapel for many events such as Friday Morning Communion and Boarder Mass every Sunday, to the Graduation Eucharist with the lighting of the candles, and many alumnae weddings.

As shared in convent diary entries "it was a beautiful day for the laying of the Foundation Stone. Children lined the drive until the Cardinal passed them. The day was a celebration within the community with many attending the opening of the new Chapel followed by a 'very crowded' afternoon tea."

Below is a reflection from the 1953 Loreto Magazine on the event:

31st - A black car swung slowly through the gates of Loreto Normanhurst. As it came up the red-gravelled, tree-lined drive, the girls, standing on either side said: "Welcome, Your Eminence!" to the smiling Cardinal within. Once again, Loreto had a Prince of the Church in a Congress year to lay a foundation stone. This time it was for our new chapel, already showing its Gothic doors and windows.

This day was perfect - still and warm - and the grounds looked beautiful. The grand oak trees, nearly sixty years old, still carried the last leaves of Autumn. Beyond the oaks the lawns stretched down to the tennis courts. This is the hill which Mother Gonzaga Barry chose for her convent in 1897. Driving towards it sfter a storm, she was confirmed in her choice when she saw a broad rainbow spanning the hill. And so our convent was built on this site. Over the years additions have been made to the dignified brick buildings, with its castellated parapet and oriel windows in Tudor style. Years passed and now we had with us our own Australian Cardinal. After His Eminence had laid the foundation stone of the chapel he blessed the new classrooms (already some months in use); he then returned to the dais arranged in the front of the convent. It was a pleasure and a privilege to listen to the friendly speech of His Eminence, who remarked that he had visited our convents in Madrid and Calcutta, and that he found there the same pleasing atmosphere as people find at Normanhurst and Kirribilli. This was a great day for us, and we felt very much honoured to have our Cardinal with us.

Reflecting on the opening day, a beautiful story was created by Fourth Year student, Ellen, who imagined an alumna looking back on the special occasion:

"The old book was battered and torn. Almost an antique, Sue thought, as she pulled it from the old box, shaking away the dust. “Why! It’s a photo album!” she exclaimed, opening it with the eager fingers of her years.

The first page was dated 20th March, 1954, and the picture was one of girls in a pleated uniform forming a guard of honour down a drive. With a thrill of excitement, Sue realised it was over fifty years old.…

The old lady took the book from the extended hand with the tenderness that belongs to a memory. Seeing the picture, the memory of the day flooded back to her… It was taken on the day of the opening and blessing of the new chapel by Bishop Lyons. She remembered it all so vividly: the guard of honour they formed down the drive, the Bishop’s arrival and blessing of the chapel. How proud they were that day of their chapel and how impressed by the reverence, dignity and concentration of the ceremony.

The old lady’s mind returned suddenly to the qestioning, upturned face of the child, and she said softly: “That picture is a memory that will never grow old.”1

Ellen Bracks (Dougherty, 1955)