Sts Peter and Paul’s School draws on more than 100 years service to Sts Peter and Paul’s Parish as it moves to provide the highest quality Catholic primary education in the 21st century. Sts Peter and Paul’s School opened on 7 February 1916 with an enrolment of 200 students. It was run by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, who moved from Sydney to provide a Catholic alternative to the National School, which as Bulimba State School, remains at the top of Carlton Hill.
Staff at Sts Peter and Paul’s in its first year included Mother Mary Bernard (Superior), Sr Mary Catherine (Teacher-In-Charge), Srs Mary Ignatius and Mary Patrick Francis (class teachers), Sr Mary Gabriel (infant school teacher), and Sr Mary Adrian (music teacher). In 1916 the Sisters of the Good Samaritan began an association with Sts Peter and Paul’s that was to last until 1996 when the school’s first lay principal, Mr John Power, was appointed for the following school year.
Although the Sisters leave Sts Peter and Paul’s school, the Sisters remain active throughout Australia, in Japan, the Philippines, and Kirribati. In these countries they meet a range of pastoral needs: teaching, caring for the poor and the needy, and working with local people to spread God’s word – living the mission of their founder, Archbishop John Bede Polding, who began the order in Sydney in 1817.
Sts Peter and Paul’s School opened its doors one year after the appointment of Bulimba’s first parish priest, Fr Arthur O’Keeffe, in 1915, and the same year as the founding of Sts Peter and Paul’s Parish. The school, together with its grounds, cost £7000. Prior to its opening, classes were conducted underneath the parish’s original small wooden church and in the church sacristy. In those early days the parish included the districts of Norman Park and Cannon Hill, and was one of the early parishes south of the Brisbane River (the others were St Mary’s in South Brisbane and St Joseph’s at Kangaroo Point). Before then, parishioners of Bulimba and surrounding districts were visited by priests from St Patrick’s Church in Fortitude Valley, who administered the sacraments in a simple church built on land donated to the Catholic community by the then State Member for Bulimba, Mr A.J. Thynne. From its inception Sts Peter and Paul’s Parish grew quickly and plans were soon put in place for a new church on the site of the old. The foundation stone for this church, which remains the centre of life and worship for the parish, was laid on 9 May 1916.
In its early history Sts Peter and Paul’s School grew slowly but steadily. The southern wing of “A” block was added in 1926. The number of students attending the school steadied through the years of the Great Depression and the Second World War. However, the post-war boom, the growing local community, and changing education practices had their impact. In 1962 the first of three new buildings was built. The building, “B” block, housed four new classrooms. A third classroom block, “C” block, was added in 1970 and in 1984 the Administration Building was opened.
In 1990 a significant enhancement of services was offered by the school – pre-school education. A new pre-school building, catering for up to 50 pre-schoolers, was opened in 1998 and in 1999 a refurbishment program for earlier class rooms was begun. In 2001 the Undercroft building, comprising six beautiful classrooms, student facilities, canteen and undercroft (hence the name) was completed. We dedicate this building as the Good Samaritan Building in honour of the leadership given by the nuns for 80 years.
In 2002 we have replaced the original 1916 school building with a modern resource centre (library), staff facilities and classrooms. Facilities to meet the needs of the 21st Century. This building is called the Fr Lee Building to honour the memory and service of Fr Bryan Lee, Parish Priest 1968 - 2002.
Today, Sts Peter and Paul’s School offers some of the most modern and spacious teaching facilities of any Catholic school in Brisbane. The school has twenty-five classes, comprising more than 660 students and is surrounded by attractive grounds and quality sporting facilities, including modern tennis courts and a sports oval. It has become a centre of excellence in teaching and preparing our young children to learn the skills for life.
Together, Sts Peter and Paul’s church and school form a vital part of the Catholic Church’s mission of proclaiming God’s good news to all. They work in partnership with parents and parishioners to ensure that every opportunity for the finest education, built on the Catholic faith, is available to all who seek it.
© Rev Dr Tom Elich, 2016