|8 Aug 2022|
At our City Country Mother's Lunch in 2022, we were lucky to hear from alumna Anna Haire (Boarder, 86), who shared how her time at Loreto Normanhurst both as a student, and as a parent influences her every day.
Anna lives in Northwest New South Wales about seven and a half hours north of Sydney near the metropolis of Wee Waa (Population 2000). Anna has a daughter who left Loreto Normanhurst in 2021 and is now studying at Sydney University and a daughter currently at Loreto Normanhurst in Year 9.
We thank Anna for sharing her story with such humour and authenticity. It was a perfect reflection on the strength of the Loreto spirit as we celebrate 125 Years of Loreto Normanhurst.
Read below to hear what she had to say.
I remember arriving at the Loreto boarding school in the mid ‘80s in a city I had only visited about three times in my life before. My mother was very emotional and found it hard to keep it together. Within two months of being at Loreto my father died of a long illness. I remember distinctly a Loreto nun, Sr Libby Rogerson sitting with me quietly talking to me to help me through my grief. I look back at this and I know that my mother must have had such trust in the Loreto sisters to guide me through this difficult time. Great kindness is not easily forgotten which shows as here I am repeating the story more than 3 decades on.
For me Loreto broadened my horizons. I know it is an overused term, but I suppose what I mean by it is that it stretched my ideas on what I thought was possible as a rural girl. At that time for me I never saw gender as the biggest barrier for me but more my geographical location/the rural-urban divide. We know in current research there is evidence of this rural-urban academic gap- not that I knew of it at the time. I think the Loreto sisters knew this when they set up the country boarding school in 1897. They wanted to close the gap.
I know for me Loreto gave me the confidence to pursue academic studies at Sydney University. I was only one of two girls from the country in the year of my course, but I did not feel that I wouldn’t make the grade after my years at Loreto had given me the confidence I definitely lacked on entry to boarding school. Loreto broadened my horizons past the hills of Holbrook (where I lived), and I can see the same happening to my daughters now.
I look at my peers and teachers from my school days and specifics are hazy, but I knew I had a strong sense of school community and boarding community.
I looked back at the Loreto book of 120 Inspirational Women. I am not nostalgic- that is a little too sentimental- but I do see the past has helped shape Loreto’s future, so it is important to remember the people that have gone before us.
I decided to look at women of my era.
So, I go Straight to the top – dux of our year Dr Melanie Fitzpatrick class of ’86 now she is my vintage. Degrees in Physics and Geophysics and a doctorate. Australia’s first female Glaciologist.
I was interested as well to see the boarders in this book of my era
Michelle Leonard class of ’88 boarder from Coonamble (population 3,900). Founder, artistic director and conductor of Moorambilla Voices, Order of Australia Medal, program on Netflix. She has only recently finished her annual pilgrimage from her home in Petersham to the state’s Central West and Northwest auditioning two and a half thousand children covering 5000km for a bush choir. Utter madness but so inspiring.
Brigid McLaughlin Class of ’88 from Warren (population 1500). International Fashion Designer. What mother from Warren doesn’t expect her daughter to be an international fashion designer?
There were also the influential adults of my era.
My favourite painting at Loreto is Mother Evangeline’s portrait (1907-1996). (editors note: Jane O'Hara Classof '72 is the artist of the portrait) She was a Loreto institution. Somebody has placed her portrait at the exit from the boarding school so that each day she watches the young boarders move from boarding to the day school and then return in the afternoon. I always find Mother Evangeline’s face interesting in this painting. The artist has captured her innate curiosity I think but not the 4-foot 10 pocket rocket she was. There were also a number of artists in this book that attribute their love and pursuit of the arts to Mother Evangeline. This is a testament to her passion for the arts. She was NOT a wallflower as I remember her. One of the ex-students in the book describes her as a feisty little atom. I thought that was great. I am sure she would have something to say about the noise levels in those boarding passages and the neatness of the school attire on the boarders. One ex-student described arriving at Loreto Normanhurst in the 1940’s about the time Mother Evangeline arrived at Normo and from there she built up the Arts Department to what I remember in the 1980’s.
How could you not see potential in yourself when you were surrounded by peers and adults who were frankly so inspiring.
Winding forward the clock and back to my original question in 2016 why I sent my 12-year-old daughter to board so far from our family home to Loreto Normanhurst. I hope what I have said opens a window into my decision.
My girls became the fourth generation of their family to attend Loreto.
I still see things today at Loreto that confirm my trust in the continuation of the Loreto Spirit.
A photo I saw recently on the Loreto Facebook page is one that could have been easily missed. Three generations standing in one of the boarding school dorms. A place where all three generations had slept – mother, daughter and two granddaughters. Three generations of women had made the decision to send the next generation of girls away to be educated. I found this picture with its pure simplicity quite moving as I thought about the hard decision that each rural mother of each generation had to make.
There must be a reason for this strong bond to Loreto. It is frequently discussed by the women nominated to go into this book as well. I think it is intangible and difficult to put into words.
Another more recent story remains etched into my memory, and you will see why. Of course, it involves covid.
It had been a difficult time last year when my daughter was trying to study for the HSC in our house with four siblings and me working full time from home. Trying to find a place to zoom with no background noise. Our internet was intermittent, and I had a ball of anxiety wondering how my daughter could ever pass the HSC under these conditions and as we know it is such a sliding doors moment for that age. I felt sick. I felt disconnected from the school.
Not so for my daughter. The teachers were exceptional, and this story best defines their investment into these Year 12 girls (the class of ’21) who were on the cusp of their next chapter in such a volatile time. Eliza had completed a practice HSC essay paper which she sent to her teacher one night at 8.30 pm to read and give feedback. By 7.00 am the next morning the teacher had sent a reply with extremely detailed notes to help Eliza. Eliza could not believe it. She brought it in to show me the work the teacher had put into her feedback. She understood the effort and time that had been put in.
This teacher was a woman who was under the same family and work pressures as me, yet she took time out of her own family time to help my daughter feel connected even though she was so far away from school…almost willing her across the HSC line. As I said before it is these extreme acts of kindness that you do not easily forget.
When I told Kath Walton (Class of 1989 and current PAL President) my terror in doing this talk, she said be yourself and speak from the heart. I think I have done this. It reminded me of a quote I read a few years ago. Behind every woman is another woman whispering in her ear … “you’ve got this”. I am lucky I have had that all my life starting with my mother. We say it to our daughters, and they will say it to theirs. I could feel it from the teachers to the class of ’21. You’ve got this. And they did.
We are excited to launch our Christmas Bursary Appeal to help give the gift of a brighter future to other promising youn… More...
Sam Wegner ('89) reports on all things Spring Fair and invites you to attend the Ex-Students' Association AGM. More...