History of the College
Principal Sr Juliette Ghorayeb and Sr Constance Bacha of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family (MSHF) laid the foundations for Our Lady of Lebanon school, aided by Monsignor Peter Ziade. Sr Constance Basha believed the community took heart and spirit from the presence of the Sisters in Sydney, ‘we may have reminded them of their homeland and the religious traditions and environment they were a part of in Lebanon.’
The school opened its doors with an enrolment of 115 students under Our Lady of Lebanon Church, in Harris Park, on January 1st 1973. The early conditions were austere, with an uncarpeted, unpainted building and few, if any, amenities. Nevertheless, the pioneer sisters quickly got on with the task of providing education to families newly arrived in Australia who were battling both financial and linguistic barriers. Sister Madeleine de la Croix arrived in Australia in 1974, and was assigned to Our Lady of Lebanon School.
In 1978 the sisters acquired two adjoining house blocks to accommodate the Primary school and convent with the generous assistance of many parents and friends. These blocks soon became known as 23-25 Alice Street, the official address of the College. It was on these blocks that the infants/primary, administration and convent areas of the school were officially set up.
With a student population of 354 and a staff of 16 teachers and 2 sisters, the official opening of the new Primary building was performed by Senator Peter Baume, Minister for Education, on 26th June 1982.
In the 1980s an application was lodged for establishing a Secondary. The Secondary department moved from the Church hall into its two purpose-built buildings in 1990. By the completion of the final stage of this project in 1992, the College had grown into a school providing education to almost 1,000 children from Kindergarten to HSC and employing 80 staff. The construction of a new upper-primary set of classrooms also occurred in the late 1990s. It was only then that the classrooms under the local church were finally discontinued.
The official opening of the final stages of the buildings to house all sections of the Secondary department occurred in 1992 and was performed by Prime Minister Paul Keating. In the Parramatta Advertiser it was written, ‘Mr Keating later praised cultural diversity when he opened a Lebanese school at Harris Park. ‘It (the school) reflects the fact that there is strength in our cultural diversity and that the energy of an ethnic community can strengthen our pursuit of common national goals . . . Fanfares, anthems, flags, culture and entertainment, adoration and adulation were all ingredients of the reception Prime Minister Paul Keating received when he opened Our Lady of Lebanon School at Harris Park on Friday. . . Sitting only a few feet away, Parramatta’s Federal Labor MP, Paul Elliott, basked in the reflected glory. He said the Commonwealth had already contributed $2.3 million to the school in recent years to boost the school community’s own ‘magnificent effort and sacrifice.’
Sr Irene Boughosn was appointed the new College Principal in 1996 to replace Sr Constance who had been Principal for twenty-five years. During this time political visits were common. In 2000, Prime Minister John Howard visited Our Lady of Lebanon College, and the NSW Premier Bob Carr came along on 10th August 2001. Two weeks after the Premier’s visit, the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party John Brogden visited the College.
Further additions to the Secondary included a new A block that consisted of a purpose-built library, an assembly hall, canteen and six classrooms. This was officially opened on September 17th 2004. In addition to the Federal Attorney-General and Education Minister and minor State, Federal and Local Government politicians, there was also the presence of the State Governor Dr Marie Bashir. Phillip Ruddock was present at this official opening as was Bishop Ad Abikaram, Mother General Gabrielle BouMoussa. Messages were sent from The Hon. John Howard Prime Minister, The Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson MP and Minister for Education, Science and training.
Recognising the NESB nature of the children, programmes were introduced into the Infants and Primary sections of the College to ensure that the students received a solid grounding in both literacy and numeracy. The emphasis in the Secondary section was on ensuring that all students were educated to their true potential, whether at University or in a trade.
Sr Marlene had been on the staff of the College in the early days of the secondary department, as an administrative assistant and teacher of languages and religion. She returned to OLOL in 2005 as Principal.
With an increase in Federal Government funding, OLOL College took advantage of extra financial assistance in 2008-2009 to extend, refurbish and update its educational facilities. Recent building initiatives included the relocation and upgrading of the three science labs that include smart boards as well as a new computer lab with a smart board and access to the internet. Funding also resulted in a new drama room. The administration department was also redesigned.
The next building in 2010-2011 served Primary with a conference room, and music room and offices.
The Federal Government in 2009 called for a push to update and modernise Primary schools with OLOL College receiving $3 million to spend on building a new Primary block which included a library, IT room, four classrooms and a multipurpose hall which was officially opened in 2012.
With the help of the Parents Association and the College’s own efforts over 2008-2013 Primary classes were fitted with smart boards. In 2013 a grassed playground area was completed on the corner of Good and Weston Street.
In 2014 Sr Margaret Ghosn became the next Principal. At the same time the College changed its name from Our Lady of Lebanon College (OLOL) to Maronite College of the Holy Family (MCHF), to better reflect its purpose and connection to the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family.
In 2016 plans are underway to develop a new Secondary block with open space learning. This will be located adjacent to B Block. Upon completion of the new building the College will have ensured all its campuses are on one corner of Weston, Good and Alice streets, thus ensuring a secure environment for students.
Our Lady of Lebanon School, which would become known as Our Lady of Lebanon College and later as Maronite College of the Holy Family, is unique for a number of reasons. Along with its sister school Saint Maroun, they were the first Maronite schools in Australia, offering compulsory Arabic with most of the students of Lebanese ancestry and regularly celebrating Maronite Catholic Liturgies.
Carrying the College motto, ‘To know, love and serve’ the College has lived out these principles through the tireless work, commitment and support of the Maronite community. In fact, if early migrants, back in the 1960s had not requested for Maronite schools, the sisters would never have landed on Australian shores. From the beginning the College has been the realisation of the hope of Maronite families that their children maintain the cultural and religious beliefs. The College today is more than an educational institution; it is also a cultural way of life, a spiritual well spring, a tight knit community, and a loving family.