Honouring our Foundress

Today we praise you for the gifts of the Spirit
bestowed on Jeanne-Marie Chavoin in whose honour we dedicate this statue.
Lord keep before us the example of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin
as we call to mind her holy life and resolve to follow in her footsteps,
may it please you to bless this sculpture
which has been made in memory and honour
of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin.

Blessing Ceremony 14 June 2024

On 14 June 2024, at Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich (MSCW), a unique statue was unveiled – a life-sized bronze depiction of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin with two college students. Immediately striking is the relational connection among the three – the French woman, the student beside her and the younger one opposite. Standing before them, one senses the years of history converging into the now, bringing our foundress to life in this new setting.

Almost as remarkable as the sculpture is the story behind it. It seems that a student of 1948 had been so touched by her experience at the college that on her death a couple of years ago she left a substantial bequest to her alma mater. The current principal worked with staff and students to realise a dream of creating this meaningful tribute to Jeanne-Marie or JMC as she is affectionately known at the college. Five staff and seven students formed the Sculpture Working Planning Committee – three of whom were the models for the statue. World renowned artists, Gillie and Marc, were engaged. During the 15 months or so that followed, a clay version was produced, changes requested and then the final bronze creation was shipped to Australia. 

The Unveiling Ceremony was designed with as much attention to detail as the sculpture itself. Marist Father Tony Corcoran presided, nine Marist Sisters and a Marist Brother were present. The College Strings and College Choir ably led the music throughout, beginning with “The Presence of Mary”.

The college principal, Dr Anne Ireland, shared the “Sculpture Journey”, acknowledging all who had contributed. The blue covering was then removed, revealing the “JMC statue”. Two students offered heart-warming reflections on the significance of this addition to the college. For the Blessing, water had been brought from the Garonne River in France and blended with water from the Lane Cover River, the river the school overlooks and which flows into the waters of Sydney Harbour.  The Sisters present read the beautifully prepared prayers of intercession and the Salve Regina was sung.

Sr Gail Reneker spoke on behalf of the Marist Sisters, expressing deep gratitude to staff and students for honouring our foundress through this sculpture, which “keeps alive the memory of a woman worthy to be remembered whose warmth and compassion drew her to be of service to all those in need, especially children and young people”. The Principal’s Address and the singing of the College Song concluded the memorable ceremony.

Over the lavish morning tea, our Sisters had the opportunity to meet with students and some parents, as well as to reunite with members of staff. Afterwards, we reflected on the depth of each encounter and the blessing it is to see the Marist spirit lived out in such a tangible way by these lay people – young and older – associated with MSCW.

Srs Gemma Pearson, Mary Farrelly, Cath Lacey, Gail Reneker, Kate McPhee, Vivienne Goldstein, Maureen Crick, Noelene Simmons and Beverley Lewis

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