The Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Western Australia owes its existence to the establishment of an Order of Sisters by St Dominic in 1216.
Born in Spain in 1170, St Dominic committed himself to preaching God’s Truth through prayerful contemplation and devotion to the Scriptures. He gave to his Sisters a clear vision of their vocation – to contemplate Christ’s word and to hand it on to others.
When Mother Gabriel Gill and the other pioneer Sisters arrived at Greenough from New Zealand in June 1899, they followed that same vision, quickly establishing schools and pioneering Catholic Education in nearby areas, in the harsh environment of the Murchison Goldfields and in the towns of the Mid-west Wheat Belt. The particular charism of these ordinary people of great faith was recognised by their desire to share the spirit of Dominic, whose life was characterised by joyfulness of heart, compassion, love of contemplation and prayer, and generosity of mind and spirit – a spirit the Sisters who have followed, have tried to emulate, meeting each new challenge with dedication to promoting faith and education in the city and rural areas.
In the Geraldton Diocese, many children were unable to attend Catholic schools because of the remoteness of the areas in which they lived. To overcome this, a programme of Religion by Letter was introduced and -the annual Bushies’ Schools were conducted at various times in Dongara, Leonora, Geraldton, Exmouth, Shark Bay and Port Hedland.
From 1972 until 1986, the Sisters conducted a Motor Mission with its base at Morawa from where they visited schools and homes at Morawa, Perenjori, Latham, Buntine, Mingenew, Dongara, Walkaway, Cue, Meekatharra, Yuna, Nabawa and, after the closure of the school at Three Springs in 1974, at Eneabba, Carnamah and Coorow.
In 1941, a foundation was made in the Archdiocese of Perth at Bedford. The Sisters lived in a house in Wood St until St Dominic’s Convent was built in 1942, and taught in St Peter’s School. The Secondary School, St Thomas Aquinas, was built in 1955.
Santa Clara School was established in 1953 and the Convent built in1958.
In 1999, the Dominican Sisters of Western Australia years of pursuing Dominic’s vision, inspired by his life and work as they continue to “contemplate and pass on to others the fruits of their contemplation” into the 21st Century.
The original Santa Clara school/church was a one room stone building which was used for both educational and religious purposes. Surrounded by sand, bush and the devout and tenacious faith of the pioneer Bentley settlers, this modest structure was officially opened and blessed by Archbishop Prendiville in August 1952. A separate church was completed in 1963. By then the school had increased to six classrooms.
The first Santa Clara teachers were Dominican Sisters. In the true spirit of St Dominic, the Sisters taught in the school and worked in the parish for nearly forty years and their example of love and service is built into the very walls and traditions of Santa Clara. A beautiful commemorative banner dedicated to the Sisters hangs in the school library.
In 1992 the old buildings were finally replaced by a modern two storey school complex which includes administrative offices, a library, a canteen and a computing centre, as well as seven classrooms. A new pre-primary was completed in 1993. In renewed beauty and strength, therefore, Santa Clara School continues to meet the challenge of educating for the future.