3. The Convent Expands
The four years of World War One received little attention in the Annuals other than to note that Mother Joseph Masterton became Superior in 1914 followed by Mother Alphonsus in 1917. From 1923 to 1912 Mother Sebastian Lardi was Superior. During these years the secondary school consisted of one big room downstairs and the primary school was in a long room upstairs. Classes had their own sections within these rooms.
In 1927 further expansion was required and a north wing was erected. This wing included a parlour, a dormitory and a music room. Soon after the Great Depression reared is distressing head and financial difficulties were once again a problem. Students who have written of that time tell of stodgy food and little heating, a situation that would have been familiar in all institutions and private homes across the nation.
During World War II the isolation and security of the convent was sort by Melbourne families. To accommodate the children the convent balconies were enclosed and extra beds provided.
Of those years Mother Superior Lawrence Treahy wrote:
Our quiet routine was greatly disturbed by the effects of World War II. After the bombing of Darwin and discovery of submarines in Sydney Harbour the people of Melbourne panicked and tried to get their children (in particular) away to the country. Our boarding school was crowded beyond words – boarders’ dining room turned into dormitory, beds in corridors, balcony closed in to make more room, boarders used Sisters’ dining room, community room became eating-sitting etc. School was also crowded and a temporary classroom was built near the chapel for Forms 1&2. In spite of the many difficulties, these were exciting years and there was lots of fun.
But all was not doom and gloom as on 17th March 1942 The Holy Cross Convent celebrated its Golden Jubilee. A new playground was designed for the children and a science room was added. Commercial subjects were extended with Sister Fabian Sister Loyola as Commercial Principles teachers.
In 1951 a Ladies Auxiliary was inaugurated and fundraising events like garden parties and art shows were organised to everyone’s satisfaction. In 1953 improvements included an extended laundry, a library press, a new heater in the childrens’ refectory, and implements for the kitchen, including bread cutter and a mixer. 1954 an infirmary was erected for the care of the ailing Sisters. In 1960 a Fathers Committee was formed to help around the Convent school. In 1961 a tuck shop was opened on the initiative of the Mothers’ and Fathers’ Clubs. An internal telephone was installed in 1962. At this time plans were afoot for an enlarged secondary school, which was opened on 11 December 1966. The new Holy Cross School was blessed by Bishop Moran.
The 1960s ushered in an era of great social change, change which affected the sisters, education and students. Strict codes of uniform for the sisters and students were relaxed. Hems were shortened, some to such an extent that older sisters must have had some trouble keeping their opinions to themselves. Habit was modified to knee length, light and dark blue dresses. Veils were also modified and less severe with hair visible around the face. The change of dress was optional, with the older sisters preferring the long habit. Education was becoming increasingly co-educational and fewer women were prepared to sacrifice their lives to a religious ideal. This demise was rapid and unstoppable and in 1973, despite the best effort for everyone concerned, the boarding school of The Holy Cross Convent and the Catholic Secondary School both closed down.
However, to the admiration of the community the Presentation Sisters opened their disused classrooms to the community. Under the guidance of Sister Agatha, the centre opened in 1974 under the slogan of ‘Locals helping Locals.’ For the next ten years the old convent operated as a community centre.
Classes in cake decoration, table tennis, physical training, typing, arts and crafts, St John’s Ambulance, home nursing, dressmaking, drama and public speaking were held. The Agricultural Society, Highland Gathering, Child care Groups, Meals on Wheels and many others held meetings there. Camps for tired mothers were offered with twenty-eight being held in three years.
As always financial difficulties existed and the old building was a huge drain on funds. In 1980 the Parish of St Peter’s purchased The Holy Cross Convent and St Michael’s primary school, which was established on the same site some years before. The Sisters of the Presentation Order moved to a new and more comfortable convent in the village. Evening classes for the community continued in the north wing. This co-operation lasted until 1986, when St Michael’s built a new school and the old Holy Cross Convent, after almost a century, closed its doors and ceased to operate.