Mount St. Bernard College
Mercy Heritage Trail

Come on a journey into the Mercy heritage of MSB...

Starting where the dream began over 100 years ago, the Mercy Heritage Trail guides you along a path of sites and buildings central to the Mercy story at MSB.

If you walk the Heritage Trail, interpretive signs along the way and a printed guide will guide you and share some of the story for each part of the Heritage Trail.

Scroll below for a digital tour of the Mercy Heritage Trail, including historic and current images and stories about each stop along the Heritage Trail.

Juma (2020) by Jirrbal artist and student of MSB Kathy Richardson, painted on Jirrbal Country (Herberton, QLD, Australia).

Jirrbal Country

Before we begin this journey, we acknowledge that MSB is built on Jirrbal Country - the ancestral and sacred lands of the Jirrbal People. Jirrbal Country extends from just past the top of MSB, out to Ravenshoe, down the Tully Falls (via Koombooloomba) to Tully on the coast and from there south to Cardwell.

At MSB, we are priviledged to have on staff one of the local Jirrbal Elders, Aunty Margaret Freeman, who can be available by arrangement to share aspects of Jirrbal culture and history with you. Aunty Margaret can also share with you more about the current Elders and current Jirrbal cultural projects.

As you journey around MSB, please be mindful that this land is sacred to the Jirrbal and contains the stories and the essence of their people over many millenia. Notably, the college's "Top Oval" was an important Jirrbal Bora Ground for women: among other things, marriages were organised there in accordance with ancient customs.

Neighbouring First Nations to the Jirrbal include: the Bar Barrum People (Walsh River to Wild River); the Girramay People (Kirrama Area); the Mamu People (Millaa Millaa area to Innisfail); the Ngadjon-Jii People (Malanda and Topaz areas); the Tableland Yidinji People (Kairi, Tolga, Tinaroo and Lake Barrine areas); and the Wurrungu People (Gunnawarra/ Goshen area).

Still Connected (2020) by Jirrbal artist and student of MSB Kathy Richardson, painted on Jirrbal Country (Herberton, Queensland, Australia).
Image: Jirrbal art by Tonya Grant (see Girrigun Art Centre, Cardwell)
St. Patrick's Church, Herberton, today.
Built in 1889.
St. Patrick's Church ca. 1921.

1. St. Patrick's Parish Church

The history of Mount St. Bernard College begins here because MSB began as the dream of Fr. (Patrick) Bernard Doyle, Parish Priest of Herberton, who was based here at St. Patrick's. Early-on Fr. Bernard saw the need for a high school and dedicated boarding facilities to serve the needs of his widespread flock. As Parish Priest, he was able to dedicate church land, liaise with architects and builders, arrange staffing and raise funds to bring this dream to reality. Only a few years prior (1910) he had opened St. Patrick's Primary School on the same site. Fr. Bernard was both visionary and builder of MSB.

St. Patrick's is the oldest continuing Roman Catholic church building in the Diocese of Cairns (a church territory extending from the Torres Strait to Cardwell and west to the Northern Territory border). This church was the spiritual heart for the pioneer Irish population of Herberton as well as further afield to Atherton, Malanda and Ravenshoe. As the Irish-Catholics made up the majority of the European inhabitants of Herberton for much of its earlier history, St. Patrick's Church could rightly be called the spiritual heart for most of Herberton and surrounding areas in the early days.

St. Patrick's Church ca. 1950s.
Fr. (Patrick) Bernard Doyle OSA: Parish Priest of Herberton 1906-1924; visionary for Mount St. Bernard College.
Mother M. Evangelist Morrissey and
Mother M. Gertrude Power.

The Dream Begins...

From 1910, there already existed on these premises St. Patrick's Primary School and a small community of Sisters of Mercy who ran that school. The first Sisters' convent was a timber house situated where currently the large statue of Mary is in the centre of the front lawn. The building for St. Patrick's, itelf quite a striking building, was located roughly where Bernard's Dormitory presently is; perhaps a little forward of this. In 1918, a cyclone damaged the first convent irreparably which no doubt added to the impetus to build the current, more robust convent.

Fr. Bernard dreamt of a high school and dedicated boarding facility to serve the wide-spread families of his parish. With the Sisters of Mercy already established in Herberton and successfully running St. Patrick's Primary School, Fr. Bernard shared his dream with the Sisters of Mercy and found enthusiastic support from the Superior-General of the time, Mother Mary Evangelist Morrissey RSM. Mother Morrissey was one of the original five Sisters who arrived in Cooktown from Ireland in 1888 and established the educational ministries of the Sisters of Mercy in North Queensland. Together, Fr. Bernard and Mother Morrissey brought the dream to reality and by 1921 Mount St. Bernard was enrolling boarders.

Fr. Bernard and Mother Morrissey continued to strongly support MSB in their respective roles: Fr Bernard as Parish Priest and M. Morrissey as the Superior-General of the Sisters of Mercy. In 1924 Fr Bernard died and in 1925 Mother Morrissey returned to Cairns for various leadership roles. Mother Morrissey would return in 1935, however, for 'retirement' where she remained until her passing in 1950. Clearly, MSB was very dear to her heart.
The Catholic Parish Grounds, Herberton, ca. 1917. The old wooden convent (house to the far left) was destroyed by a cyclone in 1918.
Mercy Hall today.
Concert Hall: Speech night, 1965
Mercy Hall ca. 1921 (3rd building from the right). In order from the right is: St Patrick's Church, the Presbytery (house where Fr Bernard lived) then Mercy Hall.

2. Mercy Hall (also known as 'The Hall' and 'The Concert Hall')

We are unsure as to the exact date this building was erected but it is likely to have been early in 1921 because photos of the convent building not yet completed do not feature the Hall while historical documents tell us that the Hall was used as the first high school classroom because of the incomplete convent. Perhaps the Hall began as a quick (maybe even temporary?) solution due to the incomplete permanent building. Nevertheless, it has endured to be one of only two original buildings left on campus (excluding St. Patrick's Church) and over those 100 years has contributed immensely to the cultural heart of MSB. It was officially named Mercy Hall in 1995 or 1996, which is just after the first "lay principal" was appointed in 1994. Maybe the naming to Mercy Hall was to recognise the contribution of the Sisters of Mercy to the college; we are yet to discover for sure.

Mercy Hall housed secondary classes up until 1939 when the three-story timber building called Sacred Heart was built while the Hall would now be dedicated for assemblies, concerts and recreation - meeting a growing need to provide opportunities for "music, drama, singing and dancing" (Golden Jubilee Book, 1971). Consequently, it has been known as The Assembly HallThe Concert Hall, and The Hall by different generations of MSB students ever since 1939.

The Concert Hall / Mercy Hall has remained the home for music, drama, singing and dancing ever since; and music and drama have always been significant and proud parts of MSB life. For the Sisters of Mercy, music tuition was a much needed source of revenue in the earlier decades and, arguably, enabled the growth of MSB.

Regular rehearsals and many a superb performance in The Concert Hall have made fond and enduring memories for generations of Past Students. For many, Sr. Pam Murray (aka: Sr. Mary Leonard) whose tireless efforts in the realm of MSB music brought out the talents of so many MSB students is synonomous with Mercy Hall. Indeed, Mercy Hall/Concert Hall is a fundamental part in the Mercy story of MSB.

Click here to read people's memories, stories and pictures of the Hall over the last 100 years.
The Fatima Shrine being blessed in 1959 by Fr McKenzie.
Image: Jirrbal art by Tonya Grant (see Girrigun Art Centre, Cardwell)Our Fatima Shrine today (2020),
about to be renovated.

3. Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima

From their beginnings, the Sisters of Mercy have looked to Mary, the mother of Jesus, for their inspiration. In addition to numerous statues and paintings of Mary, two shrines on campus give expression to the special place that Mary has in Mercy sprituality.

This particular shrine - the Fatima Shrine - recalls a deeply spiritual encounter for three children—Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta—in a small rural place, called Fatima, in Portugal in 1918. The children reported a series of spiritual appearances of a lady they believed was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During each appearance, Mary would share with the children an important message for the whole world about peace, reconciliation and building a better world in harmony with God’s plan. There have been many miracles associated with the appearances of Mary at Fatima. For us today, this shrine can be a place for special prayer and reflection on peace, reconciliation and building a community of love.

Our Fatima shrine was built in the late 1950s inspired by a visit to MSB by the international Catholic celebrity, Fr. Patrick Peyton. Fr Peyton championed a "Rosary Crusade" around the world inspiring Catholic families all around the world to deepened their prayer life through the Rosary. This was a similar message to that of Our Lady of Fatima and so in commemoration of Fr. Peyton's visit to MSB, the Sisters had a Fatima shrine erected. In the photo, local parish priest, Fr. McKenzie, blesses the new shrine.
1964: "Children of Mercy" group photographed in front of the Fatima Shrine
Fr. Peyton being welcomed to MSB in the 1950s
Lourdes Grotto shortly after re-planting, 2020.
Loures Spring (water feature), 2020.
Adele Crapella and Colleen O'Connor in front of the Grotto, ca. 1970s.

4. Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes

The Grotto features in so many photos over the decades, and returing past-students always ask to see it when they visit, that it was bound to be on the Mercy Heritage Trail. But The Grotto is more than just a landscape feature.

MSB's Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built in 1928 (7 years after opening). It seems that many convents of Mercy erected one, suggesting it held some significance in the Mercy spirituality.

These grottos are religious shrines - landscape features with a particular spiritual focus and which assist people with prayer/reflection. The scene in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes recalls a series of events in a place called Lourdes (France) in 1858 involving a local girl by the name of Bernadette. In February 1858, Bernadette was collecting firewood in the countryside when a woman appeared to her from within a cliff-side cave where she was collecting wood. Bernadette believed the woman to be Mary, the mother of Jesus. The woman instructed Bernadette to dig into the ground where she was and shortly thereafter a spring of water emerged out of where she dug. The spring water there rapidly became known for its healing properties and to this day Catholic pilgrims travel from all over the world to visit the site and to be renewed - both spiritually and physically - by its healing waters.

For us at MSB, the theme of this shrine is one of healing and reconciliation. When you pass by the Grotto and see the water feature inside, pause for a moment of prayer - maybe someone you know or maybe you yourself might need some healing, reconciliation or refreshment.
Grotto, 1970s: Rosita Gloria Marie Maggie Joan Puleo
Lyn Rossi Annette Torre, Olympia Petrograzia
Image: Jirrbal art by Tonya Grant (see Girrigun Art Centre, Cardwell)
Convent building nearing completion, ca. late 1920 - early 1921.
Convent construction workers, maybe late 1920 - early 1921. Fr. Bernard Doyle is in the front row, far right.

5. Convent of Our Lady of Mercy

Finished in 1921, this building would arguably have been the most prominent on the Herberton landscape. Bishop James Heavey OSA laid the foundation stone for the new convent building on 11 January 1920. The foundation stone notes that the convent was dedicated to St. Patrick, no doubt as it was within the parish named after St. Patrick.

The Sisters of Mercy had a much smaller, timber convent in Herberton prior to 1921 (click here). A cyclone in March 1918 which hit Innisfail and then came up the Palmerston to Herberton damaged that first convent irreparably. Construction for the convent building that has characterised MSB these last 100 years began in 1919 and the Sisters finally were able to move into their new convent sometime mid-way through 1922, around three years after their original convent was destroyed.

The new building was constructed to house a growing community of Sisters of Mercy as they undertook to administer the new high school of Mount St. Bernard College and a dedicated boarding house in addition to the St Patrick's Primary School they had been running since 1910.

The building of this convent would have been a significant leap forward in the social infrastructure of Herberton at the time. Depending upon which decade you draw your memories of MSB, the Convent building has many and varied places of interest which are listed below. To explore each of these further (including stories and images) click on the links below.

The College Chapel as it appears today

6. College Chapel

Content still to be completed.

Officially opened 9th May 1963, the College Chapel replaced the smaller old Convent Chapel within convent building...
Wedding in the College Chapel (1980) of past student Peta O'Connor (nee Lucey)
Image: Jirrbal art by Tonya Grant (see Girrigun Art Centre, Cardwell)
Auntie Jude with a student on a trip to Winton

7. Yarning Circle

The Opening of the Judith Koehler Memorial Yarning Circle was unveiled on the 10th February 2020. This yarning circle was created in honour of a long serving staff member Judith Koehler who sadly passed in 2018. Known as Jude (aka: "Auntie") she was the Indigenous/Community Liaison of MSB for 15 years.

Jude was passionate with a unique ability to connect with students and their families, no matter who they were or where they were from. MSB became her second family. Her impact on this college and all she met was immense. A gentle lady with a kind heart and a true soul.

A yarning circle is a healing, harmonious, creative and collaborative way of communicating to encourage responsible, respectful and honest interactions. It is a place of contemplation, prayer and a safe space. Yarning circles are a traditional part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Indigenous stories are told and passed down in a yarn around the fire smoke, this has been the Indigenous way for centuries.

The MSB yarning circle provides the perfect place to continue Jude’s legacy of connecting with students and supporting students to connect with each other. Our Yarning Circle was made possible with the financial support of the MSB P&F Association.
Image: Jirrbal art by Tonya Grant (see Girrigun Art Centre, Cardwell)

8. Top Oval / Bora Ground

Content still to be added.
Image: Jirrbal art by Tonya Grant (see Girrigun Art Centre, Cardwell)

9. Sisters' Cemetery & Calvary

Content still to be added.
Image: Jirrbal art by Tonya Grant (see Girrigun Art Centre, Cardwell)
As we construct the Centenary Labyrinth, you can have your name or your family's name immortalised at the College through purchasing a commemorative paver/brick. Pavers/bricks embossed with your or your family's name will be added to the paths of the labyrinth and stay there forever. As students visit and reflect there, they do so on the shoulders of all those who went before them here at MSB. For more details about how to purchase a personalised brick/paver, click here.

10. Centenary Labyrinth

As a centenary project, the College undertook to construct a prayer labyrinth. Praying or meditating while walking a labyrinth is an ancient practice, even pre-dating Christianity. Not unlike walking the stations of the Cross, praying the Rosary and walking on pilgrimage, praying with a labyrinth engages us through many of our senses. Touch is engaged through the walking, sight is engaged through the design of the labyrinth, hearing is engaged through the sounds of nature around the labyrinth, our minds are engaged as we journey the labyrinth, and our hearts are engaged as God speaks to us while praying the labyrinth.

There are many ways to pray and the current Religious Education Curriculum introduces students to a great variety of these across different year levels. Praying with labyrinths is explicitly taught in Year 9 while every other year level requires that opportunities for meditative prayer be offered. Consequently, our Centenary Labyrinth will be quite an enrichment of the Religious Education resources of the college.

A special characteristic of our MSB Centenary Labyrinth is that we are offering the opportunity for families of MSB (past and present) to have their names permanently embossed in the bricks/pavers that make up the labyrinth. In this way, another dimension of our labyrinth will be that anyone walking it can also reflect on their part in the 100-year story of MSB.

The Centenary Labyrinth is currently still in the design phase and we hope to start minor excavations for labyrinth this year. Our goal is to officially open the Centenary Labyrinth at the Centenary Weekend (24-26 September 2021).