After 25 years of selfless service to the students and staff of The Cathedral College (TCC) Sister of Mercy Sr Margaret Dixon has retired.
Since the news broke earlier this term Sr Marg has received an outpouring of gratitude from students and staff, past and present through emails, morning teas, floral tributes and presentations.
A large crowd of students, teachers and staff from TCC and Catholic Education gathered at Thursday Morning Mass to give thanks for Sr Marg and her significant contribution in creating our Catholic ethos we cherish today.
At the recent Academic Awards evening Principal Mr Rob Alexander, Diocesan Director Catholic Education Miss Leesa Jeffcoat AM and Bishop Michael McCarthy gave a special tribute and presentation to honour Sr Marg’s work of service.
College staff gathered for lunch on Sr Marg last day at the school for a teary farewell where she shared a meaningful moment which highlighted her hope for all.
“One of the lovely student emails of thanks that I received really touched me. It was from a Year 10 student and she reminded me that during her time of Boarding orientation when she was in Year 6, I suggested that before they go to sleep at night that they think of three things for which they could thank God. She said that she is still doing that” Sr Marg said.
“What I would truly like you to remember and make part of your life is that practice that the Year 10 girl has made her own. I don’t think I could wish a greater blessing on each of you than to fall asleep each night with a grateful heart,” she said.
Sr Marg first started at The Cathedral College in 1998 as Assistant Principal – Campus Minister, to Principal at the time, Miss Leesa Jeffcoat AM following study in Melbourne in Clinical Pastoral Care.
“I wanted young people to feel welcomed to the church and I used language that was relatable and inviting” Sr Marg said when reflecting on her early days at TCC.
Sr Marg first introduced TCC Parish Mass, which nurtured a Community of Faith springing hope in Jesus Christ.
TCC Parish Mass was a way to involve young people in the Mass particularly the Boarders, although it proved challenging at first.
“I shared my frustrations with Mrs Claire Stitt who started at the same time and she volunteered to start a choir,” she said.
From these early days a partnership formed.
While Mrs Stitt fanned the flame in Music Ministry, Sr Marg instructed young readers in how to proclaim the Word.
Students over the years would remember practicing the reading in the days prior to Mass and the importance of speaking clearly, projecting the voice so as to be heard.
The special partnership grew to bear fruit. Today many students, both Day and Boarding, regularly volunteer as readers, Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, Welcomers and to participate in Music Ministry for TCC Parish Mass, Thursday Morning Mass and other special liturgical celebrations.
“Together we achieved so much,” she said.
In 2010 Sr Marg became a non-teaching staff member entrusting the role of Assistant Principal: Mission to Mrs Claire Stitt who would later become Deputy Principal. This is the same year Mr Rob Alexander started as Principal. Sr Marg then worked in Public Relations and Communications at the College and was instrumental in developing the new College website offering professional development and gentle counsel to new staff.
Later Sr Marg organised the College’s Archives assembled in the College’s new Centre of Teaching and Learning and assisted in Hospitality in the Mercy Centre kitchens.
The visible reminders of the presence of Jesus Christ at the College are also the work of Sr Marg. Resurrection and brightly coloured crosses hang in every classroom, learning spaces and offices and our College motto “Come live life in all its fullness” is displayed in places of prominence inviting each of us into a friendship with Jesus Christ.
Sr Marg’s genuine interest in each person be they student, boarder, staff member, parent or visitor is where the spirit of Jesus Christ comes alive.
“After all it’s people who matter the most” one staff member recalls Sr Marg wisely offering.
At every College event Sr Margaret was often seen moving through the crowd with camera in hand, catching up and taking photos of students, with their parents, sisters, grandparents. Whilst others might have captured the action, it was people that Sr Marg focused on.
Staff birthdays were always remembered, families’ latest additions congratulated and enquired after, and gentle condolences were always forthcoming at the loss of loved ones. Students often received words or emails of encouragement for excelling or doing well across the full spectrum of college life.
Never one to claim the limelight Sr Marg always cheered from the sidelines or applauded from the audience for our teams, music and cultural performances. If they were in the blue and green Sr Marg would be there.
Her TCC trips away included the North Queensland Rowing Regatta in Townsville, the Confraternity and QISSN Carnivals and the Queensland Catholic Schools and Colleges Music Festival. A visit to the cattle stalls at the Rockhampton Show and Beef Australia to encourage our Show Team was a must.
Her TCC Supporter Shirt was very well worn and keenly sought in the crowd.
It was our Boarders though who held Sr Marg’s constant concern. As a young person herself Sr Marg boarded at St Patrick’s Convent in Mackay and knew the pangs of homesickness and how sharply they can strike.
Sr Margaret intuitively cared for our Boarders and would often share dinner with them. The Sisters of Mercy Boarders’ Dinner held annually at Girls Boarding was a highly anticipated event recognizing the special historical connection the Sisters of Mercy have to Boarding.
Sr Margaret advocated for Boarders in all aspects of College life and in her role as Special Religious Board Member she exercised a faithful influence and attentiveness to Boarders upholding the richness they add to the educational experience for all students.
Sr Marg’s service has enriched not only The Cathedral College but many schools across the Diocese and beyond in a career that spanned 54 years.
Inspired to teach and to join the Sisters of Mercy by her favourite teacher, the very loved and admired Sr Carmel Hynes, Sr Marg’s contribution to the education of the hearts and minds of young people has been outstanding.
Sr Marg’s first pupils were Grade 3 at our Our Lady’s Primary School in 1968 where Our Lady’s Hall at the College still stands today. From there she travelled to Papua New Guinea to teach at St Thomas’s Catholic Primary School at Yangoru in the East Sepik before serving as Principal to primary schools across the Diocese including St John’s Walkerston, St Joseph’s Barcaldine and St Mary’s Bundaberg.
Our hearts are full of gratitude for Sr Marg and her generous gift of service to the students, staff and families of The Cathedral College.
We hope her retirement days are full of rest, relaxation and reflection so as to continue to live life in all its fullness.
Thank you Sr Marg !