AT 3.15 on Sunday afternoon Archbishop Mannix arrived by car at Hastings.
His arrival was the signal for a cheer by the children attending the Catholic School.
He went straight to the Convent of the Sisters of St. Josephs and there performed the ceremony for which he had come from town – that of blessing the new building.
The ceremony over, His Grace ascended to a platform erected between the Convent and the school accompanied by Father O’Hagan, Dean Carey and several other clergy.
Father O’Hagan, in outlining the reason for the visit of His Grace, Archbishop Mannix, said that though the school of which they were all so proud and had worked so hard for was now clear of debt, the other building – the new Convent – was rolling in debt.
The building cost £1600, £290 of which had been paid.
That was a lot of money, a large sum easily slipped of the tongue, but very hard to wipe off the slate.
A collection, however, was being made as he spoke, he said, and before His Grace spoke he would read out the list of subscribers.
The people, though not wealthy, had already done marvels, but he knew they would again rise to the occasion.
Dean Carey followed Father O’Hagan. He spoke most interestingly on Hastings as he knew it many years ago, when he had administered it as part of the Parish of Elsternwick, and the only way of getting to it was by Cobb & Co’s coach.
Today there were 21 clergy where he had reigned and as the Archbishop mentioned later, all he recognised in the district was the seal.
Dr. McGuire, a missionary from China, spoke briefly, thanking sincerely the Sisters and the children, with their parents, for the keen and practical interest which they were taking in the mission field.
Father O’Hagan then read out the subscription list, headed by His Grace and himself with £20 each. The total donations received amounted to £170.
His Grace on rising, received a warm greeting from his people gathered to hear him.
Catholics, he said, the world over, did great things, and he doubted whether anywhere they had done as much as the people of Hastings had done.
He was glad to see Father O’Hagan restored to health, and in such good humour, and also to see so many members of the clergy present.
He could talk a great deal on the school and about the Sisters.
The Sisters of the Order of St. Joseph were second to none. The Order was an Australian Order, and being such should find a warm corner in the hearts of all Australian Catholics.
As teachers they undertook duties and work that others were afraid to face.
It was never an easy matter to find teachers, but where they were required there were the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Theirs as a great work, for it was from the backblocks of Australia where they laboured that the future magnates of the city would be recruited.
It was a matter of special credit to the Sisters that the Hastings school stood on terms of equality with Melbourne schools, as Father O’Hagan reported from the Inspector of Schools.
“We,” he continued, “are suffering from a burden almost too great to bear. For 50 years we have contributed every penny to keep in our schools, while at the same time we have been taxed for the upkeep of State Schools.
“We have contributed in order that these schools may now celebrate their jubilee.
“The first day I ever arrived in this country I had the hardihood to say that this was a disgrace to all Australians who are otherwise fair and broad-minded in their outlook.
“We are compelled for conscientious reasons to put up our own schools, and we should therefore either be assisted by the State or set apart and freed of such taxes.
“If we get such a concession we will engage to keep our schools up to standard. If not, we will certainly never give up our schools.
“State Schools are celebrating their Jubilee. I received an invitation to be present. Probably it was sent without thought or malice, but I could consider it an offence to be asked to be present at such a celebration.
“When they established this system they thought they were going to upset Catholicism in Australia.
“It was to be the thin end of the wedge that was to rend us asunder.
“Fifty years have passed and we are more united than ever, more ready to make sacrifices.
“Our need now is more Australian priests, or Irish, if they are not available.
“And these people – what have they to say. Their churches – free seats, all welcome – are empty – it is their own statement.
“Sorry to say our seats are not free, but if anyone cannot afford it they come just the same.
“Their churches are empty – ours are full; and the reason is not far to seek, for ours is the True Church and theirs – is not.
“And to a great extent because they do not teach their religion in their schools. Their own Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne referred to the Act as the most desolating piece of legislation he had ever heard of.
“Nor could he see how the church could support such an Act, and not turn their backs on Christ their Master.
“His prediction had come true. Desolation has come in their churches, and on themselves.
“I did not go to the celebration, but I shouldn’t be surprised if the Anglican clergy and others were there. “Certainly the schools deserve great credit for their secular work, but then side by side with that see how the system has helped to Paganise Australia.
“We pay heavily for our schools, but thank God our church 50 years ago did not accept the State School system.
“We are doing our duty by God and our church. The ground once ruled over by Dr. Carey is now ministered to by twenty-one priests. I wish that the secular rulers had copied the church in this.
“Had they, Australia would now have 20 to 30 millions of people, as against her 5 and 6.
The cry now is to bring people out. There is plenty room for them if the country is properly divided, but the people who have first claim are the people who have been bred and born in Australia.
“I have just travelled the Riverina and coming from Balraneld across the Murray traversed over 3000 miles by car.
“I was told that all that land comprised seven stations. God never intended that to be.
“All that land should not be held by seven people, nor 70. There are young Australians living there accustomed to earning their living on the land looking for ground.
“They put in for a plot and 100 to 300 compete against them, and yet there is land and to spare if properly divided up.
“These things have been on my mind since my recent tour, and I felt I must ventilate them. If they are not in accord with your ideas then find a better policy and stand up to it, and see that Australia’s flag is top of the pole.”
From the pages of the Frankston and Somerville Standard, 13 October 1922