In 1880 it was not uncommon to see a sisterhood of nuns en route from their convent home in Pitt Street, Sydney, to St James Catholic Primary School Glebe where they taught.

Among them was their first principal, Sister Mary Austin Donovan, and Sister Marie des Agnes Lawler, both Sisters of The Good Samaritan – otherwise known as the “Good Sams” – who lived and continue to live a Benedictine way of life.

St James Catholic Primary School Forest Lodge school poster circa 1922

St James Catholic Primary School Forest Lodge school poster circa 1922.

This year marks the 140th year since the school first opened.

On its first day, on 21 March 1880, the co-ed school had 160 pupils and was led by a religious principal. Their first lay principal, Donna Craige, was appointed 100 years later in 1990.

In its 140th year, the school is undergoing a facelift which includes a new outdoor learning space and classroom refurbishments.

“We look forward to a newly renovated and equipped school, contemporary learning spaces thriving as a Catholic educational beacon in the community,” current principal, Enrica Bova, said.

She described the school as “an inclusive and welcoming community with strong collaborative partnerships with St James Parish, local preschools and the wider community.”

“The school community reaches out with initiatives to ensure those less fortunate and marginalised know all at St James are there to help and support them,” she said.

“St James Catholic Primary School is a school built on trust, on openness, on daily connection. We are striving through COVID to keep this fully alive.”

From left, St James students Macy, Alexander and Ellianna with teachers Clare Ivens and Helen Thurgate.

L-R: St James students Macy, Clare Ivens, long standing teacher at St James, Alexander, Ellianna and Helen Thurgate, long standing teacher at St James and Lawrence. Photo: Kitty Beale

Who are the Sisters of The Good Samaritan?

Australia’s first Catholic Archbishop, John Bede Polding, founded the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict in Sydney on February 2, 1857, to care for disadvantaged and abused women.

Archbishop Polding indicated they would be “ready to teach in schools, to visit and assist the sick in their own homes and in hospitals, to instruct ignorant persons in the faith, to conduct orphanages, to reform the lives of penitent women, and to apply themselves to every other charitable work.”


  • St James Year 3 pupils playing dress-ups in 1956
  • St James Year 2 pupils are pictured in 1956
  • St James Catholic Primary School Forest Lodge Year 4 pupils in 1956
  • St James Catholic Primary School Forest Lodge teacher Sister Zita Duffy with Grade 2 students in 1969
  • St James Catholic Primary School Forest Lodge students circa 1935
  • St James Catholic Primary School Forest Lodge girls student circa 1927-1928
  • St James' 1936 Diocesan exam class

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