Brigidine Heritage and History

Confronted by poverty, violence, crime and illiteracy, Bishop Daniel Delany became convinced that the best way forward was to begin providing basic education to the people of Ireland. Bishop Delany saw women as his allies in this mission and so, on 1 February, 1807, founded the Congregation of St Brigid at Tullow, the centre of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.

Daniel Delany chose St Brigid as the patroness, thereby linking the Congregation to the spiritual heritage of St Brigid, Patroness of Ireland, and to the ancient Order of St Brigid of Kildare which existed in Ireland from the fifth until the sixteenth century when the monasteries were suppressed. From the beginning Brigid’s ministry was associated with deeds of hospitality and compassion and, down through the centuries, St Brigid has become a figure of wisdom to the Irish people.

In 1883, at the invitation of Bishop Murray of Maitland, six Brigidine Sisters, led by Mother John Synan, undertook the difficult journey from Ireland to establish the first Australian Brigidine school in Coonamble. From Coonamble in north-west NSW, the Sisters continued their work of education throughout the Australian colonies.

Today, Brigidine College St Ives seeks to further this Brigidine tradition and ethos by promoting a love of learning and hope, of social justice and service to others, of fidelity to the Catholic and Brigidine heritage, and of hospitality to all, especially the most vulnerable.

The Brigidine College St Ives crest, with the lamp of God’s love and the light of learning at its centre, is framed by the name of the College and the Brigidine motto of Fortiter et Suaviter, (Strength and Gentleness).

Brigidine College St Ives seeks to further this Brigidine tradition and ethos by promoting a love of learning and hope


Brigidine College St Ives began when the Brigidine Randwick Convent needed more space for their novitiates to live and train. Therefore, ten acres of land surrounded by orchards in St Ives was purchased in 1949 and 1951.

The ‘Synan’ school building began construction in August 1953 and the Principal Mother Romuald Walz and Mother Adrian Small started teaching 9 February 1954 with nine girls, five in first year and four in second year.

The building was to be a temporary convent for the nuns which also included the Principal for Corpus Christi, Mother Josephine Coady as well as Mother Duchesne Donlan. Three classrooms and the nuns’ living quarters were upstairs, while downstairs housed a domestic science room which doubled as the nuns’ kitchen, a chemistry lab, administration, cloakroom, washroom and a laundry.

The new convent and novitiate were completed in 1958 and it was with welcome relief that ‘Synan’ could now be a dedicated college building as there were now thirty five students enrolled. In 1959 twelve novices moved into the novitiate. The Brigidine Sisters occupied the Convent until 1994 when they the building was made available to the College to develop staff and student facilities.

In 1999, Brigidine College was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee and a Board appointed with responsibility for governance of the College.

The Sisters continue their guardianship of the College by being involved on the College Board of Directors. Brigidine Sisters are also members of the Trustees of Kildare Ministries, the Catholic church authority for the schools and community works previously conducted by the Brigidine Sisters in Australia and the Presentation Sisters in Victoria.  In 2014, the Kildare Ministries was launched and is now the canonical and civil authority incorporating the NSW and Victorian Provinces of the Brigidine Congregation and the Presentation Congregation of Victoria.