St Andrew's Cathedral School

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This is who we are: commissioning service celebrates new chapter

The school community gathered to officially welcome Dr Julie McGonigle as the 15th Head of School and the historic occasion provided an opportunity to say “this is who we are” according to Director of Community Engagement, Lyn Jarvis.

Earlier this week Dr Julie McGonigle was formally commissioned as the new Head of St Andrew’s Cathedral School and Gawura, in a celebration that spanned two services in two locations and included the whole school community. 

The day commenced with the more formal official commissioning service in St Andrew’s Cathedral and was attended by past and present students, staff, council members, special guests, and the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Sydney, Kanishka Raffel. The occasion was grounded in the traditions of the Christian faith and the cross of Christ from which St Andrew’s Cathedral School finds its meaning and mission.  

“Schools need bricks and mortar, but schools are not bricks and mortar, schools are people,” said Archbishop Raffel.  “Here is a school that is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Dr McGonigle, as you continue to embrace the challenges and opportunities among us, be assured the work you do finds a place within the wider work of God.”  

It was Archbishop Raffel and the Deputy Chair of the School Council, Mrs Felicity Brazel, who formally commissioned Dr McGonigle with a prayerful laying on of hands. However, the service itself featured a wide range of school community members. The Cathedral Choristers led the worship, students delivered the Bible readings, and Senior Chaplain Craig Tubman led the prayers for the new Head of School.  

“We hoped to create a special and meaningful experience for everyone whose lives have been touched by both of our wonderful schools [Gawura and St Andrew’s Cathedral School]. I wanted students to understand ‘this is who we are’. I wanted them to feel they belong, and for them to contribute and find their place within the story of the schools.”  

Director of Community Engagement, Lyn Jarvis

The second event of the day was more of an inauguration, which saw the entire school community gather in Sydney’s Town Hall for a celebration of epic proportions. The event began with the ringing of the Kingsford Smith Memorial Bell by one representative each from the students, parents, staff and School Council. Each performance or talk was preceded with a scripted chat between three student actors, who questioned and detailed some of the customs and traditions of the School. It worked brilliantly to entertain and inform all present about the incredible history and character of Sydney’s first city school.

Students performed a rousing rendition of I Am Australian, which included a chorus sung in the Wiradjuri language. Another highlight of the celebration was capturing the past and the present story of the school through the captivating dual performance of Year 6 student David Kim and world renowned concert pianist and Old Andrean Simon Tedeschi. They sat side-by-side on one grand piano and together played a stunning rendition of Valse no. 6 from Sleeping Beauty.   

“The SACS community is unquestionably, completely, totally and utterly brimming with life … Right at the heart of our school is God, the giver of life – Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. He is our life source and our life force, and the very reason why the St Andrew’s Cathedral School and Gawura’s cup overflows,” said Dr McGonigle in her address to the audience. 

“This is not my school, it’s our school and most importantly, as Kanishka [Archbishop Raffel] said in the Cathedral, for the last 137 years both now and into the future, this is God’s school and he has purposes for this school that we desire to be taken up into. It’s my absolute privilege to lead these life-giving schools.” 

Dr Julie Mcgonigle

Humour was also present in many of the presentations, with Dr McGonigle acknowledging some of the much-mentioned similarities between herself and Hogwarts head teacher Professor McGonigle (of Harry Potter fame). The Official Party, including Dr McGonigle, recessed out of the building at the end of the service to the tune of John William’s Hedwig Theme, played by Mr Ross Cobb on the Town Hall organ. The piece is known around the world as the anthem of the Harry Potter movie series and, as the melody rang out across the hall, the magic of the music led to audible whoops from the audience.

Dr McGonigle has officially arrived, and we could not be happier to have her.