Sr Anastasia Vanderfeen Building21/11/2019
On Thursday 21 November 2019, the newly refurbished Sr Anastasia Vanderfeen Building was commissioned and blessed by the Most Reverend Bishop Shane Mackinlay DD, Bishop of Sandhurst before a gathering of Sisters, guests and staff. The ceremony took place in comfort despite very hot and windy conditions on the day which prevented some students and guests from attending.
The building which dated from 1976 and originally housed classrooms and the canteen, underwent major refurbishment through 2019, including the demolition of the original canteen.
The project, which was undertaken by RMG, included a new canteen with indoor eating area, outdoor landscaping, full commercial kitchen and multi-bed Allied Health teaching area, has transformed this building into an enviable learning area to equip young people for future pathways.
We were fortunate to have the newly ordained Bishop, Shane Mackinlay present to commission and bless the building, being only the second such occasion he has officiated at. He commented that he too was fortunate to have had part of his education with the Sisters of Mercy.
Sr Christina Aitken rsm, Community Leader South B, reflected on the way the educational direction of the building fitted so well with the Mercy Values, in particular respect, compassion, hospitality and service. These values were also at the core of Sr Anastasia’s ministry throughout her long life.
Sr Anastasia was born Annie Vanderfeen in 1896 and attended St Mary’s College as a boarder from 1912. She professed her vows in 1916 and began her long teaching career in 1917 at St Kilian’s. In 1930 Sister Ana moved to St Mary’s and continued teaching until 1973. Sister Ana was recognised for her wonderful ability to know every student and family. She was blessed with good health and continued to work past retirement age.
After retiring from teaching, Sister Ana continued her works of mercy, particularly in comforting the sick and bereaved. Her passion for capturing the history of the Sisters of Mercy in Bendigo saw her begin to record the details of this incredible story; a story which helps us share in the amazing legacy of these women, their commitment to Catherine’s dream and their faith in their God.
In 1986, Sr Anastasia celebrated her Platinum Jubilee with the renewal of her vows and Mass attended by over a thousand past students, families and guests. Afterwards the crowds swamped the Bendigo Town Hall for hours in order to pay their respects to Sr Ana.
Sr Anastasia died in 1996 and Sr Mary Duffy rsm, (past Principal and one of Sr Anastasia’s past students) delivered the eulogy as her funeral. She noted that Sr Anastasia had an incredible ability to remember the names of former students and their families. She had a deep humanity and lasting concern for the welfare of others. She had a profound love of learning and was instrumental in developing the College as place of faith, culture and learning.
Eight members of the Vanderfeen family attended the Commissioning and Blessing; representing the descendants of four of Sr Anastasia’s siblings over three generations. Some of them remembered visiting Sr Anastasia in the convent and some of them are also past students of our College. They were proud that Sr Anastasia’s life-long service to education and the care of others is being acknowledged in the legacy of the Sr Anastasia Vanderfeen Building.