A lesson in friendship

Lucy Harvey and Maree Jones can be heard giggling like schoolgirls as they make their way through the wrought iron gates that decorate the entrance to St Joseph’s College in Lochinvar.

For more than four decades, the duo has been each other’s confidants and when required, comedic relief. Their unwavering support of each other has seen their friendship span from 1979 as Year 7 students to now, as they both shine in their roles as principals of Catholic primary schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

“I think the friendship we established at St Joseph’s, all those years ago, is still as relevant today,” Maree said, with a sense of nostalgia as she sat under the arches of the school’s iconic convent.  

After graduating from St Joseph’s High School in 1984, the following year they both set off to study at the Newcastle College of Advanced Education. Reflecting on her career choice, Lucy said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher and “make a difference”.

“I had witnessed how much passion the nuns and teachers put into supporting us and ensuring that our time at school was positive. I was inspired by the Josephites and wanted to become a teacher so that I could replicate for others the wonderful experience I had,” she said.

With teaching qualifications under their belt, in 1988 Maree and Lucy parted ways for the first time since they’d met. Maree took up her first job in Taree, while Lucy headed west to Dubbo. However, it wasn’t long till they both returned to the Hunter.

“I was engaged to get married and wanted to return closer to home,” Maree said. A year later, she was offered a job teaching at St Patrick’s Primary School in Cessnock, the same school she attended as a student from Kindergarten to Year 6.

“It felt like coming home,” she said of the move. Maree has remained at the school ever since, and three years ago became the principal.

Meanwhile, after spending close to two years teaching in Dubbo, Lucy also returned to the Hunter region and in 1990 was offered a job at St James’ Primary School in Kotara, where she held various roles up until last year. Earlier this year Lucy took on her first role as principal and in a twist of fate, is also stationed at a St Patrick’s Primary School, albeit in the seaside suburb of Swansea.

“Our careers have always been in parallel with each other,” Maree said, adding “but I think that was God’s plan to get us through this journey.”

And, in a way that only two people who have known each other for so long as they have can, Lucy seamlessly carried on the sentiment.

“Over the years it’s been so important to have each other, to support each other and guide each other,” she said, acknowledging that the profession comes with its challenges.

However, unsurprisingly, the charisms of the Josephites that they hold in such high regard shine through as they describe that these obstacles are far outweighed by the blessings that they say come with the vocation.  

“I know it sounds cliché but seeing the positive impact you can have on a students’ life by doing what you love is such an honour,” Maree said, adding “and knowing we are part of a great team of colleagues across the Diocese who so willingly share their skills and experiences makes the world of difference.”

“I think that’s one of the greatest strengths of our Catholic education system. It doesn’t matter which school you are at and whether you are a student, parent, or a staff member- when you walk through the gates you are welcomed as part of a faith-filled community and made to feel like you belong and are well supported,” Maree said.

And with that reassuring feeling having lasted a lifetime, it’s no wonder that as they returned to their old school for a trip down memory lane, Lucy and Maree were filled with joy and laughter that echoed through the grounds of St Joseph’s.

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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