Our Lady of Sion College is unique among Melbourne’s secondary colleges for girls. Behind its name is a history that is of interest and particular relevance to our times.
The College was founded in 1928 by the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion with 15 students. Mother Mary John was the first Director/Principal who led the new school through the financial difficulties of the Depression.
The Sisters had almost nothing for themselves as they wanted the College to get underway.
Enrolment continued to grow and by 1958 there were 238 girls studying at the College. Now, over 940 students are taught and supported by 120 staff members.
Our Lady of Sion College continues the Sisters’ commitment to the Biblical values of justice, peace and love and invites the girls to make a contribution to the Church and world.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion was founded in France in 1842 by Theodore Ratisbonne and a small group of women.
The Ratisbonnes were a well-known Strasbourg family, highly assimilated Jews, who knew very little of their Jewish faith. Theodore set out on a search for meaning. He joined a group studying philosophy, and slowly made a decision to become a Catholic and later a priest.
The Jews of Europe had suffered anti-Semitic attitudes and had been forced into ghettoes. In Theodore’s time they were emancipated from the ghetto and many felt assimilation was a security. How wrong the Holocaust in the 1930–1940s proved them.
Because of this journey Theodore insisted on religious freedom in relation to the children who came into his care. He said: ‘The Religious of Sion will respect freedom of conscience and will allow each student to practise her parents’ religion.’ The Sisters were not to proselytise. He wanted the Sion family to be respectful of each person in all her diversity and to be united in love.
Today the Sisters are present in many countries and this tradition of welcome and inclusion is very much alive.
With 90 years of history, the College has a wealth of items in its archives, from past publications to past uniforms, old registers of past students, photographs and many more items. Past students are regularly welcomed into the 1928 Heritage Room to see some of the artefacts on display and to exchange memories with the College Archivist, who also gladly accepts any donations of College historical items; please contact her on 03 9890 9097 regarding donation procedures.