St Ursula’s celebrates 120 years with one big bash

From reunions to art exhibitions, St Ursula's made sure to celebrate its birthday in style.

Many learners, past and present, along with their parents made their way to St Ursula’s School in Krugersdorp North to enjoy every minute of an incredible birthday bash, and most importantly to learn and reflect on the history and traditions of the school.

On Saturday, April 13, the entertainment featured art displays, exhilarating games, and a chance to reflect on the school’s rich 120-year history.

The Krugersdorp News attended the festivities and also took a trip down memory lane.

Jaco Mattheyse at the school museum.

Order of St Ursula

The school was founded in 1904 when the premises consisted of an old farmhouse standing on uncultivated land that was purchased for R7 500 at the time. It is just one of the many Ursuline schools that are based around different parts of the world. According to the school’s official website, Ursuline schools began over 560 years ago.

In the year 1535, the Order of St Ursula was founded by St Angela Merici, in Brescia, Northern Italy. St Angela saw her task as the formation of educated Christian women. She encouraged her sisters in faith, and St Ursula’s School is one of the wonders brought by such faith, effort and confidence.

The history of the Ursulines is one of pioneering and adventure, they were the first female teaching order to venture out into the new world, as missionaries. Today there are Ursuline schools in 26 countries all over the world, which means that the school is part of an international community of private, Catholic schools.

The classic 1920s classroom at the museum.

Their journey to Krugersdorp

In 1895, the first group of six Ursuline sisters from Sittard, Holland, arrived in Mozambique and made their way to Barberton where they started a school, with great success. In 1902 a second group left Sittard. They started an additional private Catholic school in Braamfontein which flourished. Then more requests were made to open an Ursuline school in the small mining and farming town of Krugersdorp, on the West Rand and as they say, the rest is history. The school, being one of the oldest schools in Krugersdorp, has seen many of its learners gain a wealth of knowledge and go on to become successful after leaving the school. One such former learner is Jessica Motaung who went on to become a businesswoman and well-known television personality. Other milestones over the years include building the primary school in 1966 and the school becoming coed.

Future and past generations unite

The festivities included a reunion for all their alumni to attend. According to Cynthia Granger, head of marketing at St Ursula’s, the alumni who attended were all former learners of the school, who reconnected at the school again, and witnessed the opening of the newly built St Ursula’s Museum. The opening was marked by a performance of the school choir. A beautiful display of artwork, paintings and memorabilia was in full display for the hundreds of visitors who made it through the school.

Lindiwe Sandlane, Jessica Motaung, Degracia Ramusin and Radiya Mahomed during the reunion.

“It is lovely to see all the great changes and alterations of the school, and I am glad they still embrace all the old values at the school,” says Lynn Ditter, a former learner who matriculated in 1956.

Candice Harrison, Julia Ferraz-Cardoso, Mary Synodinos and Jessica Motaung socialising after the reunion.

According to the school’s museum curator and educator, Jaco Mattheyse, much of the artwork was produced by many past and current learners of the school as well as local artists who wanted to showcase their talent for the world.

“The bulk of the paintings and artworks is very diverse. The work displayed includes replicas of Italian paintings that were made in the 19th century along with contemporary African art that was developed by our learners,” Mattheyse added.

Mbali Keswa and Khanyisa Chabalala.

Other works would include The Ursulines, also known as the Order of Saint Ursula, the patron saints, St Ursula and St Angela Merici as well as the sister schools worldwide.

Jessica Motaung at the reunion.

It would not be a real museum if the school’s history was not mentioned. The museum not only consists of an art gallery but also has three period rooms which replicate the history of the school. One room is a 1970s dormitory room, displaying the typical bedroom of one of the boarders in the school during that era. The other rooms would include a 1920s classroom which had small, wooden vintage desks with storage spaces beneath the desk for books and stationery. The last period room is a 1940s secretary’s office. It was decorated with beautiful authentic typewriters to give the room an old-school aesthetic with books and other items that would have been invaluable to the running of the school.

Sr Diane Granger started her journey at St Ursula’s as a learner in 1960.

Sr Diane Granger – past learner to principal

Principal Sr Diane Granger has dedicated most of her life to the school and started as a learner in 1960 in Grade Two and then completed her schooling and entered religious life in 1975 with the Ursuline Order. From 1980 she was a teacher at the primary school and was head of the school hostel. In 1987 she became principal of the primary school. By 1990 she was the principal of the high school and then became the principal for both the primary and high school from 1993 to 2010. She served on the board and has always been part of the school and returned as principal in 2020.

Fun for young and old

After the reunion and opening of the museum, a fun day was hosted at St Ursula’s for the public. The fun day started at noon and had a lot to offer for families and friends. There were various vendors with food and gifts, music being played, 11 jumping castles for children to choose from and a picnic area for everyone attending, to relax with their families.

Lesedi Kototsi, Leyric Arends and Warona Mogapi sliding down a jumping castle.

It was an amazing social atmosphere, with children jumping on the castles and playing soccer on the field with their friends. There was also a face painting stand where kids could become anything they could imagine, like a tiger or even Spiderman.

Ronewa Nqweniso getting his face painted.

The visitors not only left the school with fond memories of the fun day but also a wealth of knowledge of a school that has 120 years of history, culture and tradition.

Kgalaleo Rantoa having a great time, jumping on one of the jumping castles.
Koketso Molebatsi and Lekwane Legodi at the fun day.

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