The Marist Brothers are celebrating 125 years in Bendigo.
The international community of Catholic brothers, which have schools across Australia, are responsible for education thousands of Bendigo residents.
Taking up residence on the corner of Waterloo and Barkly streets in 1893, the Marist Brothers started with makeshift classrooms and challenging conditions at St Kilians.
Marist Brother Mark Needham said portable dividers and hot summer days proved a challenge to the 19th century Marist Brothers.
“The first place they were in was what is now St Kilians Hall,” he said.
“Whoever wrote the centenary history commented on that fact that the Brothers found it rather difficult.
“There was a lot of noise, the kids weren't used to discipline or working too hard.”
The Marist Brothers got a permanent residence in McCrae Street in 1894.
The impressive two-storey residence is now home to Chancery of the Diocese of Sandhurst, after the Brothers were relocated next door in 1991.
With a new century, came a new school building. More than 180 students enrolled when it opening with the number topping 270 students within two weeks.
Today, the school building is still home to the Marist Brothers Band but the majority of the facility was renovated to accommodate Doxa School Bendigo just over a decade ago.
In 1983 Marist Brothers amalgamated with St Mary’s to form Catholic College Bendigo.
The new era and partnership between the Marist Brothers and Mercy Sisters continued until 2015 when Marist Brothers commenced a new school in Maiden Gully called Marist College Bendigo.
It is one of the Marist Brothers Bendigo’s most significant modern-day achievements.
“It's the first order-built school for Marist Brothers since Canberra in 1968. It's purpose built, offers education differently. It is really state of the art,” Brother Needham said.
“Back in the 19th Century, a lot of Catholic education was really run by religious orders. Religious orders were a lot stricter back then.
“Now, out at the new school, there is a staff of 90 and I'm the only Marist Brother on the staff.
“There this transition from having essentially religious order controlling Catholic education, to it now being run by laypeople.
“Instead of being grumpy and sad about things changing, it's an exciting time really.”
Marist College Bendigo will officially open Stage 2 of the Montagne Centre on Monday.
Following the official blessing and opening ceremony at Marist College Bendigo guests will be invited to the Sacred Space at 1pm for the unveiling of a sculpture of St Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marist Brothers.
The cedar sculpture has been created by Chewton-based artist Richard Yates. The sculpture will be seated on a cedar bench by local artist, Linton Torr. The memorial was financed by members of the Marist Brothers Old Collegians Association.
In its first four years, Maiden Gully’s Marist College has expanded to 800 students.
It draws comparisons to the Marist Brothers’ first school in 1901 and the need for it in the community.
“Maiden Gully is an expanding place. Last year, or the year before, Maiden Gully Primary School had 600 kids,” Brother Needham said.
“We started taking limited number of primary school kids, and that took pressure off Maiden Gully. There’s obviously a need for it.
“We are aiming that by 2021, it will be a foundation to year 12 school.
“So while we are recalling history and all the good things Marist Brothers have done, we don’t want to get bogged down about it changing. Life does keep changing.”
Many guests are expected to travel from interstate to attend the celebrations which holds a significant place in the history of the Bendigo region.
“Brother Pat Howley, who’s 91 is coming from Brisbane for it. He's ex student who is making effort,” Brother Needham said.
Brother Needham said one of the most significant transitional elements is the reduced presence of Religious in schools.
“There is transition from the old Marist Brothers’ College in McCrae Street to Catholic College Bendigo, with both Marist and Mercy charisms, to the new Marist College in Maiden Gully.”
“There has been a shift from having a large Religious presence to fewer numbers, so the charisma will continue with lay Marists!
“Time stops for no one, let’s celebrate the history and also the transitions.”
When the college opened in 2015, principal Darren McGregor said the school embraced contemporary teaching methods.
"We'll be focusing on facilitated learning, rather than teachers having all the knowledge and imparting that on students," he said in 2015.
He said by using the word from “educator” instead of teacher, it reminding ourselves that we're breaking from traditional teaching methods.
"With technology kids are learning all the time," he said. "We have to teach our kids essential learning skills.”
But it isn’t just in education that Marist Brothers have left their mark on Bendigo.
It is evident in the sport and music communities as well.
The Marist Brothers Band is a regular feature at many community events having been established in 1910.
With programs for beginners to advanced players, the band is open to all levels and age groups.
There this transition from having essentially religious order controlling Catholic education, to it now being run by laypeople. Instead of being grumpy and sad about things changing, it's an exciting time really.Brother Mark Needham
Brother Needham said the Marist Brothers had also influenced some sport in the region as well.
“It's interesting what was Maristians Cricket Club, which is now Strathdale-Maristians Cricket Club, was started by Brother Flavius and Brother Borger,” he said.
“One of significant things about the college is the joint use of sporting facilities.
“The City of Greater Bednigo put $4 million into developing the facilities. It's a first (for me), I haven’t heard of too many places where the wider community controls school sports facilities after hours.”
Celebrations for the 125 year anniversary include an anniversary Mass will be held at St Kilian’s Church on Sunday, April 22 at 10am.
The Catholic Education Office will host a dinner on Sunday evening, April 22 to mark the anniversary.