St Mary’s Asitavi Celebrates Diamond Jubilee

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Sr. Margaret Tisch, a former principal at Saint Mary’s Asitavi Secondary High School in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, was proud of the school’s achievements.

Sr. Margaret said Saint Mary’s has emerged from its humble beginnings in 1956 and as the school celebrates its 60 years of education, she was happy that the locals now administer these schools, that were once run by missionaries in the early years.

Saint Mary’s is the only all girls secondary school in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Returning to Bougainville after 34 years to celebrate with the school, 60 years of diamond jubilee is a joy.

Sr. Margaret came to Bougainville in 1969 and was the principal at Saint Mary’s for 14 years, until 1982.

“I spent 14 years here at Asitavi and never dreamt to make a return and this month is heaven on earth.”

During her time, she had a dream, to be positive and provide quality and lifelong education for all the women of Bougainville.

“Bishop Leo Lemay was very supportive of this school. It was Bishop Thomas Wade who decided that the school would be built here. Sr. Mary Catherine who started the school, wanted to start the school in Turiboiru in South Bougainville, but Bishop wanted it in central, because it was the center.”

Saint Mary’s was well known for producing some of Bougainville’s top elites who have contributed meaningfully to the development of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea and overseas.

“The first woman pilot was from this school and the first woman engineer was from this school. We had a lot of them in the diplomatic service and they are in the top jobs.”

“In Australia they are also in the top jobs. One of the girls here went to a university in Australia to do post graduate studies in English and she topped the class ahead of Australians and everyone else. Because the girls here spoke English at all times and their English is perfect. So I am very proud,” Sr. Margaret said.

On Sunday September 11, the Bishop of the Bougainville Catholic Diocese, Bernard Unabali, presided over the Holy Eucharist that commemorated the 60 years of the Diamond Jubilee.

The Diamond Jubilee united all former and current female students including males because for some time, after the civil war on the island, men were also enrolled at Saint Mary’s.

Lucy Travertz, the Executive Manager for the Kieta District Administration of the Autonomous Bougainville Government is just one of many of the Saint Mary’s Asitavi’s former pupils.

They all have their stories of how Saint Mary’s has shaped them to be who they are today.

Former students, Lucy Travertz, Stella Toahei Morohana and current student, Patronela Apuahe said that the motto ‘courage, truth and loyalty’ has binded them.

Current Principal Elaine Tsiroats Baris thanked the Marist Missionaries for their sacrifices in shaping women of Bougainville.

“It was an honour and privilege for Saint Mary’s Asitavi, for one of the former principal’s to celebrate with the former and current students, 60 years of Golden Jubilee.”

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