The final Marist Brothers are to leave Forbes, ending a 94-year presence in the local community.
In a letter to Red Bend Catholic College, Marist Brothers Provincial, Brother Peter Carroll, said our two serving Marists Brother Robert Hayes and Brother Bernard McGrath would move on at the end of this year.
The order's Vice Provincial, Darren Burge, visited the College last Friday to explain the shift is due to diminishing numbers.
"It's not what we desire, it's the reality of a historical moment," he said.
"But one of the things we want to emphasise is that the spirit that has always animated the brothers is well and truly within the school and that spirit is alive and well in the staff and the students."
Red Bend Catholic College, or Marist Brothers' College as it was formerly known, has been a proud Marist community since its origin in Johnson Street Forbes in 1926.
The school moved to the present site in 1956 and in 1977 amalgamated with Our Lady of Mercy College to become the co-educational Red Bend Catholic College.
"We don't have exact numbers but well over 100 brothers would have worked here at some point," Brother Burge said.
"Some of those brothers of course were here for long stays, and had long connections both with people in the town and also in the school community."
Principal Stephen Dwyer said Brother Robert and Brother Bernard were an "active, humble and gentle influence in our community".
Br Robert has been engaged as a member of the Learning Support Team, as an assistant in the canteen and as an important member of the Mission and Life Team.
Br Bernard has immersed himself in the Forbes community with his work with the St Vincent de Paul Society and Meals on Wheels. His skills in gardening have also kept him very busy.
"Both of these Brothers will be dearly missed as their presence and spirit, is a dynamic part of our community," Mr Dwyer said.
Longstanding College staff member Col Hawthorn said he was saddened to hear that nearly a century of Marist Brothers work with thousands of rural students in Forbes would come to an end.
"I myself have been fortunate enough to have experienced nearly 50 years of witnessing what amazing men they have been," he said.
"They have always impressed me with the warm and caring attitude they have shown.
"In my six years of secondary education where the majority was delivered by Marist Brothers and then in the 40 years that I have been fortunate enough to have taught beside them, it has never failed to amaze me the sacrifices they have been willing to make to ensure that all the students around them are made to feel at home and accepted."
Br Burge said the Brothers had been working for two decades now to ensure schools were supported "beyond the Brothers" through Marist Schools Australia.
"We feel that the Marist spirit and the spirit that's so close to our heart is alive and well, it's been embraced here and will continue to evolve and grow because it's dynamic," he said.
The College student body is currently 778 strong.
Brother Peter Carroll said they had been pleased to have a Brothers' community in Forbes until this year, and a Brother serving as principal until 2019.
"It's been a privilege for the Brothers to live and work in Forbes and the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes," he said in his letter to the College.
"We leave reluctantly. Generations of Brothers have enjoyed their association with the local people, the students and staff of the College, their families and the broader community."
He expressed his gratitude for the support the Brothers have received here.
"Each year has brought different Brothers to Forbes and each year the welcome has been genuine and warm," Brother Carroll wrote.
"We have gained much through our contacts with the local people and have enjoyed their company.
"Brothers have worked alongside many generous benefactors as together they built the school and laboured for Catholic education in the Diocese."
Brother Carroll included an apology in his letter.
"For any wrongs we've done, difficulties we've created or distress we've caused, I sincerely apologise," he wrote.
"I trust we will not be remembered for our failings but for the many Brothers who gave their best to provide a sound Catholic education for the young people of the region."
Brother Carroll wrote that recent years have allowed a changing of understanding in what it means to be Marist.
"We now see it as a term that doesn't just apply to Brothers, but to all those who wish to follow Jesus in the way of St Marcellin Champagnat," he said.
Principal Stephen Dwyer says the staff and students at Red Bend will take up that mission.
"Our Marist way is connected to people in forming relationships that are safe and trusting, sharing in the intuition that 'to bring up children properly, we must love them, and love them all equally'," Mr Dwyer said.
"On behalf of our College and wider community; students, parents, carers, staff, ex students and community members, I acknowledge and sincerely thank the Marist Brothers for 94 years of service to our College community.
"The Brothers current and past will be dearly missed as we continue to embrace our Marist way."
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