Like a mustard seed
On October 15th 1965, Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, and exactly two years the opening of St. Joseph's School, a small nursery was opened in the house of Mr. Elias Azar, Rabweh, behind Rabiya. It was called The Convent of Jesus & Mary, Thévenet Academy, showing the desire of the sisters to further the educational ideals of their Foundress Claudine Thévenet, in this country.
The objective was to offer courses in three languages, Arabic, English and French to girls. Archbishop Elias Farah was anxious that this education be offered in a sound Christian setting.
The first ten pupils were: Milena Ashkar, who is now in France; Khalil Cacheco , Mansour Gebara, Michel and Mona Maasry, who later died in a plane crash; Maha Moundelak, Jean Najjar, a businessman who takes care of the school uniform; Joseph G. Abi Raad, Raja Sawaya, now a Doctor and living with his wife in Sweden; and Tania Saliba. Mother Francis Hammond, the superior and Directress of the School, and Sr. Marie Therese Gendreau, were the two Religious involved in the beginnings of the School. Because of the language barrier, Mrs. Karam Gebara, mother of one of the pupils, came to assist; she in turn was later joined by Miss Josette Sarkis. Before the year was up other children, including Andrea Samen, had joined the little group. The boys left to join St. Joseph School in Grade 1 Class.
By October 3rd, the following year, the enrollment had reached 60. Sr.Doris Lavoie, who had arrived from the United States a few days earlier, became a new and welcome member of Staff. Also added to the teaching staff were, Nadia Sawaya, Mona Ghantous, Youmna Zaarour and Diane Robertson on (the mother of Caroline and Nathalie Gebara).
The first building was constructed and finished in time for the opening of the school year on October 16th 1967; there were 154 children on roll. In 1968 Mother Francis Hammond left for Rome and Sr. Francis de Sales replaced her as Principal. Sr. Florence came to help in the Nursery Section. The School and the community now moved into the hands of the English Province where Mother Edmund was the Provincial Superioress.
In October 1969, Sr. Doris-Marie returned to the U.S.A. She was replaced by Sr. Margaret Mary who worked in the Elementary Division for three years. Also on the Staff at the time was Miss Nawal Abi Karam who joined the Religious of Jesus & Mary some four years later. By now the School had grown to 232 pupils and Sr. Francis de Sales returned to England and Sr. Monica arrived to replace her as Principal. To accommodate the growing number of pupils it was evident that an extension would have to be undertaken at once. The High School building was constructed under the watchful eye of Sr. Monica, and opened its doors on October 6th. 1970. There were by then 330 children in the School.
Sr. Anne-Thérèse Hosty arrived from England to work in the High School, and Miss Bernadette Hines, who had been a student at our J.M. School in Willesden, London, worked for four years to build up the Maths and Science program. The newly appointed Provincial Superioress, Sr. Mary Agnes, showed a lively interest in all that happened in Lebanon, and visited the school several times during her period of office.Sr. Youmna Zaarour returned in 1971 as a member of the teaching staff, but this time as our first Lebanese Religious of Jesus and Mary. Sr. Peter Handley joined the High School staff in 1972 and introduced many activities to encourage the speaking of English through Poetry and Drama.
In 1974, with the opening of the third building for the Nursery to Grade 1 class, Sr. Marie Thérèse became Principal of the K G, and Primary Division. The same year, Sr. Monica was obliged by ill health to return to England and Sr. Catherine Ross, who had been Principal of the Elementary Division in St. Joseph School for the previous four years, came to replace her in the High School. She worked assiduously to build up the standard in every field. To satisfy the need for a separate Principal in the K.G. area, Sr. Agnes Bell took over the responsibility for the tiny tots in 1977.
As the School continued to grow Sr. Mary Roland became the Directress General of the Campus in 1981; Sr. Monica returned to the High School; and construction began the following year on The Thévenet Teacher Training College. This College, which trained teachers for the Primary and Elementary Classes through the medium of English, is still the only Catholic College to do this throughout the whole of Lebanon.
By Christmas 1983, Sr. Rosario had replaced Sr. Marie Therese who had been missioned to the new community in Damascus. In autumn 1985 we welcomed Mr. & Mrs. David Hudson, respected friends and colleagues of our J.M. Sisters in England. Mr. Hudson became the Director General of the School, while his wife, Brenda, took on the Science Department, and became the vice-principal in the High School.
It became clear that further construction would soon be necessary, and plans were drawn up for a Secondary building and the land was cleared. Mr. & Mrs. Hudson returned to England at the end of their two year contract and the Provincial Council in England, this time with Sr. Judith Mary as Provincial Superioress appointed Mgr. Ad Abi Karam as Rector of the School.
The Secondary building, begun in February 1989, took two and a half years to complete-largely due to the outbreaks of war which punctuated the late1980 and early 1990s in this area. But despite many difficulties the building was ready for use by the College and Secondary students in October 1991.
In 1992 We had 1300 students and over 120 staff teachers. Our three language curriculum of Arabic, English and French means that the world truly is open to our students. The full range of Lebanese Government Examinations is available - Brevet, the Scientific Baccalaureate in Experimental Sciences and Elementary Mathematics: the Literary Baccalaureate in Philosophy; the Technical Baccalaureate in Art and Design, as well as the B.T. and T.S. in Education for the mature students who attend the College.
On October 19, 2002 the Sisters of Jesus & Mary handed over the ownership of the school to the Maronite Archdiocese of Antelias. Mgr. Aad Abi Karam was appointed Bishop of the Maronite diocese of Sydney, Australia.
In 2001, Fr. Joseph Tannous was appointed Rector of Jesus & Mary School. The school buildings were then renovated inside and outside.
In 2011, His Excellency Bishop Youssef Bechara appointed Fr. Antoine El Ghazal Rector of Jesus & Mary School.
And as the torch is passed on from Rector to Rector, so is the JM legacy which is safeguarded and nurtured with the utmost care under the protective mantle of Mary, in the loving palms of Jesus’s hands.