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News > Docco's Diary > Docco's Diary: 100 years of the Mission Guild

Docco's Diary: 100 years of the Mission Guild

David Docwra explores the history of the Mission Guild: A century of dedication by St Peter's College mothers and sisters to those less fortunate than we are.
Mission Guild High Tea 2023
Mission Guild High Tea 2023

2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the Mission Guild. Many old scholars may remember their mother’s or sisters’ involvement in the Mission Guild. Perhaps this is an appropriate time to remember the loyal service given by thousands of mothers and sisters of St Peter’s College boys over the last 100 years.

In a newspaper article dated Wednesday, June 20th, 1923, "The Register" documented the birth of the Mission Guild. At that time, a gathering of ladies, passionate about St Peter's College Mission, took place on June 18 1923, at the Mission Buildings on Moore Street, Adelaide. During this meeting, Reverend W. B. Docker, the School Missioner, read a letter from the Headmaster detailing the Mission's work. “It had been resolved to establish a ladies guild to support the movement, and thus to create a strong association, binding together the mothers and sisters of the St Peter's College boys in a common work for the good of others. The Mission is conducted on the lines of the well-known settlements founded by most of the English public schools in their great cities. St Peter's College has the distinction of being the first and only public school in Australia to initiate a similar movement. The meeting decided to form a women's guild with simple rules, to advance the work in every way possible.”

The roots of the Mission itself can be traced back to 1908, making 2023 the 115th anniversary of its creation. The St Peter’s College Magazine August 1924 gives some background to the creation of the St Peter’s College Mission: “In 1908 Canon Hornabrook took charge of the Parish of St Mary Magdalene situated in the heart of the city. The Parish was a poor one and thickly populated. He realised that in this district there was need of vigorous social work and he set about establishing a club to which people might come. He had his English experience upon which to draw and he visualised a school mission attached to the parish on similar lines to many in the largest cities of the Old Country. It is a common feature of church life in England to find missions at work financed and often manned by the members of Schools and University colleges. This idea he put before the Headmaster of St Peter’s College and others who were connected with the School. The outcome was the purchase of a block of land next to the church and the erection of a fine two-storied building. It was arranged that the work of the Mission should be financed by the boys of the College. In November 1912 the new building was opened and the extended work began. Social work of a varied type is carried on, and a large number of people have been touched and influenced by the Mission”.

The Mission provided a free day school kindergarten with free meals for poor children. It ran clubs for adults, girls and boys, as well as a troop of Scouts and Guides. There was also a thriving Sunday School.

Initially known as the Ladies' Guild, the Mission Guild played a pivotal role in those early years. Three years after its establishment, in August 1926, the School magazine acknowledged the significant contribution of the Mission Guild, emphasising that the Mission owed much of its success to their dedicated support: “The Mission owes not a little to the keen support of this Guild, and we could not do without it.”

In 1957, the Mission relocated from Moore Street in Adelaide to Elizabeth. The ladies of the Mission Guild remained steadfast in their commitment to actively support the Mission. They made regular visits to assist at the Elizabeth Mission and organised a range of fundraising activities.

In 1977 the St Peter's College Magazine reported on the ongoing remarkable work of the Mission at Elizabeth. Throughout that year, the Mission continued to provide essential assistance to distressed families, offering food, clothing, and furniture. This support proved crucial in times of unexpected misfortune, whether it was due to accidents, sudden illnesses, deaths, or desertion. The dedication of the Mission Guild members, both in fundraising and their voluntary assistance at the Mission, continued to be deeply appreciated.

In March 1981, the "Saints" publication highlighted the annual Mission Guild Tennis Day and Luncheon, a tradition that drew strong support from mothers. The event not only raised funds but also showed their spirit of service. Members of the Mission Guild also engaged in organising second-hand school clothing sales and collecting clothes and furniture for the Mission's beneficiaries in Elizabeth.

Image: Mission Guild Tennis Day 2002

In 1981, for example, the Senior School, Preparatory School, and St Peter's Collegians collectively contributed substantial sums, demonstrating their commitment to supporting the Anglican Mission at Elizabeth.


Image: Mission Guild Bridge Day 2016 and Fashion Parade 2015

Over the years, the Mission Guild continued its support for the St. Peter's College Mission through various activities, such as Tennis Days, Bridge Days, Fashion Parades, Film mornings, Second-hand clothing sales, and more.

The 1984 St Peter's College Magazine recorded a shift in the Mission Guild's activities, with the School's Year 10 boys taking on community service projects within the St Peters District and nearby areas. However, the Ladies' Mission Guild continued its admirable work, operating a second-hand Clothing Shop and continuing its commitment to charitable causes.

Reverend Michael Whiting became School Missioner in 1993 and he reminded us of the purpose of the School Mission:

 “The Mission, founded in 1908, draws as its inspiration from the Letter of James 2: 14-17:

‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?’

Throughout its life the Mission has pursued aims of enabling people to participate more fully in life, to have sufficient for a life of dignity, and to live in harmony with God and each other. In the School community the Mission fosters a ministry of caring, motivated by charity and dealing with the effects of injustice; and a ministry of change motivated by justice and dealing with the causes of injustice”.

In the same year, representatives of the Mission Guild, the Senior School, the Preparatory School, and the Old Collegians, under the chairmanship of the Headmaster, Mr Richard Burchnall, allocated $9,000 to the work of the revitalised Mission at Saint Mary Magdalene's in Moore Street, Adelaide. The Mission's work among the homeless and disadvantaged in the inner city gained momentum. The School community actively contributed to the Mission's initiatives, with students raising funds through Casual Clothes days to support the St Mary Magdalene Mission's Christmas program.

The 2008 St Peter's College Magazine reminded us of the Mission Guild's activities. Consisting of about sixty dedicated ladies, the Mission Guild continued to play a dynamic role within the School Community. Their activities encompassed catering at School events, supporting various fundraising days, and assisting in numerous charitable endeavours.

Image: Mission Guild Volunteers 2016

By 2008, the Mission Guild had expanded its scope, contributing to more charities, including the Mary Magdalene Centre, the Elizabeth Mission, the Archbishop's Appeal for Emergency Relief, St John's Family Youth Services, Family Centres North and South, and the St Peter's College Fiji Rotahomes Project. These endeavours yielded substantial funds over the years, exemplified by the impressive fundraising figures in 1996-1999 of almost $90 000, and $60 000 in 2014.

Image: Mission Guild High Tea 2022

In 2022, volunteers were invited to the Mission Guild Patron’s Afternoon Tea. The invitation was posted on the School website with the following information: “The St Peter’s College Mission Guild has a long history of service to the School and the wider community. The Mission Guild raises in excess of $30,000 each year for Anglican charities including Anglicare SA, St John’s Youth Services, Magdalene Centre and Elizabeth Mission. The Mission Guild is run by a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers who raise funds through a number of initiatives including the Mission Guild Recycled Uniform Shop and pop-up stalls which collectively raise in excess of $20,000 each year. The Mission Guild also supports Service Learning at the School to help students grow as compassionate and active contributors to society. We warmly welcome members of our community to participate in the activities of the Mission Guild”.

In the words of Ms. Claudia Buttignol, President of the Mission Guild in 2016: “We achieve so much, all of us driven by the same desire to support those in our community in need.”

Image: Mission Guild High Tea 2022

Our School’s website in 2023 reminds us: “Since foundation, Saints has emphasised a sense of service through selflessness; a value that remains strong and constant in the fabric of School life. Our motto ‘Pro Deo et Patria’ (For God and Country) has instilled a sense of service and working for the greater good in generations of students. We encourage personal growth, leadership development and a sense of social responsibility through a range of programs and experiences. All boys are expected to commit to 20 hours of community service and volunteer in a range of local community groups, charities and organisations. Students can also undertake programs in countries like Cambodia and Fiji to help make a difference in developing countries”.

Image: Paula Musolino, Chair and Kirsty Whiteman, Secretary with Thomas Hamilton-Smith (DAC), School Captain and Aidan Hua (MAC), School Vice Captain at Mission Guild High Tea 2023,

Surely this 100th anniversary of the Mission Guild in 2023 is an opportunity to remember, with thanks, thousands of mothers and sisters who, over 100 years, have willingly supported the Mission work of our School, and have done much to help those in need? Surely we can feel proud that the Mission Guild, under the leadership of Ms Paula Musolino (Chair) and Ms Kirsty Whiteman (Secretary), continues to thrive in 2023?  

Researched and written by David Docwra

David Docwra retired from St Peter’s College in December 2015 after 37 years’ service and is fondly remembered by many as a dedicated teacher, a committed coach of squash, cricket and soccer, and most especially as a passionate Head of Hawkes House for 21 years. David remains connected to St Peter’s College and regularly provides historical articles for the St Peter’s Old Collegians’ newsletters. In 2023 David was made an Honorary Member of the St Peter’s Old Collegians’ Association.

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