Her daughter, Sister Elizabeth Browne-Russell, attended the school a generation later – then went on to join the order of the teachers who taught her, of St Joseph of Cluny.
Now, the school has commemorated 125 years of educating the children of Rarotonga.
The school’s community gathered together for a special birthday cake – and pupils Teariki Williams and Temana Paiti had the honour of blowing out the candles.
Sister Elizabeth recalls the Sisters who came from different countries to teach.
“I remember them with tremendous gratitude, their courage in coming to a new place, starting something new,” she said.
“And I think of many people they have taught over the years including my mother.
“St Joseph’s has had a big impact on many of the lives of our people, especially the older generation.”
She expressed her gratitude to the Catholics in the Cook Islands, who had great confidence and belief in the Sisters teachings’ and for their support.
“It’s a time of tremendous gratitude, and we leave that in the hands of people now,” she said.
Catholic Bishop Paul Donoghue was extremely pleased at the school’s milestone.
“The Catholic church believes in the value of a Catholic education, that it was important in 1895 and is still equally important in 2020.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for the school.
Until about 15 years ago the Church had to pay its own salaries for the teachers. “So there was a huge commitment from the Catholics,” he said.
“We are thankful that Government now funds our teachers. So, it’s certainly much easier financially, to run the school today than it was previously.”
Bishop Paul is optimistic that students at the school today will be around to celebrate the school’s 200th birthday.