Next week I return to my usual office in Langlands, after spending the term serving the community as Acting Principal. Over the fireplace in Langlands there hangs a painting of St Thomas of Villanova. Fr Peter Wieneke OSA remembers the picture hanging there in the 1960s and Fr Kevin Burman OSA says it was there when he came to Villanova in 1956. This picture has a fascinating history. The following story is told by Fr Pat Codd OSA, who recently passed away in Ireland. Pat taught at Villanova in the late 1950s, the 1960s and some of the 1970s.
Pat’s recollection reads as follows:
I’m always interested to hear how Villanova is going. I remember the struggle of the early days – watching the numbers to see if they would increase. All the assistance we got from our helpers and the parents. The spirit was brilliant, and I guess it’s still the same. You are lucky there to be so independent; here in Ireland we are very limited in what we can do because of our dependence on the government for funds.
I well remember that painting of St Thomas of Villanova. It was given to Villanova by the Blessed Sacrament Fathers of St Francis’ church in Melbourne when Villanova was opened at Whinstanes and named for St Thomas. It was brought from Italy by Archbishop Goold. As you know, Goold’s first church in Melbourne was St Francis. The painting was slightly damaged at the lower right-hand corner (when looking at it); there was a small tear in the canvas. There is a story told about a House Meeting of the Founding Fathers when, funds being scarce, a decision had to be made as to whether they should spend £5 on repairing the painting or taking the Priory dog, Drummer, to the vet to have an abscess on his bum treated. Drummer’s bum won out and Fr Louis Hanrahan fumed – “Talk about culture! You’re prepared to spend five quid to repair Drummer’s bum and leave a work of art, your Patron, in disrepair.”
Sometime after I became Prior in 1965, I asked Vincent Di Marco to have it repaired. He took it away and, as far as I remember, had a good job done on it. Joe Walsh should remember Vincent Di Marco. It was he who imported the statue of Our Mother of Good Counsel from Italy; Joe and the men (Parents) collected bottles to pay for it!
These stories create a wonderful narrative of the history of Villanova and I thank Fr Peter Wieneke OSA for passing it on.
Over the past week, I have had the pleasure to be involved in our Year 11 Leadership Retreat and conduct interviews with nominated leaders. The best quote I heard from one student was, “to be the best me I can be.”
Ultimately, this is what leadership is all about. If each of us spent the rest of our lives working to be ‘the best that I can be’ we would all have a truly beautiful and love filled world. To be the best that I can be is not easy and is the result of hundreds of daily choices. I shared with the students some reflections and disappointments in my own education journey. I remember fondly one retreat that I took part in. The subtheme for the retreat was taken from Garth Brook’s song, The River: ‘Don’t sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied, choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide’.
To be truly human and to have truly lived means to have taken risks; the risk to leave the safety of the shoreline for the adventure of the rapids of life. Many have used rivers and seas as coat hangers to hang their philosophy on. Truly, we cannot discover new oceans until we have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Truly, ships are never meant to remain tied up in a harbour, but fulfil their true significance only when on the high seas. Truly, sailors are never at their best on the shoreline, but with the salt of adventure blowing in their faces. Truly, a calm ocean never made a good sailor and truly, Jesus had one of his finest moments as he turned to the fear-filled sailors on a boat on the Sea of Galilee with a simple message: ‘Be not afraid, I am with you’.
Heading across the seas, we wish our AFAS exchange students and staff a happy and safe trip to the Philippines. This trip epitomises the spirit of an Augustinian education and echoes St. Francis of Assisi’s words, “Go and preach the Gospel, and if required, use words.” Our staff and students will engage with scholars who the College has supported and partake in programs to assist Augustinian and other communities build much needed infrastructure for education.
I wish all members of our community a happy and safe holiday break. I thank you for your personal encouragement and support over Term 3, as we welcome back Mr Mark Stower from sabbatical leave in Term 4.
Mr Steven Bremner, Principal (Acting)