Archbishop's Homilies 2008

Mass for the 130th anniversary of Christian Brothers' College, St Kilda



Dear Christian Brothers and Teachers, Students and former Students, Friends of the Christian Brothers and Parishioners of East St Kilda,

I am deeply honoured to be with you, as we gather to thank God for the 130 years of existence of Christian Brothers College.  The College has provided a significant contribution to Catholic education far beyond the confines of this parish, has brought many vocations to priesthood, religious and other aspects of Church life and has inspired many young men as members of one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church with the faith that comes from the apostles.

In this they have been supported by the particular gifted charism of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, whom we also honour today. 

So many of those who have filled the last 130 years have completed their journey.  Our pilgrimage, however, must continue as we call to mind our sins, repent of them and ask the Lord for pardon, light and strength.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we gather in wordless thanks to God for the many blessings offered through Christian Brothers College, St Kilda, in the 130 years of its existence, through the example of its Brothers and teachers, the high ideals and many gifts of its students, the support of Chaplains, friends and parishioners.

During the 1870s Father James Corbett, later the Bishop of Sale, as parish priest of St Mary’s, East St Kilda, called a public meeting of prominent Catholics in St Mary’s Church.  With great enthusiasm they raised the money necessary to support the Brothers in St Kilda and rented a house for them in Wellington Street, where they began teaching.  This was the first Christian Brothers School in St Kilda and opened its doors on 26th July 1878.

In the first days in 1878 Brother Corbett (no relation to Father Corbett), along with three other Christian Brothers, commenced their work following the charism of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice.  After Edmund was widowed and found his merchant life unsatisfactory, he was challenged to look at the words of Isaiah:  “The spirit of the Lord has been granted to me, for he has anointed me.  He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

A mid-life decision made by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice in 1802 provided the dynamic enthusiasm and giftedness, which has characterised the Brothers and their collaborators here at East St Kilda.  One may well choose to measure success by buildings; the property on Westbury Street, the Corbett and McCartney Wings, the Logue Hall, the Francis McCarthy Creative Arts Centre and the recent multi-million dollar refurbishment.

However, a much clearer vision of the College is shown in the four crests which have been used in the College’s history:  The first motto, Signum Fide, the Sign of Faith; the second, Virtus Sola Nobilitas, Virtue is the Only Greatness.  Each emphasise strongly the spiritual mission in union with the Church, which this College has proudly borne.

We remember that the colours of the College are dark blue for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, green representing Ireland, the birthplace of the Order, blue for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to whom Edmund Rice had great devotion.  The College itself is dedicated to Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus.

In this major anniversary of a College it can be said that we stand at the crossroads.  The primary purpose of any Catholic school is to form young men who are knowledgeable and practical in their faith, who are well prepared for all aspects of life and who will take their place proudly as practising Catholics in the community.  To the extent that these objectives are fulfilled the College is successful in its endeavours.

The Christian Brothers have a renowned tradition of gifted education.  Following the Isaian quotation, which was so loved by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, the Brothers have stimulated gifts, knowledge and abilities in the young men who they have trained.  Many young men who have passed through C.B.C. St Kilda can say that it is because of Brother X and Brother Y and their enthusiasm for learning, their opening out of possibilities for them, that they have achieved success in their chosen life.  Many of you here, I am sure, will rejoice in thanking God for the gifts of the Brothers and the teachers who have worked here.

The challenge, however, remains, and perhaps is even more acute in a modern, secular society.  Our society born on license rather than freedom is gradually cutting adrift the underpinning of faith and family, which have held secure the lives of people emerging into the community.

It is into a much more secularised and challenging environment that our young men grow up in our Colleges and emerge from them.  It is therefore incumbent upon our Colleges to be strong and unflinching in communicating the truths of the Gospel, in faithfulness to the teaching of the Church, and in providing young men with the ability to be strong apologists of the faith and family life, which are at the very basis of every society.

Often it can be said that the forces of religion are vanquished because the forces of evil are so overpowering.  I take the contrary view.  In proudly thanking the Brothers and their collaborators for all that they have done and continue to do, I believe we have a grave responsibility to provide our society with a vision of ordered, ethical life, of faith-inspired life in Jesus Christ, of the value of family and the dignity of the individual.  These gifts taught, nurtured and encouraged will certainly help our young people and enable them to be agents for change and betterment in a world which seems to have lost its way in the never-ending search after material prosperity.

With deep esteem I thank all at C.B.C. St Kilda for the deeds of the last 130 years.  I offer you the challenge as I have given it in the future to face courageously the communication of faith and the dignity of the individual, to provide young men who are ready and are resourceful, knowing who they are and presenting to our society the challenge of rediscovering its true identity.

C.B.C. St Kilda, may the Lord bless you for what you have done, may he strengthen you for what you will become, may you be light in darkness to the ends of the earth.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne