Brother Patrick Thomas Guidera described himself as a third generation Australian of mainly Irish background. In a family of nine children – six boys and three girls – he was the second child of Patrick and May Guidera who had a farm in Cowell in the eastern Eyre Peninsula nearly 500 kilometres from Adelaide. Three years after Pat’s birth the family moved into the town of Kimba where his father took up a farm machinery and wheat agency business.
There was no Catholic school in Kimba so Pat spent seven years in the State school. He later spoke very highly of the teachers there. The children grew up in a very happy environment but when Pat was 13 he was enrolled as a boarder at Rostrevor College. The move was eased for Pat as Jim, his oldest brother, was at Rostrevor at the time.
In January 1953 Pat left South Australia and travelled by train to New South Wales to join the Christian Brothers. The three years’ basic training with the Brothers in Sydney was followed by three years’ full-time study for a BA at Melbourne University. The next 10 years were spent teaching as most Brothers usually do, but the following three years were anything but usual; he was chosen to study theology at the Jesus Magister Institute for Teaching Brothers, part of the Lateran University in Rome.
Lectures were in French and Italian. French was alright because he had studied it at Melbourne University but Italian was another matter – he managed somehow by learning from tape recordings. Br Pat did his study in Rome just after Vatican II began, so he was very aware of and sympathetic to the changes which the Church was experiencing.
Back home in Australia he resumed his life in the Brothers’ communities and schools in Western Australia (Perth and Kalgoorlie) and from 1974 in South Australia, especially Whyalla and Rostrevor. His time in Whyalla as principal from 1974 – 1980 was particularly significant. It was at this stage that St John’s College was amalgamated with St Francis Xavier School conducted by the Good Samaritan Sisters. Sister Maureen Watson and Br Pat cooperated well together to effect a transition period that went remarkably smoothly, a tribute to both of them. Br Pat’s genial character and beaming smile endeared him to everyone—parents, pupils and staff. He had a particular interest in non-academic students both at Whyalla and later at Rostrevor. It was here where, no longer principal, he was responsible for the Year 11 students who were preparing for apprenticeships and trade skills. They were very appreciative of his caring concern for them and preparing them for the next phase of their lives.
Two other areas where Br Pat’s involvement was much appreciated was in the Murray River Adventure Camp and in FAME. The first of these was a five or six-day camp on a property between Blanchetown and Mannum giving access to a lagoon on the Murray. Canoeing on the lagoon and the river alternated with long treks through the bush over distances some students would never have attempted on their own but for Br Pat’s encouragement.
Flexible and Mobile Education (FAME) came into Br Pat’s life only after he had retired from teaching. When he was no longer involved in full-time teaching he volunteered to be a presence at the FAME centre near Huntfield Heights.
This was for girls and boys who had dropped out of school and who needed special attention. Pat did not teach there; he was simply ‘there’ for the students, chatting with them, showing interest in what they were doing. Each Monday he would drive the 30km or so and spend the day on site – a ministry much appreciated by staff and students. He also spent Tuesdays at St Paul’s as a teacher’s aide.
The last years of his life were spent as community leader at both West Beach and Magill.
Brothers who had retired from teaching were living in both places and Br Pat’s genial character and accommodating spirit made for happy communities. As the infirmities of old age began to manifest themselves, visits to his local GP and different physiotherapists became more and more frequent. Two years before Br Pat died disturbing incidents occurred – a broken hip for which there was no apparent cause followed within nine months by a broken femur. A great deal of pain accompanied all of this but Pat never complained. Eventually specialists concluded that it was a cancer causing his bones to break. Br Pat was transferred to Calvary Mary MacKillop nursing home where he was wonderfully cared for by the staff for the last months of his life.Jump to next article