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End of an era at St Ignatius'


As Saint Ignatius’ College closed its doors on another year last week, it also heralded the end of an era in the school’s 66-year history.

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The departure of Rector and chief executive officer Father Rob Davoren SJ means that for the first time a lay person will fill the role of principal. When the doors open in 2018, Peter Coffey, who has been the head of the senior school for the past four years, will be at the helm, supported by new Rector Father Peter Hosking SJ (St Aloysius’ College, Sydney) whose leadership will include maintaining the Jesuit ethos of the college.

As Fr Davoren explained, the new leadership model is in line with the four other Jesuit-owned schools in Australia and reflects the changing times.

“I guess you could say I was the last man standing,” he told The Southern Cross.

“Families here are pretty aware that the number of available Jesuits, in fact all Religious, is reduced, however they are encouraged with Peter Coffey taking over as he has an excellent profile within the school community.

“It’s a reflection of the times that this model has to be a way of the future, but I don’t see it as a deficit. Within Jesuit schooling in Australia there has been a really strong genuine engagement with lay people for a long, long time.”

Fr Davoren will take up a new post in Melbourne as the Provincial’s Socius (assistant) and while he will maintain some contact with schools through his involvement with Jesuit Education Australia, said he will miss having the “students and staff around”.

A Saint Ignatius graduate himself (class of 1970), Fr Davoren admitted it came as a “bit of a surprise” when he was asked to come home in 2007 to fill the job of headmaster, vacated by now Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ.

“I was in charge of the middle school in Riverview and didn’t have any aspirations to be a headmaster, but the Provincial suggested I should give it a go. I’ve found a big part of my job has been enabling others to do theirs; sustaining them, supporting and encouraging them.”

While he may have spent less time in the classroom over the past 11 years, with 80 per cent of the school community being Catholic Fr Davoren has continued to engage with students regularly through Masses and liturgies, the sacramental program, First Communion and Confirmation.

He is modest when asked to name some of the highlights of his tenure, but one senses he is immensely proud of the building program that has been underway at the college.

At the Norwood campus projects have included the Ignatius Early Years facility and Junior School library. At Athelstone a state-of-the-art music and drama centre, new administration offices and classrooms have been developed.

“We’ve been lucky to have a really engaged finance committee who have seen the opportunity of low building rates in SA and so we’ve had very good value for our money,” he said.

Besides the physical changes at the college, Father Davoren is also pleased that the hallmarks of a Jesuit education can be seen in the students who graduate.

“We want the children to be inspired to make a difference in the world. We ask that they be open to growth, intellectually competent, religious, loving and committed to justice… so that when they graduate they are equipped to ‘go set the world alight’.

“I’m really going to miss the energy of the school and often think of that quote from Saint Irenaeus: ‘the glory of God is man/woman fully alive’.

“When you see students doing sport, or debating, or on stage, or at music it is just a beautiful thing. Accompanying children to adulthood is a great privilege.”



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