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Dominicans leave their mark


Mark Thompson has a message for the health experts; put Dominican nuns in charge!

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A prolific ‘Letter to the Editor’ writer, Mr Thompson cheekily suggested that the obvious solution to vaccine hesitancy in the northern suburbs was to follow a formula set down in the mid-1950s.

“Once the Salk vaccine for polio became available, the nuns at St Augustine’s in Salisbury marched us to the mobile vaccine centre,” he wrote.

“We dutifully exposed an arm and the painful Salk was injected…l think we followed up with tetanus, which also hurt like hell.

“In the fifties parents endorsed while the nuns enforced. Trouble is that most of the Dominican nuns have now gone to God.”

Mr Thompson grew up next door to St Augustine’s Catholic Primary School in Salisbury.

His mother would pop over to play the piano when requested – which was often – and when Mark became an altar boy she dutifully made his surplice.

Mr Thompson is full of admiration for the Dominican nuns who battled against adversity and over-crowded classrooms.

His favourite was Sr Thomas (later Ruth) who taught him fractions and would read her students the adventures of Digit Dick.  The nuns were no light touch when it came to discipline but Mr Thompson said “it didn’t worry me”.

Moving on to Blackfriars Priory, he pursued his interest in sport, captaining the athletics team and playing First XVIII football.

This held him in good stead when he entered the police academy where he excelled at the physical training during his two and a half years as a cadet. He set the junior State record for the 400 metres track event.

Like many northern suburbs boys, Mr Thompson was a member of Salisbury Young Christian Workers (YCW) where formation or a religious reading was a regular part of the meeting.

“I was not overly religious, but religion was part of socialising,” he explained.

Mr Thompson met his future wife, Mari, a Tranmere branch member, at a YCW convention at Mount Gambier in 1968.

Two years later his “number came up” and he was conscripted into the Army after completing one year of probationary police duties.

After basic training at Puckapunyal, he was sent to the Military Police training school at Holsworthy, NSW, and then jungle training in Queensland.

While on active duty from January to November 1971, he circumvented an attempted hijack of an American Pan Am plane in Saigon by an Australian soldier.

“I probably should have received a commendation, but the soldier’s father was friends with NSW Premier Askin, who held significant influence,” he said.

“Instead of being sent back to Australia for court martial the lad pleaded to a lesser offence and completed three months detention in Vietnam.”

Upon his return to Australia, Mr Thompson was discharged from the Army and returned to the SA Police. After a few months on car patrols, he transferred to motorcycles and remained there for almost five years.

At the age of 28 he applied for Prosecution Service and by 33 he was promoted to sergeant. He and Mari had three children by then and the family was part of the Capuchin community at Newton. Their eldest son eventually played the organ there and Mr Thompson was a member of the Newton choir as well as the Police Choir.

“I was going places in the cops, but felt a little disillusioned and resigned when I was 36 to work as an insurance adviser with National Mutual,” he explained. He went on to gain his his Australian Financial Services licence, before retiring at the age of 69.

His cadet course captain Bill Prior, also a member of the St Ignatius Chapel congregation, asked him to be a tour guide for the Police Historical Society museum at the Thebarton Barracks.

A lover of documentaries and the History Channel, he said the study of history had strengthened his faith.

“I came to the conclusion that if Jesus were not real and did not resurrect then the Jews of the day would not have become followers,” he said.

“Why would people who have followed the word of Moses for over 1000 years embrace Jesus if he were not real and did not die and rise again?”

Mr Thompson at home working on a letter to the editor.

Mr Thompson said he began writing letters to the editor when he was in his 60s and it “picked up” when he retired.

He writes on a broad range of topics and occasionally on religion.

“I do fire up sometimes,” he said.

“Topics into which I have introduced religion are this obsession with forgiveness.  You cannot forgive anyone who is not contrite; which is one of the basic tenets of confession, but you can move on,” he said.

“Even Jesus did not forgive the unrepentant brigand on the cross, but he promised paradise to the contrite robber.”

Another concept that gives religion a bad name was that “we have to be meek” (the meek shall inherit the earth, Matthew 5.5).

“We have no word in English that accurately translates the Greek word praus, used in Matthew’s Gospel,” he said.

“I stumbled across the meaning in a book in my mum’s library, Understanding the Beatitudes.  Praus is a term that is applied to breaking the behaviour of a wild colt, so that it is restrained and under control.  Blessed is the man who can control his passions and behaviour, a measured person. How can being a doormat (meek) have any appeal?  But being a strong person who can control his emotions and passion is more appealing; this appeals to the ‘copper’ and soldier in me.

“I consider Cornelius the Centurion, who asked Jesus to heal his servant, without the need to enter his humble home, would have been a man with command presence and having praus. There are a few politicians who could do with a good dose of praus and who appear to be completely lacking in a command presence”.

While the “current format” of the Catholic Church suits him, he concedes it is “probably boring for many”.

“I find the traditions comforting. I also equate it to a form of ancestor worship, when I can reflect on my deceased loved ones,” he said.

“Opening up the priesthood to women is imperative. The Church should also consider embracing married men and women in the priesthood as it may solve the lack of vocations, and I see that there would be a place for retired couples or retired single men and women to embrace the priesthood.”

While he clearly has strong opinions on many issues, Mr Thompson has a simple philosophy when it comes to his own life: “I try to do unto others as I would have them do unto me.”

Wise words that might one day make their way into the Letters page.


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