Former students, work colleagues and Christian Brothers from around Australia have paid tribute to Br Mark McCabe for his brilliance as a teacher, coach, musical director and handball player.
Dominic McCabe was born in St Peters, the son of Francis and Pricilla (Brennan). His brothers and sister – Patrick, Francis, Paul, Michael, John (Br Ben, also a Christian Brother), Julian, and Mary Pricilla all pre-deceased him. He is survived by many nieces and nephews.
After attending his local Catholic parish school, Dom moved to Christian Brothers College, Wakefield Street, Adelaide, where he excelled in sports.
In 1943 he left home to join the Christian Brothers and continued his education at the Christian Brothers’ Juniorate in Sydney. After completing his schooling, in 1945, he entered the Brothers’ Novitiate at Minto, NSW. In the Novitiate, he was given the religious name Mark, the name by which he was known to the Christian Brothers.
Mark’s first two years of teaching were in Melbourne, in 1947 at St Ambrose’s, Brunswick, and in 1948 at St Bernard’s, Moonee Ponds.
In 1949 the young Br McCabe was appointed to St Joseph’s College, Geelong. There is much that attests to the fact that he was a much-loved and significant person in the lives of those he taught or came into contact with during the 11 years he was at the college. All were quick to realise there was more than doing a job to this enthusiastic 22 year old. ‘Stan’, as he was affectionately known to the students, made his mark as a caring dormitory master, a demanding sports coach, a talented sportsman and a keen presenter of musical productions – with Gilbert and Sullivan amongst his favourites.
It is significant that when the school came to set up a bursary in 2019, Mark’s memory was so strong that the bursary was named in his honour about 60 years after Mark had left the college. A number of his Geelong ex-pupils travelled to Adelaide to be present at his funeral at Rostrevor College chapel and were joined by old scholars of Rostrevor and CBC.
In 1960, Mark was transferred from St Joseph’s Geelong back to his home state, to Rostrevor College. Here again there is high praise of him as a compassionate, caring teacher. Though his teaching was in Year 9, because of his passion for sports and his skill as a coach, he was called on to coach both First XVIII football and First XI cricket. His love of and talent in directing musicals led him to produce a Gilbert and Sullivan opera for Speech Night each year. In addition, Mark was in charge of a dormitory and he also did a large amount of groundsman’s work in preparing the ovals for various sports.
In 1964-67 Mark was stationed at St Virgil’s, Austins Ferry, Tasmania, followed by a year in Albany, WA.
Returning to South Australia, from 1969-1971 Mark was stationed at St John’s College in Whyalla as principal and Community Leader. This was his only time as principal, a role he didn’t relish as he preferred ‘hands on things’ and did not enjoy ‘administrivia’. This was also Mark’s first time as Community Leader, but it was certainly not his last. He was a most compassionate leader of the Brothers’ community, his pastoral approach including an ability to empathise with his fellow Brothers and a desire to find a solution to any difficulties they experienced. Mark also became a member of the Rotary Club of Whyalla which enabled him to raise the profile of the school.
From 1972-82 Mark was stationed at CBC in Adelaide. Br McAppion, who had been with Mark in Geelong, was appointed principal of the school in 1977. He recalls how pleased he was to know that Mark was Superior of the Community: Mark was everything I remembered from Geelong; in addition he was a wise counsellor, a good friend, and very loyal.
Br John Ahern also shared his recollections of this time: Mark was the Rowing Master and also First XVIII coach until 1976. He helped lead one of CBC’s most successful periods at rowing…He played handball with great success even though he was around 50 years of age. He was easy to relate to and a non-threatening leader.
An important part of Mark’s life was his success as a handballer. In his last year at CBC before moving to Western Australia, he was inducted as a life member of the South Australian Handball Association for outstanding service to the game.
In 1983 Mark was transferred to Trinity College in WA, and was there until 1991. One of the students stated: Br McCabe was the most influential teacher from my time at Trinity College. He ran the classroom with tolerance, control, compassion and great humour. No kids were left behind; all learnt and learnt well. Again Mark was involved with rowing and built an incredibly effective connection with the rowing fraternity, having the expertise required both to administer upkeep on the boats and boatshed and to coordinate scores of inexperienced oarsmen into a meaningful and cohesive club.
After one year at Rostrevor College in 1992, Mark was transferred to CBC in Adelaide in 1993 and was there for more than 10 years. Almost certainly the fact that Mark was so fully involved with rowing was part of the reason for his return to CBC. During this time, because of increasing age, Mark was less involved with the school and in 2005 he moved to the Magill Brothers’ Community.
Mark’s last years were at Labrina Southern Cross Nursing Home, Prospect, where he was greatly respected by the staff. He loved watching sport on television but when a visitor came Mark would immediately turn it off and focus his whole attention on his visitor. He was an avid reader and appreciated being able to access books from the local council library. Mark had an active mind to the last.
Delivering the homily at his requiem Mass, Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ spoke of Mark’s commitment when he took his vows to consecrate his gifts for “the building up of others in the classroom and his religious community, his special gifts of coaching of sport, and especially his musical gifts, that ability through music to enhance life and lift up the soul”.
– Br John Webb cfcJump to next article