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Committed 'to do and to teach'


Brother Pat Cronin cfc - Born: January 1 1942 | Died: May 27 2023

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Pat Cronin was born in Melbourne, the eldest of four siblings. He attended the Christian Brothers school St Bernard’s in Moonee Ponds and Joined the Brothers straight from school.

After training in Melbourne, his first posting was to Trinity College in Perth, a new school formed after the closure of CBC Terrace. Pat found himself responsible for about 400 boys in the Junior section of the college and introduced a new way of grading students to improving reading proficiency. Trinity was keen to join the top sporting competition amongst the leading schools in Perth. In anticipation of this he began to have athletics training on weekends with former Olympians, old scholars and Brothers. This came to fruition in 1972 when Trinity won the inter-school athletics. This passion for athletics lasted through the rest of his life.

Pat’s next key posting was to Kalgoorlie where he was deputy head and teacher of senior Science. The college was in the process of moving from its original site on Wilson Street to Lionel Street. After working all day teaching and coaching sport, he would go down to the new site after school and work well into the night setting up the new arrangements. He even worked with a group of parents to build a tractor from various components to help mow the new oval.

His next challenge was becoming principal of CBC Leederville in Perth where he found the senior boys were smoking in their common room and that many desks were graffitied, so he set out to tighten up standards and behaviours. This did not endear him to the senior class. However, Pat was never worried about winning popularity polls, he just did what he thought was correct. He learnt early that one price of leadership is to make tough decisions and not worry about what others think.

Pat’s focus was soon to switch to South Australia when he was appointed principal of St John’s Whyalla. The school was not flush with money but he was able to ensure that it had a sound footing and he sharpened curriculum offerings and was effective in enabling a lot of young teachers to find confidence and mastery of their subject area.

After a short study break, he was appointed principal of CBC Wakefield Street in Adelaide. He was the 29th and the last Christian Brother in this role. He was the second longest serving head being in the role from 1995 until 2006. During his time at CBC, Pat worked at several projects with his usual dynamism. Firstly, he greened the two yards and made them more student friendly. He planted trees in the western yard and had hand tennis courts painted. In the eastern yard he planned a Kaurna garden, put in a mini grand prix track and a chess set, as well as a place for the flags to fly and a small fountain featuring the three dolphins from the school crest.

He was quite revolutionary in developing an upstairs sports area which enabled soccer, athletics and basketball to be played as well as being a space during recess and lunch for boys to expend their energy. This involved partially closing Ifould Street, something that he achieved after political lobbying. He was concerned that the heritage of the school should be preserved. He opened up the space in the 1878 building where the boarders dormitory had been up until the move to Rostrevor in 1923. He converted the former Brothers Chapel into a heritage room and created a sacred garden next to the original building which incorporated information about Edmund Rice, the founder, as well as the names of the first Brothers at CBC. This was all set in the form of a Celtic Cross. He employed an artist and incorporated six windows in the library telling the story of the school and honoured some prominent old collegians around the walls.

He also built for the future by erecting a building on Frome Road which was a chapel on the top floor and a conference centre below. The Edmund Rice Chapel was his great joy and he obtained a first class relic of Edmund for the altar stone.

During his last years as principal, he oversaw the shift of the Brothers off the property to a new house in Regent Street.

He then responded to old scholar Bishop O’Grady’s plea for help in lifting the standard of science teaching in the Solomon Islands. He accompanied some teachers from CBC to the Islands and also supported the Passionists in setting up an English language school in Adelaide to teach young men who were joining them from Asia.

After he finished as principal at CBC, Pat took on the role of running the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in the Archdiocese of Adelaide. He engaged in this with his usual passion and organisation. His final role was to take on the job as pastoral assistant in the Diocese of Port Pirie, working with Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ. It was at this time that the first symptoms began to appear of Apraxia of speech which would lead to his need to retire and to go into care.

Pat was a man of great energy who epitomised the traditional Christian Brothers motto of ‘To do and to teach’. He was a man of action who had clear ideas of what was the right thing to do even when this meant crashing through opposition. He studied and gained two PHDs in his life and achieved a lot. He died as a result of a serious fall in his care home in Melbourne.

May his soul rest in peace.

– Br John Ahern cfc

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