Sydney's weather provided a cool, overcast day while the heritage buildings and spacious grounds were in pristine order when on 14 December 2009 nine Campion College graduates were awarded their certificates before a large crowd of church and civic leaders, close family members and many friends at the College.
Professor Geoffrey Caban, Dean of Studies, using an impressive, traditional Christian formula, introduced each graduate: 'Mr Chairman, I present to you ... whom I know to be suitable by character and by learning to proceed to the Bachelor of Arts in the Liberal Arts ... for the honour of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints.'
Many dedicated Catholic clerical and lay leaders supported the College and graduates by their presence. Among them were Cardinal George Pell, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, Mr Greg Smith, (Liberal MHR, Epping, Shadow Attorney-General), Senator Julian McGauran, and Dr Xavier O'Kane.
Campion College had been opened in 2006 on a six hectare property at Toongabbie near Parramatta in western Sydney, its purpose being to provide a broad education at undergraduate level, based on a curriculum of core subjects in the humanities and sciences suited to Australian cultural conditions and educational requirements.
The curriculum reflects a Christian heritage, unashamedly orthodox and sensitive to the Magisterium of the Church.
Cardinal Pell with Bishop Jarrett and many priests celebrated the Votive Mass of St Edmund Campion requesting the 16th century Jesuit martyr to present their prayers for the Campion College community to the Lord.
Campion College is already developing a rich tradition of Church music with a Schola, superbly trained by Bernard Kilpatrick, Director of Music, enhancing the dignity of the liturgy and graduation ceremonies.
Following the Gospel Reading, Cardinal Pell invited the gathering to be seated 'for a long homily'.
The homily's theme was St Edmund Campion's 'Brag' or Apologia to the English Privy Council in 1580, giving their Lordships the reasons for his secret return to England to minister to the underground Catholic Church. Four hundred years later the 'Brag' still provides a moving statement of faith, commitment and evangelisation. It reads in part:
'To the Right Honourable, the Lords of Her Majesty's Privy Council: Whereas I have come out of Germany and Bohemia, being sent by my superiors, and adventured myself into this noble realm, my dear country, for the glory of God and benefit of souls, I thought it like enough that, in this busy, watchful, and suspicious world, I should either sooner or later be intercepted and stopped of my course.
'My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reform sinners, to confute errors - in brief, to cry alarm spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many of my dear countrymen are abused.'
The Jesuit ministry in Elizabethan England was 'a small brave initiative' and Cardinal Pell linked this to the situation faced today by committed Catholics (and other Christians). While there is no physical persecution, Christians are dismissed as irrelevant by the cultural majority immersed in secular values, blind to the Christian heritage on which the nation was founded.
Following Mass, prior to the students' Graduation, Campion College awarded certificates to two Foundation Fellows, Mr James Power and Dr Karl Schmude, and eight Honorary Fellows who included Mr Giles Auty and his wife, Annuschka, Dr Tracey Rowland, and this writer. Father Greg Jordan SJ was unable to be present to receive his award.
Then the nine graduates were introduced and awarded their certificates, two of them sharing the College Medal as outstanding students, Laura Meli and Ivy del Rosario.
After the Graduation, Dr Daintree introduced Mr Denis Smith, MHR, a prominent Catholic who has enjoyed a stellar career at the Sydney bar and in the Federal Parliament. He challenged the graduates and other Campion students to witness in society to the rich heritage of Christian values they have imbibed through their families and their Liberal Arts education at Campion College.
Paul Smeaton, one of the graduates and the first Englishman to be awarded a Campion College degree, was chosen to speak for the graduation group. He impressed the large gathering with a polished, sophisticated oration, rich in Catholic faith, and cast in the form of a report to 'Her Majesty the Queen on his three years in Australia at Campion College.'
The Schola then sang the Te Deum, a majestic hymn of thanks to God for another successful year at the College.
Campion College is a pioneering venture. Many of its needs come down to finance and what money can purchase. These are some ways that dedicated Catholics can assist Campion College and its students:
* Scholarships provided by Catholic dioceses and associations will enable Campion to make its facilities available to gifted young men and women from less affluent backgrounds.
* Catholic business people and employers in the Parramatta area can make available part-time jobs for Campion students, assured that they will get the services of reliable young people.
* Catholics in leadership roles in secondary education can invite Campion graduates and senior students to speak to Catholic students in their high schools.