On Thursday, 19 January 2012, Senator Cory Bernardi (Liberal South Australia), President of the Conservative Leadership Foundation, visited Campion College, Sydney, to speak to the young men and women participating in the Summer Program.
Senator Bernardi mingled with the staff and students over lunch and then addressed participants on the important question of Christian leadership. This proved to be the high point of the Summer Program.
Cory Bernardi has had an impressive career. Before he won a Senate seat in South Australia at the age of 36 he was a member of the Australian Olympic rowing team and had travelled and worked extensively overseas. He also had experience in hotel management in Adelaide.
During a lengthy period in hospital, Senator Bernardi used his illness and enforced inactivity to assess his goal in life and this led to his taking up a career in politics.
He wanted to "make a difference" and in this regard had a strong message on leadership for the Summer Program attendees:
• A successful leader must be a comfortable personality, easy to admire, possibly popular, but especially a person who impresses people.
• A leader must have something worthwhile to say, a message, a positive optimistic point-of-view.
• A leader must have a mission which is taken seriously.
Senator Bernardi's obvious enthusiasm was well received by the students.
Campion College's Summer Program also focussed on spiritual matters with Father Anthony Percy, Rector of Sydney's Good Shepherd Seminary, celebrating Mass for the students both to open the week's activities and at their conclusion. Fr Percy returned to the College on the Tuesday evening to give a summary presentation on Catholic spirituality.
Dr David Daintree, President of Campion College, led the Morning Prayer of the Church each day and this voluntary prayer was well-attended.
On the academic side there were two strands: one focussed on Year 12 study skills, in general and for English and History. This reflected the fact that almost all the students were moving into Year 12 (Higher School Certificate in NSW) in 2012.
However, there were additional sessions covering Campion College's tertiary level Liberal Arts program with sample presentations by College lecturers on literature, history, philosophy and thelogy.
Apart from Senator Bernardi's visit, an additional afternoon was devoted to "Team Building and Leadership" since the College hopes to prepare and ignite Christian leaders.
The Summer Program did not overlook the all-important social aspect with afternoon picnic trips to Balmoral Beach and the Blue Mountains. There was also a trivia night, a movie night and an evening session with current Campion students and young alumni present in a social atmosphere.
Mary Winkels, Paul O'Donovan (President, 2011, of the Campion College Students Association), Michael Mendieta, Matt Harradine and Ben McCabe mixed with students, shared their experiences of university life and answered questions.
Two-thirds of those attending the Summer Program hailed from suburban Sydney and were preparing for the challenging Higher School Certificate year. Others came from all over Australia with most states represented. Obviously the participants were giving thought to their future directions after completing secondary education: a gap year, tertiary studies or perhaps the workforce.
At the debriefing session on the Friday afternoon Michael Mendieta of the Campion Marketing Team stressed three main aspects of the College experience:
• Academic subjects such as literature, history, science, philosophy and theology are integrated into a broad education.
• There is a leadership emphasis: Each week during a term a "Formal Hall" takes place at which staff and students appear in academic or undergraduate gowns and a distinguished speaker provides input and invites discussion. Students are encouraged to socialise with the speakers. In addition, public speaking and debating skills are fostered at Campion College.
• The Catholic ethos is an important component with most staff, including all the senior staff, being practising Catholics, as are the great majority of students.
After Michael Mendieta's summary of what the College has to offer, the attendees filled in an anonymous questionnaire but were invited to make comments publicly if they wished. Many did so.
The comments were overwhelmingly positive: "an awesome experience"; "new relationships, new friends"; "a Catholic refresher"; "great to be among intellectual Catholics"; "increased confidence"; "good memories".