‘School community is with you forever; it is a part of who you are’

As Blackfriars celebrates its 70th anniversary, Director of Development and old scholar Patrick Kelly (BPS’90) spoke with some Year 12 boys about his long-standing connection to the school.

Church and family were really important in our Irish Catholic family tradition. My family came from Liverpool in 1966 and when I was born, in 1973, we were living in Ingle Farm. In 1983, we moved to Prospect so my brother and I could come to Blackfriars.

My parents did consider other schools, but were drawn to a humble Dominican education and Blackfriars’ devotion to the Four Pillars – Prayer, Study, Community and Service. It was definitely the right choice.

My dad died of cancer when I was in Year 12 in 1990, just a few weeks before I was due to sit my final exams. It was obviously a very difficult time, but the Blackfriars community rallied around me and my family and was a constant support. Blackfriars was a stabilising force in my life at that time. My closeness with my mates helped me get through Dad’s illness. At his funeral, there were a sea of faces that were all school mates. I will always remember that.

Director of Development Patrick Kelly (BPS’90) during his time as a student at Blackfriars.

Coming back to work at Blackfriars, more than 20 years after I left as a student, was really the ultimate homecoming. To be able to give back to a community that had given so much support was so important.

The things that made Blackfriars Blackfriars in the 1980s are the same today. The buildings have changed, but that connection to the broader Prospect community and the relationships between the boys and the teachers – that open dialogue – remains the same. You just don’t get that in other schools.

Everything I do in my job now is striving to take the best elements of everything I experienced as a student and showcase it in 2023. I am doing a job I enjoy, in a place I truly care for, and, because of that personal connection, I have no desire to do this in a different school.

School community is with you forever; it is a part of who you are. If you embrace that, it will be the making of you. When you graduate, don’t forget what part this place has played in your life to this point. It probably took me about 10 years to realise that. So, don’t leave it too late to embrace it.

Location, location, location

Hai Dang and Sam Vanderwoude, who have been at Blackfriars since Reception, named the Primary playground as one of their most memorable parts of the school.

As their time at Blackfriars nears an end, a group of Year 12 students has reflected on what makes key locations around the school so special.

As part of their Spiritualities: Religion & Meaning Class, led by APRIM Angela Collins, the boys shared their thoughts on locations including the Chapel of St Albert the Great, the Fr Thomas Cassidy Music Centre and the Aquinas Centre.

For Johan Dissanayake Mudiyanselage, the Neill Gymnasium and the James O’Doherty Theatre were places where he had made friends and built connections.

“These two places helped me to grow a strong community,” Johan said. “The majority of friendships I have made are when I play sports in the gymnasium and when I am doing drama. My friends just accepted me, no matter what.”

Reuben Calleja outside the Music Department.

2023 Music Deputy Captain Reuben Calleja, perhaps unsurprisingly, chose the Music Centre as the location in the school that had the biggest impact on him.

“I’ve been part of the Music Department since I started school in Year 8 and every year … it’s been the one subject that I’ve always continued,” Reuben said.

“I think the sense of community, more than anything, is strongest in the Music Department. It feels like a family.

“Music lessons are always lots of fun. It doesn’t feel like a subject … because, even if I wasn’t doing music at school, I’d be doing it at home.”

For many boys, Hamed Abedian among them, the Lewis Oval (back oval) – scene of many an impromptu lunchtime sporting contest – was the most important spot in the school.

“Back in my Primary and Middle school years, I’d spend most of my time out here, back there where the goals are,” Hamed said. “We’d form teams and that shows how diverse a community it is. It doesn’t matter who you are, what race you come from, you won’t be discriminated against.”

The school’s newest building, the Aquinas Centre, was also a firm favourite.

“It’s the place I hang out with my friends at recess and lunch. It’s got the common areas and it’s just a place that fosters good community spirit,” Max Cavoli said.

Year 12 students outside the Aquinas Centre.

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