Campion College’s long-awaited academic centre and residential halls were liberally blessed and officially opened for a new generation of students on 24 August.
Based in Toongabbie in Sydney’s west, the liberal arts college celebrated the occasion with leaders from the Catholic Church, education, politics and business along with college benefactors, current students, staff and alumni, with the keynote address given by former deputy prime minister John Anderson.
Also in attendance were members of the Marist Fathers, reflecting the heritage of the site as a former Marist monastery and seminary, and Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in honour of the late Fr Paul Stenhouse MSC, a scholar and staunch friend of the college.
In his address Mr Anderson said the new Campion development was a significant moment not only for the college but for the nation, which is experiencing a “civilizational moment” marked by dangerous social and economic pressures, growing division and distrust, along with an abandonment of the Judeo-Christian foundations of the West.
“We are losing our confidence in the very institutions of freedom, and worse than that, the ideas, beliefs and values that underpin them,” Mr Anderson said.
“The influence right through from the covenantal model of government in Exodus through the Magna Carta, through to the revolutions, failed and otherwise, of Britain and America have produced prosperity and freedom—never perfect.
“But in the democratic nation we so enjoy, having achieved a great deal that is worth celebrating and having within itself the means of peaceful resolution of differences and policy changes unique to democracy.”
College president Dr Paul Morrissey thanked Campion’s many friends and benefactors for supporting its unique mission in higher education.
In honouring the work of the many involved in the college’s capital expansion he made special mention of architect Art Lohsen and Sr Josephine Marie of the Sisters of Mary Morning Star, the principal artist behind the library’s 35-panelled stained glass skylight.
Dr Morrissey said it was also an occasion to honour “two great Australians”—the late Fr Stenhouse who was formerly a trustee of the college, and mining magnate and philanthropist Mrs Gina Rinehart after whom the new library is named.
Other speakers included former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Parramatta MP Andrew Charlton representing the state’s Education Minister Jason Clare, former federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, former NSW Finance Minister Damien Tudehope and Teena McQueen, representing Mrs Rinehart.
Wilcannia-Forbes Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green blessed the new residential buildings and academic centre, which includes a grand hall along with two-storey library, lecture theatre, media room and additional classrooms.
“God expects intellectual gifts to be used in the service of God and his church, for godly things, and we need places where that’s taught,” Bishop Macbeth-Green said.
“We need humility—faith and reason go together, and it’s faith that works with reason to keep reason humble, and your intellect humble.”
Campion college graduate Fenelle McLaurin told The Catholic Weekly that she appreciated its liberal arts program for giving her an integrated way to approach history, literature, philosophy and culture, a legacy which she now passing on to her young children.
“It gave me context to understand ideas and how things have developed over time and it helps to make sense of the world,” she said.
The $18.5 million project was made possible through private donations as well as funding from the federal and New South Wales state governments, with the college still to raise $2 million to meet its capital appeal target.