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After spending all his working life
away from Adelaide, Brother Paul
Gilchrist now has a prime view of
his home city as he takes on the
head role at Aquinas College, the
State’s only Catholic residential
college for tertiary students. He
spoke to JENNY BRINKWORTH
about his journey to the historic
North Adelaide institution.
Situated on Montefiore Hill, overlooking
the statue of Colonel William Light and
the city he designed, Aquinas College is
home for this academic year to a record
200 students from around the State and
A $7 million building project has provided
an additional 36 beds in the new MacKillop
residential wing as well as a state-of-the-
art kitchen/dining area.
The much-needed expansion of the
65-year-old college, established in the
1870s-built residence of Sir Samuel Way,
is not the only new development; Br Paul
Gilchrist has stepped into his role as head
of college, continuing the Marist Brothers’
involvement with the institution since 2006.
After nine months as chaplain of the
college, the former school principal
and provincial of the Marist Brothers
(Melbourne) was offered the position
following the departure of Dr Colin
Br Paul admits that his desire to finally
return to Adelaide, which he left in 1969
immediately after completing his education
at Sacred Heart College, prompted him
to explore the option of ministering at
Aquinas in some capacity.
“It was a great thrill to be invited here,”
said Br Paul. “I was provincial when the
decision was made for the Brothers to
come to Aquinas and as a kid growing up
here I knew where Aquinas was and I knew
a lot of the people who lived here.”
While Br Paul may have left Adelaide at a
young age to join the Marist Brothers, he
is well known in the Catholic community,
particularly down Brighton way where his
parents Mollie and Tom lived for many
They were actively involved in parish and
school life: “I think my mum played at just
about every wedding in the Sacred Heart
chapel, during the 1960’s, 1970’s and even
the 1980’s” said Br Paul.
His brothers Michael, Peter, Kevin (his
twin) and Brian remained in Adelaide and
Brian’s twin, Claire, lives in Geelong. His
father Tom died in 2006 at the age of 90
and his mother Mollie at 98, just prior to
him returning to Adelaide.
After completing his tertiary studies at
Monash University, Br Paul began his
teaching at St Paul’s College in Traralgon
(now La Valla Catholic College), east
of Melbourne. His next school was
Assumption College, Kilmore, where he
was deputy for four years, before being
appointed principal at the age of 31. Then,
after a stint in recruitment (vocations), he
became principal of Red Bend Catholic
College near Forbes in New South Wales.
Br Paul said he had “eight wonderful
years” at the co-educational school
before taking a sabbatical in Chicago and
Rome. On his return to Australia he was
appointed schools’ adviser and deputy
provincial but returned to the school scene
in 1996 to oversee the amalgamation of a
Catholic primary school and a secondary
school in Alice Springs (Our Lady of the
Sacred Heart Catholic College).
The new school incorporated an
Indigenous pre-school and Br Paul
relished the role of principal from 1997 to
2001 when he was appointed provincial
of the Melbourne province which then
included SA, WA, Vic, part of NSW, and
NT, as well as Brothers based in Papua
New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu,
New Caledonia, East Timor, Fiji and India.
After his term as provincial concluded,
Br Paul was invited by Bishop Eugene
Hurley to return to the Alice Springs
college where he spent the next six years.
“Technology was the biggest challenge,”
he said. “There had been this incredible
technological revolution in the six years
I’d been away from school – suddenly
there was an enormous number of
computers and so many of the kids were
At the age of 62 Br Paul decided it was
time to make way for new blood, hence
his fortuitous decision to write to Aquinas
As with any educational setting, he
believes the relationship with young
people is still the “critical thing”.
“A lot of the students come from Catholic
schools where the same things go on like
Mass, outreach and community service
programs, grace before meals, and so on”
“Where it’s different is the young people
here have to take a lot more responsibility
for their studies and life,” he added.
Br Paul said the Aquinas College system
of “houses” worked well with student co-
ordinators taking responsibility for a group
of 20 students each.
The new Mary of the Cross MacKillop
building complex will be opened and
blessed by Archbishop Philip Wilson on
Guiding new era at Aquinas
VIEW FROM THE HILL: Br Gilchrist is happy to be back in Adelaide at the helm of Aquinas College.
(08) 8334 5001
Aquinas College is now accepting
applications for the 2016 Academic Year.
If you are coming to university in Adelaide
and considering residency at the Catholic
University College in 2016, you are invited to
submit an application as soon as possible
and certainly before 30 June 2015.
AQUINAS COLLEGE The Catholic Residential College for University Students
‘Lucere et Ardere’
Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 April 2015
9.30am to 4pm
You are invited to meet with Br Paul Gilchrist,
Head of Aquinas College and tour the College with current students.
AQUINAS COLLEGE OPEN DAYS
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