The Southern Cross : May 2011
May 2011 Page 15 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross feature | Saint Ignatius' College headmaster Father Robert Davoren is heading the school into its 60th year. He talks with Rebecca DiGirolamo about how the Adelaide Ignatian institution has developed from his perspective as an old scholar, and as one of its past and present teachers. He is a keen carpenter and an AFL fan whose life path could have followed the footsteps of his wine-making father, but a love of learning and an affinity for the Jesuit tradition meant Father Robert Davoren's destiny was pretty much decided the day he started school at Saint Ignatius' College in Norwood 46 years ago. "I guess as a young person I thought about religious life and most of the Jesuits I knew were teachers, so it (joining the Jesuits) did seem an attractive way of life," he says. Robert Davoren was born in 1953 -- two years after the Jesuit Fathers set up a Year 3-6 college in Norwood for boys. Fr Davoren's mother was a nursing sister in World War II and his father was a managing winemaker with Penfolds. The family's Magill home was on the doorstep of Penfolds' signature winery. But viticulture was not his passion. "I looked into it," says Fr Davoren. He's sitting in his office which overlooks the pretty chapel at the Saint Ignatius' Senior campus in Athelstone. "I probably could have done it, but that sense of wanting to be a Jesuit was stronger." Father Davoren attended St Joseph's School Tranmere for his first two years of schooling before transferring to Saint Ignatius' College, where he studied until Year 12. It was around that time, that he began to seriously contemplate a religious life. The love of teaching came later. "I think I always had a sense of God's presence in my life and the Jesuit association that I had through school meant it really was always going to be the Jesuits for me." He was schooled at a time when most of the teachers were Jesuit priests, including now Port Pirie Bishop and former Saint Ignatius' headmaster Greg O'Kelly SJ. Students were also more open to a religious life, with at least one other scholar from Fr Davoren's leaving year joining the seminary. After a year studying economics at Flinders University, Father Davoren joined the seminary. During his training as a Jesuit he taught at Xavier College, in Melbourne, and completed his economics and education qualifications at Monash University. Ordained in 1983, Fr Davoren returned as pastoral director to Saint Ignatius' College in Athelstone in 1991 where he taught Religious Education, Social Sciences and Media Studies for several years before being appointed director of middle schooling at Saint Ignatius' College, in Riverview, New South Wales. He returned to Adelaide in 2007 and has since been principal of Saint Ignatius' College, a school of 1400 students from Reception to Year 12. The college is spread over two campuses -- a junior school in Norwood, which is flanked by an early learning centre and the senior school in Athelstone. "I love to teach," he says. "It is a wonderful ministry to be in. You get a chance to be involved in the lives of young people and they give so much back." Fr Davoren maintains his presence at the blackboard, teaching senior students information technology twice a week. "It gives the students a reference point with you and it's helpful for the teachers to see you working in the same conditions." It's also been one of his dreams only realised after becoming a Jesuit but pre-destined considering his formative years of schooling. At the 2010 Speech Day, Fr Davoren recalled the very pertinent words of his Year 6 teacher, and the first lay headmaster of the junior school, Jim Carey: "Be loyal to those who love and respect. Help those who are downtrodden, lonely and sad. Do your little bit to make our world a better place in which to live. Be filled with hope that has been implanted in you. Hold on to your dreams." Fr Davoren says this motto remains at the heart of the college despite the many changes which go with 60 years of education. "Our vision for the future is to continue to maintain an excellent education both academically and pastorally as a part of the whole person." Saint Ignatius' College is marking its 60th anniversary with a dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre on May 7. For more details visit www.ignatius.sa.edu.au Ignatian school boy now headmaster CELEBRATE: Saint Ignatius' College headmaster and old scholar Father Robert Davoren will celebrate the school's 60th anniversary this year.