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Feast Day 2017

2017/07/10 11:13:48 AM

Today, 11 July, marks the Feast of St Benedict, the Father of Western monasticism and patron saint ... 

Feast of St Benedict - 11 July 2017


Today, 11 July, marks the Feast of St Benedict, the Father of Western monasticism and patron saint of many educational institutions, including our own. It is, of course, also an appropriate opportunity to look back at the founding of our school.

It was on this day in 1957, that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s application to open a Catholic School for Boys was approved by the then Transvaal Board of Education. The document below indicates that the Director of Education had, in fact, approved the registration a few weeks earlier on 1 May 1957:

It was Fr Philip Erasme OMI, the Parish Priest of Maryvale, who had responded to Bishop David O’Leary’s call for the establishment of a Catholic Boys’ School be established on the near East Rand. Fr Erasme identified the Bedfordview site as ideal as it would, in addition, cater for the boys from St Paul's School, a Parochial Primary School he had established in Maryvale. 

The Oblates duly bought the 26-acre site in January 1957. By May of the same year, the Oblate Council had commissioned an architect, Mr Voorvelt, to draw up plans for the building of the new school. The original plans (see artist’s impression below)  included a chapel where the main administration block is now situated.

I recently met with Nicolo Giuricich from Giuricich construction who came to share and donate to the school archives two documents which were found in storage at Giuricich Construction. The Giuricich family has long been a part of the St Benedict’s community and the documents reveal that Giuricich Construction was, in fact, one of the construction companies that tendered to build the first buildings at the school. 
They lost the contract to Brocco Bros. whose quote of  £17 127 was £6 pounds cheaper than that submitted by Giuricich Constructions. 

A group including those responsible for the establishment of St Benedict's College: Fr P.Hogan, Fr T. Kelly, Mr Strickland (Quantity Surveyor), Mr Brocco (Contractor), the Very Rev, Fr P. Erasme (Provincial), Mr Voorvelt (Architect), Fr H. Kay, Bro. L. Tiernay

In November 1957, an article in the Southern Cross reported that  “Building has already started on the first section of the School and the foundation stone will be formally laid in December. The first building will comprise five classrooms, library, science room and administrative offices and will be ready in June 1959. The first class of Std 6 boys will be started in a temporary building.” 

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1957, Bishop Boyle, Bishop of Johannesburg, laid the foundation stone of the first building - the building we now call the “Erasme Block”. An airtight container, placed behind the foundation stone, contained a historical record of the events leading up to the establishment of the school, as well as a list of staff members. The construction of a new Administration block in 1997 necessitated the relocation of the foundation stone to the new entrance foyer. The contents of the airtight container were further supplemented at this time. With prophetic vision, Bishop Boyle assured parents that "as time goes by and St Benedict's develops, there will be a professional staff here second to none in South Africa".

At its inception, it was planned that the school would accommodate 400 boys. This goal was attained only thirty years later, in 1988. Today the school boasts an enrollment in excess of 1400 boys from Grade R to Grade 12.  

The school opened its doors for the first time on 22 January 1958. Twenty four Std 6 pupils attended Mass in the temporary classroom. The staff consisted of Fathers Dalton and de Sylva and Brother Mervyn Reed.  Later in the year the staff was increased to six (see below).  One is struck by the strong and distinct personalities of the founding staff: Fr Hugh Kay, the friendly piano-playing Canadian, delighted the boys, especially by his habit of leaping from the top balcony as a convenient short cut to the playground below;. Fr Brian Devitt's legendary sense of humour made him the most beloved of priests.  Fr Chris du Preez joined round about the same time. He was a man whose retiring nature disguised his remarkable teaching ability.  As he puffed away on his pipe, he reduced the mysteries of physics and chemistry to matters of simple logic.
In June of that first year, the outbreak of influenza among the boys gave an indication of school size: there were 15 absentees representing 44% of the school!  The first inoculation followed a year later when Dr Bill Whelan, who was later to become a long-serving member of the Board of Governors, inoculated the entire staff and boys against typhoid!

Today, we remember and pay tribute, especially, to those boys and staff who were amongst the very first at our school:


Our standing and achievements as a school are the results of the efforts of many over the course of the last 59 years and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Oblates, the St Benedict’s Trust and Board of Governors, our boys, our parents and our staff - past and present - for ensuring that we have a school of which that we can all rightly be proud. 

Our patron Saint is well-known for The Rule of St Benedict - a book of rule written to govern the communal lives of nuns and monks but there is one thing that St Benedict teaches us before all other possible insights about the spiritual life and that is this: God is with us. Today, we acknowledge Him and thank Him for the remarkable journey He allows us to undertake on a daily basis at our school. 

A blessed St Benedict’s day to one and all.

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