A HUNTER Catholic school with a tragic history of child sexual abuse will sever an important link with the Marist Brothers order as plans are finalised for a memorial to former students who died after contact with Marist offenders.
St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton will not have a Marist Brother principal for the first time in its 33-year history after Brother Robert Sutton retires at the end of term two.
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The Hamilton school site has been led by Marist principals since the 1930s when it was known as Marist Brothers, Hamilton. The school name changed in 1986 when it became the co-educational senior St Francis Xavier’s College.
Marist Brothers leader Brother Peter Carroll advised Maitland-Newcastle diocese the order would not be nominating a Brother to replace Brother Sutton.
The decision follows devastating evidence at a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing in Newcastle in 2016 about child sex crimes at Marist Brothers, Hamilton and a series of high profile convictions of former Marist Brothers teachers.
At least eight Brothers who worked at the school before 1986 have been convicted of child sex offences and the order has accepted at least another four sexually abused students.
A diocese spokesperson said the college was a “diocesan systemic school in the Marist tradition” and was one of 59 Catholic schools overseen by the diocese.
The college website said the school operated on “Marist values” demonstrated by the order’s founder Saint Marcellin Champagnat who had “a great desire that we relate with each other as members of a loving family”.
“Acceptance and belonging should prevail. A genuine sense of family means that all members are valued, respected and trusted. It also means that members are challenged, forgiven and reconciled,” the college said.
A spokesman for the order said the close connection between the Marist Brothers and the college would continue “through the ongoing work of our Brothers’ community in the Hunter”.
Survivor advocate Bob O’Toole, who was sexually abused as a child by former Hamilton Marist Brother Leon Mackey, and Hamilton woman Audrey Nash, whose son Andrew was 13 when he took his own life in 1974 while being taught by Hamilton Marist Brother offenders, were pleased by the decision.
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The two argued strongly and successfully to stop members of the order from living on a building at the school location while the royal commission was conducting hearings.
They also campaigned successfully for a memorial accessible from Parkway Avenue in memory of at least 60 former students who have died after direct contact with Marist Brothers and Catholic priests now acknowledged as child sex offenders.
“We want them to be remembered,” said Mrs Nash, 92.
“When Andrew died the Brothers and the diocese just pretended he was never there. We wanted a memorial just so they’re never forgotten.
Mr O’Toole said the granite memorial was not on the school grounds but was in an area near the chapel, and would be known as the “Marist Brothers, Hamilton Survivors and Victims Memorial.”
“It’s important because many survivors have been able to speak for themselves at the royal commission or have had people speak for them but students who have already died are the voiceless victims who were silenced by the crimes committed against them,” he said.
The memorial will be opened in a ceremony on March 27.
The diocese and Marist Brothers confirmed the cost would be met equally.