The 26 year association between Nagle College and the Salesians of Don Bosco has ended with the religious order closing its monastery in Bairnsdale. The Salesians arrived at the request of Bishop Jeremiah Coffey to take over running the college in 1990.
The college was established by the Presentation Sisters and was named after their founder Nano Nagle, and after the sisters left in 1986, the college was run by a lay principal. Fr Frank Freeman SDB was the first Salesian principal of the college, serving 10 years at the helm before being replaced by Fr Bernie Graham SDB.
When Fr Graham left in 2006 the college reverted to lay principalship but until the end of this year the Salesian presence has continued through Fr Joe Pulis SDB who has taught languages and been heavily involved in Japanese program, leading excursions to sister schools in Japan every few years. Br Noel Hannabery SDB was on the staff until the end of last year and after retiring continued to live with Fr Pulis in the Pyke St monastery.
The college and parish held separate farewells to recognise the commitment and dedication the Salesians had given to the college. Ill health prevented Fr Freeman from returning but Fr Graham was able to attend along with Australia-Pacific region provincial Fr Greg Chambers SDB and Br Barry Parker SDB.
The whole school gathered for Mass celebrated by Bairnsdale parish priest Fr Michael Willemsen, assisted by Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral Fr Peter Bickley, and the Salesian fathers who included Sale assistant Fr Dominic Mathews SDB who is also leaving the diocese after Christmas.
In the homily Fr Chambers recalled what the world was like in 1990 and some of the major international milestones which occurred that year. He said Fr Freeman had arrived at the college with the support of Fr Peter Rankin SDB and the late Fr Jim Brawley SDB.
Over the years other Salesians to serve were Fr Graham, Fr Pulis, Br Noel and the late Frs Dan O’Sullivan, Ted Cooper and Eddie Murphy. These Salesians had brought the Salesian mission of hospitality and kindness to Bairnsdale and East Gippsland and had touched many lives, both at the school and the wider community.
“They gave hospitality to all but firstly they were messengers of God’s love to young people on Bairnsdale and beyond.” Fr Chambers said these men lived out and passed out what their founder St John Bosco said many times – “The young must not only be loved, but know they are loved.”
The fellow educators at Nagle College, the students, parents, Bairnsdale parishioners, the Diocese of Sale and the wider community had all been touched by that loving kindness. He said the Salesians might be leaving Bairnsdale and the diocese but they would not forget their long association
with Nagle College. He announced an annual Salesian scholarship to be granted to needy students so they could continue their education at Nagle. After the Mass principal Neville Powles presented Fr Pulis with a framed photograph as a memento of his 20 year association with the college.
Bishop Pat O’Regan attended the Bairnsdale parish farewell for the Salesians on November 27.