Blessing of school to mark new beginnings

The former Kavanagh College became Trinity Catholic College this year. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The former Kavanagh College became Trinity Catholic College this year. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
A blessing is set to signal the start of a new chapter at a Dunedin school with a dark past.

The Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, Bishop Michael Dooley, will perform a pre-dawn blessing of the renamed Trinity Catholic College this Saturday, accompanied by the college kaumatua.

The former Kavanagh College became Trinity Catholic College on January 1, following years of lobbying from survivors of sexual abuse.

The new name was chosen following an inquiry last year which concluded that the late Bishop John Kavanagh, after whom the college was named, did not act on a complaint of abuse when he was Bishop of Dunedin from 1957 to 1985.

In consultation with the school community, Bishop Dooley decided to rename the school Trinity Catholic College.

The renaming marked the start of the next phase of the college’s existence, and the blessing would acknowledge "the good and the bad and moving on positively".

"It is my desire that the renaming of the college will contribute to healing and reaffirm our desire as a church to listen to victims of abuse and work hard to provide a safe environment for those in our care."

Network for Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions and their Supporters spokeswoman Liz Tonks said the name change was an acknowledgement of abuse that survivors had waited years for.

They had been triggered by seeing Bishop Kavanagh’s name every time they drove past the school, she said.

The change was thanks to the bravery of survivors who went through the additional trauma of speaking publicly about their abuse.

She also praised the Otago Daily Times for its investigations into faith-based abuse, and acknowledged Bishop Dooley for being the first church leader to publicly support survivors.

The network now wanted to see the school’s board and Bishop Dooley joining with it to ensure appropriate and transparent reporting and safeguarding policies and practices were in place to ensure the new beginning was not simply a name change.

On January 10, Catholic Church leaders released a statement of principles they publicly committed to in response to survivors’ requests for redress and measures to prevent abuse.

They agreed proprietors of schools would undertake an audit, with school boards, of buildings, prizes and honorifics named after bishops, clergy, religious or lay people connected to the Catholic community, as well as photos/portraits on display at the school.

"Survivors have continued to request the church move from rhetoric and principles to action with urgency," Ms Tonks said.

The name change was a first step.

"We will wait to see if other Catholic bishops, Catholic church leaders and other faith entities follow this example."

The ceremony will start at 5am.