It was with tremendous sadness that I learned of the impending closure of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne.
As a student of the Institute, I am close to faculty, staff, fellow students, and alumni, and feel very strongly about the mission which Saint John Paul II, the Great entrusted this academy.
There is much that could be said, and I am hopeful that there is appropriate transparency in future.
For now, I present the testimony which I included in the document compiled by the student association. This larger document was presented to Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, who took the decision to close the Institute.
I enrolled, part-time, at the JPII Institute in 2011, having spent a number of years teaching Religious Education in Catholic schools here in Perth, Western Australia, and having completed a Masters in Education specialising in Religious Education. I was looking for a more robust understanding of the Church’s teaching on love and sexuality that would extend beyond the kind of presentations which I had experienced up unto that point which were, on the one hand, rigid, impersonal and moralistic, and on the other hand, ineffectual, impotent, and flaccid. I was searching for something that would speak to my students in the reality of their experience, but which would also present to them the adventure of the life of holiness that comes from following Christ.
What I came to experience at the Institute was an integrated theological education that grounded the Church’s teaching in these areas deeply in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, and within a profoundly rich theological anthropology.
While the faculty of the JPII Institute are engaged in world-class scholarship, with an impressive publications record that far exceeds larger, more well-endowed institutions, they are also among the most gifted educators and communicators I have witnessed. I am fortunate enough to have been part of the scholarly community that has grown up around the Institute, which includes faculty, staff, students and others, (nationally and internationally), who are bound together in a common search for Truth and holiness.
On a personal note, the studies I have been so blessed to undertake at the Institute have provided me with much more than an intellectual understanding of the Church’s rich Tradition, they have taught me that theological thinking cannot be separated from a life of prayer and self-gift. I have witnessed this in my teachers, in the staff, and in the students of the Institute.
I am tremendously thankful to Archbishop Hart and to the Archdiocese of Melbourne for having hosted the Institute all these years and having allowed such scholarship to flourish under its patronage. I accept with filial obedience the decision to close the Institute and am all the same deeply saddened by this action, particularly as I believe that the work of the Institute is much needed, not only in the Church in Australia and Oceania, but also in society at large.
I am hoping to graduate in April 2017, and so will be part of the penultimate graduating class of the Institute.
Tom Gourlay, MEd, BEd (UNDA)
Manager, Campus Ministry, The University of Notre Dame Australia
President, The Christopher Dawson Society for Philosophy and Culture Inc.