The Marianists have ministered in the parish since 1967 when St. Laurence College was begun. Originally, the community lived in Shanganagh Vale, next to the College, but in 1978 they moved to a larger community house, St. Columba’s, next to the parish church.
Inviting the Marianists to Ireland, Archbishop McQuaid, as an educator himself, had become acquainted with their philosophy of education. Bro. John O’Connor, the first principal of St. Laurence College gave it its innovative design. He subsequently published his doctoral thesis about the work. The design principles have influenced the construction of most newer schools in Ireland with efforts to create a pleasant learning environment.
The College has served generations of people from the parish of Ballybrack. While open to students from the local area, others have come from as far as Newtownmountkennedy, Kilternan, and Donnybrook. This has included the less able as well as the more academic students. Some of their stories can be found on the “Past Pupils” section of the school website: www.stlaurencecollege.com.
In more recent years the college Repeat Leaving Certificate programme has brought it national recognition.
The latest renovations at the College have included a new computer facility and whole-school networking, new science labs, and a new home economics room. The modern sports facilities have always been used by many groups in the area.
Five Marianist religious are still active at St. Laurence College, including a former principal, Bro. James Contadino, who is working with the past pupils. Bro. Fred Rech was involved in the construction of the school, and he has taught religion to first year pupils for almost the entire history of the school. Two Marianist past pupils currently work at the College: Bro. Gerard McAuley who is also current superior of the community and Fr. Neville O’Donohue who is chaplain. Alan Smith, an aspirant for the Marianists and former member of the parish is also teaching at the College this year.
The Marianist Community, Dublin
Fr. Neville O'Donohue, Bro. Jim Contadino, Fr. Michael Reaume, Bros. Fred Rech and Gerry McAuleyThe Marianist community house, St. Columba’s, hosts visitors from around the world and frequently has religious from overseas studying or on sabbatical in Ireland.
Over the years members of the community have engaged in other work beyond St. Laurence’s, including assisting the priests in the parish, prison ministry, Pax Christi Ireland, the Catholic Youth Council, work with the homeless, adult education and Marianist adult faith communities. The house is also used for retreats and short programmes.
The Marianists were founded in Bordeaux, France, in the wake of the French Revolution by Blessed William Joseph Chaminade. As a way to rebuild the Church after the destruction of the French Revolution, Chaminade started a network of lay movements, and out of these came the Marianist orders of men and women religious.
The modern, secular world expresses many of the same anti-religious attitudes as that of post-revolutionary France and Marianists continue to work at faith-building among the laity. As a result there is currently a worldwide network of Marianist laity.
Of course, the community is also always happy to welcome those who wish to explore the life of a religious in this challenging time. There is a vocations website for Ireland: www.marianists.ie.
The Marianists in Ireland are part of a “Province of the United States” which includes the entire USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, India and Eastern Africa. Teachers and students from St. Laurence College have contact with people from other Marianist secondary schools and universities as well as schools in the various European provinces. The most obvious interconnection has been the summer “English Academy” which, over its 38 years, has brought thousands of Spanish students into the parish. Some of those connections have blossomed into international bonds of friendship, not only between the students themselves, but also between their families.
At the opening Mass for the school year, held at the Church of the Apostles, 16 nations were represented.
As the parish continues to serve the people of the area, the Marianists hope to be a vital part of the parish community.
The boys and girls from 6th Class in St. John's Primary School, Ballybrack, attended a day's retreat in the Marianist Community.
Fr. Alex Conlon, Bro. Jim and the 6th Class teacher, Mr. Joe Lennon, worked together with the students in preparation for their receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.