The Spike Golden Jubilee Number May 1949
Catholic Students' Guild
Catholic Students' Guild
Though it is but seven years old, and therefore one of the younger societies at Victoria, the Catholic Students' Guild has associations which go back much further.
In 1922, the then rector of St Patrick's College, the Rev Father T. A. Gilbert, S.M., formed a discussion group for adult Catholic students in Wellington. University students were always prominent in this group, but not until 1942 was a society formed to deal with their specific needs. Of the first twenty years much could be written: the interesting discussions and lectures which made up the varied life of that group began a tradition which still exists. Its expression can be read among the objects of the Guild as affiliated in 1942—"to foster the discussion and study of Catholic principles, doctrine, and thought."
The procedure adopted at the meetings has been for two students to offer papers on a set subject, which is subsequently discussed. While topical questions have provoked many willing exchanges, the Guild has, not surprisingly, returned again and again to an analysis of such fundamental subjects as The Church and Science, Evolution, Dialectical Materialism, The Meaning of Education, and The Social Teaching of the Church. From these discussions has come the realization of the need for an integrating principle of human knowledge, such as is found in the study of scholastic metaphysics.
These meetings have on the whole been well attended, and visitors have been most welcome, bringing, as they do, differing attitudes to many problems. In 1948 a most successful joint meeting with the Student Christian Movement was held, and the address given there by Mr H. C. D. Somerset was stimulating in effect and informative in content.
Social activity has been a feature of Guild life: annual dances and socials to welcome new students have been well attended and have provided variety in the year's programme. These, like most of the gatherings, have been held at St Patrick's College on Sunday evenings, the most suitable of the few times at which a group of both full-time and part-time students can meet. In St Patrick's the Guild has a constant friend, helper and counsellor, and to its rectors and the chaplain, the Rev Father F. Durning, S.M., much is owed.
In 1947 was formed the University Catholic Society, New Zealand, a body of which the Guild is a constitituent society. Its foundation was a satisfying reward to certain local members who had worked hard to bring it into being. In the near future, when affiliation is made to the International organization of Catholic students, Pax Romana, another stage in their work will be complete. Already the New Zealand Society has held two conferences and two congresses, from which has come much of value and enjoyment.
The Guild has been well served in its officers. The first president was Mr B. M. O'Connor, and his successors have been Messrs K. B. O'Brien, M. E. Casey, W. L. Hocquard and H. E. Connor. Miss Sheila Moriarty, who had a large part in the early formative work, was the first secretary, and has been succeeded by Messrs F. O'Kane, B. O'Leary, M. F. Mclntyre and P. F. Giles. It is noteworthy, too, that Mr K. B. O'Brien is vice-president of the University Catholic Society, New Zealand, while the Guild's committee has served two terms as its executive.
The dual character of the Guild as a university and religious group is brought out in the activities of members. Some have entered the ranks of the Catholic priesthood, while others have won distinction in academic life and as officials of student organizations. Perhaps the best-known field of activity has been oratory and debate, where the successes of members have included the Plunket and Bledisloe Medals and the Union Prize. The College Debating Society knows many members of the Guild among its most enthusiastic speakers.
During these seven years the aim has been to page 86 bring home to members the fact that university life should mean more than a bread-and-butter approach to examinations and the acquisition of degrees; and to help to produce the balanced student who is tolerant and has the capacity to live in harmony with his fellows, while at the same time appreciating the gravity of the problems around him. How successful the Guild has been can never be assessed: it is certain, however, that it has given to many a deeper appreciation of their religion, of the necessity of sanctity allied with action, and of the worth of a university education. It has done something positive on the lines of the ancient motto of Anselm, Fides Quaerens Intellectum, while stimulating healthy criticism, and has provided beneficial and informative relaxation.
If the account to be true must mention the lack of interest of many who should both contribute and derive benefit, it must also record a hope for the future. The Guild is young among the clubs at Victoria, just as this College, despite her jubilarian air, is young among universities—both, however, may be said to make up for in vitality what they lack in venerability. The Guild looks forward to the foundation of a chair in scholastic philosophy in the College—and until then it will continue in its own way to serve the needs of those who are aware of the implications and value of Christian thought.
B. M. O'Connor