By Jackson Saunders
The friendly response of students to the Parents and Friends Association at Corpus Christi College continues to inspire Kevin Rodway, 84, after 33 years of service in support of the seminary.
Kevin joined the Parents and Friends Association in 1979 and has been a regular member of the seminary’s major fundraising group ever since. This period has also included 17-years as president of the group, which co-ordinates the seminary’s annual raffle.
“The students get a great kick out of seeing something that’s not religious being associated in supporting the seminary,” he said.
Each year the Parents and Friends Association sells up to 6000 tickets for $10 each. Various prizes including a $15,000 travel voucher are available to be won. This is the seminary’s major fundraiser.
Kevin estimates that the Parents and Friends Association goes back more than 80 years.
“It was probably going for much longer but in an unofficial capacity at Werribee (the original site of the seminary),” he said.
“We can trace it back 80 years.”
This involvement of the association continued to the seminary’s second site at Glen Waverley between 1960 and 1972, and continued at Clayton from 1973. Initially, the association comprised of only parents of seminarians, but during the Clayton years the membership of the group was opened to others interested in supporting the work of the seminary.
It was during those Clayton years that Kevin first became involved with the association when he joined the fundraising group in 1979.
“In Clayton we had a very big refectory,” he said.
“We could accommodate 400-500 guests on raffle night. That was an enormous undertaking of the Parents and Friends.
“The ladies, in particular, prepared the food.
“We did the raffle. We didn’t have the electronic machine we have now.”
Today the Parents and Friends Association continues to host the seminary’s annual raffle at its Carlton site. This has remained an annual event since the seminary moved to its present site in 2000.
In its long history stretching back to Werribee right up until 2018 in Carlton, the Parents and Friends Association has contributed to many seminary projects.
“We’ve pumped a lot of assistance in to help them with missionary work and amenities,” Kevin said.
“I reckon we are on to our fourth coffee machine (in Carlton).”
Other projects have included upgrading lighting facilities at the seminary, as well as helping to restore the seminary chapel’s roof at its current Carlton site.
The projects which the Parents and Friends Association have been involved with have been undertaken in collaboration with the Rectors of Corpus Christi College.
Kevin has worked with seven Rectors over the years, which is a personal achievement which gives him a lot of pride.
“For me personally, that’s one of my greatest achievements which I take a lot of pride in,” he said.
“When I first got there, it was Father Peter Jeffrey now a Monsignor, and he is in Shepparton.”
Monsignor Peter Jeffrey, who currently serves as parish priest at St Mary’s, Mooroopna, on what he describes as the “west bank” of Shepparton, has fond memories of his involvement with the Parents and Friends Association during his time as Rector from 1979 to 1984.
“It is inspirational to think that Kevin has been associated with the Parents and Friends for 33 years,” Monsignor Peter said.
“I realised he was committed to this special ministry of providing friendship and practical support to the men who were discerning their vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood.
“Having such a respected and active layman involved was an encouragement to me and all the seminary community.
“What I have observed over the years has been the expansion of the Parents and Friends, and I am amazed at the variety of projects that have been supported. Kevin and his associates want to enrich the students with opportunities even organizing for some support for pilgrimages to sacred sites. I thank Kevin and applaud his vision and activities.”
Other Rectors Kevin has worked with include Fr Michael McKenna, who is now the Bishop of Bathurst Diocese, while in more recent years he has worked with Fr Brendan Lane and current Rector, Fr Denis Stanley.
“They are all mighty men,” Kevin said.
Current Rector, Fr Denis Stanley, is grateful for the ongoing support of the Parents and Friends Association, and in particular the role they play in helping to form students for the priesthood.
“Corpus Christi College was established to prepare Parish Priests, that unique "brand" of priestly leadership which is dedicated to faithfully serve a group of people of all sorts and conditions in joy and sorrow,” Fr Denis said.
“Parish Priests get to know their people and they get to know him.
“That journey starts a long time before ordination as students develop an ability to meet and work with all kinds of people and realise that together they are helping to build the Kingdom. “The Parents and Friends Association is an important way of engaging the people of God in the formation of students for the priesthood.”
While the Parents and Friends have contributed significant financial and material support to the seminary, Fr Denis said that their contribution had achieved more than just this to the life of the seminary.
“Apart from thanking them for the rich history of financial and material support, we also thank them for being a part of the students’ formation over many years in teaching them the need to work together. That is how parishes work.”
The President of the Parents and Friends Association, Lynda Rawlins, said that the group was always looking for new members.
“The Parents and Friends are a group of like-minded individuals who work together mainly for the raffle night just to help the seminarians and give them our support,” she said.
“Anyone can join the Parents and Friends. We have a few parents and the rest are just supporters who want to be of service.”
The Parents and Friends Association meets about four times a year on a Sunday afternoon from 2.30pm for about two hours, including time for a coffee and a chat.
Lynda said that the group also emailed out minutes to those who were unable to attend meetings but wanted to be involved remotely with the group and help to sell raffle tickets.
A highlight of her personal involvement with the group is the camaraderie she experiences with others in supporting the work of the seminary.
“It’s quite rewarding. Everyone gets on really well and it’s just lovely to be part of a group which is doing such great work for the seminarians,” she said.
Kevin echoed these sentiments.
“The Parents and Friends does such a wonderful thing for the seminary in general but in particular the students,” he said.
To express interest in supporting the work of the Parents and Friends Association, please call 03 9657 0222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org