Сampion College Australia is named in honour of the 16th century Jesuit scholar and martyr, St Edmund Campion.
Edmund Campion as Jesuit priest and educator
Edmund Campion’s own life as a Jesuit formed an important model and inspiration for the creation of Campion College.
In 1573, Campion joined the Society of Jesus in Rome after earlier study at a seminary in Douai, France. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in Prague and later moved to Brno, a city in Moravia located in the present-day Czech Republic. On account of his previous accomplishments at Oxford in philosophy and theology, Campion completed his course in only five years. In 1578, he was ordained by the Archbishop of Prague.
During this period he taught at the Jesuit College in Prague. He also wrote plays, marked by a didactic purpose which reflected the educational philosophy of the Jesuit order. As Evelyn Waugh explained in his biography of Campion:
‘The Jesuits sought to present everything as having an immediate significance and intrinsic interest; they fostered competition and argument with the result that the driest grammatical questions became the subjects of hot debate. Wherever they went they encouraged oratory and acting; they paid particular attention to style of language and dexterity of wit, but chose the material of their exercises so that, in the course of them, knowledge was acquired, almost without effort.’
In 1580, Campion returned to England as part of the English Mission which had been founded to support Catholics following the Protestant Reformation. In a famous statement called Campion’s Brag, explaining his purpose in coming to England, Campion testified that he had taken vows as a Catholic priest in the Society of Jesus.
After a year of secret travel around various parts of England, ministering to the Catholic people who were suffering discrimination and persecution, Campion was captured. Following bouts of torture and a trial, he was martyred at Tyburn in London on December 1, 1581.
Evelyn Waugh described the change in Campion in these final years:
‘That the gentle scholar, trained all his life for the pulpit and the lecture room, was able at the word of command to step straight into a world of violence, and acquit himself nobly; that the man, capable of the strenuous heroism of that last year and a half, was able, without any complaint, to pursue the sombre routine of the pedagogue and contemplate without impatience a lifetime so employed – there lies the mystery which sets Campion’s triumph apart from the ordinary achievements of human strength; a mystery whose solution lies in the busy, eventful years at Brunn [Brno] and Prague, in the profound and accurate piety of the Jesuit rule.’
From its opening in 2006, Campion College has extended its connections with the Society of Jesus:
- Members of the Jesuit community, in Australia and overseas, have helped the College in various ways. Three members of Campion’s International Board of Advisors are Jesuit priests – Fr James Schall, Fr Peter Milward, and Fr Paul Mankowski. The late Fr John Eddy, Emeritus Professor of History at ANU (Canberra), Fr Ross Jones, Rector of St Aloysius’ College (Sydney), and Fr Thomas McCoog, Archivist of the British Province (London), are among other members of the Society of Jesus who provided invaluable advice and assistance to Campion College.
- In 2007, the O’Donovan family established a major endowment fund in honour of Fr Tom O’Donovan SJ, to provide permanent support for the building of special collections in the Campion College Library.
- In 2008, at the College’s first Graduation Mass, Fr Gregory Jordan SJ preached the homily.
In 2009, the then-Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, concluded his homily at a Graduation Mass at Campion College with an invitation of prayers for the College – ‘still young, a small, brave initiative as the newly formed Society of Jesus was at the time of Campion’s execution.’