In the grounds of Campion College stands a life-size statue of the scholar and martyr-saint after whom the College is named.
The statue of St Edmund Campion was planned in the early years of the College’s development in the Sydney suburb of Toongabbie. The campus established in the 1930s as a Marist Fathers’ seminary already had a prominent statue on the front lawn of St Peter Chanel, a Marist Father martyred in 1841 on the Pacific Island of Futuna.
I thought a statue of St Edmund Campion would serve as a complementary symbol of the identity of the campus. Together the two statues would mark the dual traditions of Australian Catholic higher education at Toongabbie – one of the Marist Fathers, the other of the lay-founded Campion College.
As no suitable statue of Campion could be located, I realised that a sculpture would need to be made. I mentioned the possibility to a generous Campion donor, Ellen McIntyre. Ellen had already paid for several items in the Campion Chapel, including the restoration of the pipe organ that had come from the Estate of an Anglican Bishop, James Bromley. She mentioned the College’s need for a statue to Paola Catuzatto, whom she knew at that time as the Manager of Church Stores in the Sydney CBD. (Church Stores was later acquired by Tim and Ivy Wallace, two Campion graduates, and Tim has kindly supplied some of the background details for this story.)
To have the statue sculptured, Paola approached John Ronzel, Director of United Displays, a firm in the inner suburb of Leichhardt, and Ellen McIntyre was again munificent in covering the cost of the work.
United Displays employed various artists to shape the different features of the statue. The result was a composite sculpture – of Campion’s face, the hanging rope around his neck, his robes, and his hands (one of which holds the Cross, the other a copy of the saint’s ‘Brag’ which was a statement of his missionary return to England prior to his martyrdom).
I have always felt a certain sense of awe at the artist’s design of Campion’s face. It captures something of the nobility of his great sacrifice, and is a constant inspiration for the educational adventure that is Campion College.
Karl Schmude is co-founder of Campion College and previously University Librarian at the University of New England in Armidale NSW. He is widely published in Australia and internationally, and is the author of short biographies of G.K. Chesterton (2008) and Christopher Dawson (2022).