Father John NeILL OP
Father John Neill OP passed away on Saturday 21 August. He was the University's founding Father, heavily involved with its foundation and ongoing administration. Although he was the founding Father of the University of Notre Dame, he was the founder of developing a Catholic University within Australia. He also designed the Notre Dame crest which says 'in principio erat Verbum' (in the beginning was the Word).
Father had a vision from the age of 17 to develop a Catholic University within Australia and proceeded to join the Dominican order in 1955 and was ordained as a priest in 1960 at 28.
Father played an integral part with the development of Notre Dame and provided a life of service to not only the Notre Dame community but to everyone around him. He was the Chaplain on the Sydney campus from 2006 and between 1996 and 2009 was a trustee of Notre Dame. In 2006 he was aware the Honorary Doctorate of Laws and in 2012 he was awarded the papal honour, Croce Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
In 2014, he received an Order of Australia for his contribution to education and the Catholic Church. Between 1972 and 1988 Fr was a teacher at Blackfriars Priory School and then a headmaster for 16 years. There is a scholarship founded in his name to support a committed Year 12 student in need with tuition and school expenses.
Many students remember Father John for his wonderful service to Catholic education within Australia and the wisdom and kindness he shared so freely. He was always ready to have a chat with everyone around him.
The Notre Dame community is deeply saddened by the loss of Fr but we are so thankful and grateful for all that he has done for our University and Catholic Education wholly.
“This is the heroic love of our Lord Saviour Jesus Christ and we rejoice in that and we try, according to our own limitations, with the opportunities we have, to mirror that love in giving our life to Christ, to a worthy cause, to a community, to all of those who come to us in need,” said Fr John...And if we can do that, Jesus tells us, then we are no longer servants, we are friends.”
Fr John, says reflecting on John 15, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Father John inspired many during his time as an influential Catholic leader in education. The Quiet Man is a documentary directed by Tim Perkins where Father John shares his story of a dream of Australia having a Catholic University.
"As Father John has taught us, telling a story is not about nostalgia for a distant past. Rather, it is about interpreting the past so as to give direction to the future.”
- Tim Perkins, Film Director.