Former Marist returns as ‘Stream principal

A former Marist priest is the new principal of St Patrick’s College, Silverstream.
Philip Mahoney, who has headed Sacred Heart College, Auckland, for nearly six years, returns to Wellington having left as a priest of the Society of Mary in 1990 to wo

Cecily McNeill

A former Marist priest is the new principal of St Patrick’s College, Silverstream.

Philip Mahoney, who has headed Sacred Heart College, Auckland, for nearly six years, returns to Wellington having left as a priest of the Society of Mary in 1990 to work in Brazil.

Philip has more than 18 years experience in the education field and has held positions as the deputy principal of both St Patrick’s College Wellington and Gisborne Boys’ High School. He holds a Masters degree in Educational Leadership, a Post Graduate Diploma in Theology and Spirituality, and a Bachelor of Science.

He says becoming principal of Sacred Heart, which is run by the Marist Brothers, brought him back into the church school sphere after several years in state schools, but this appointment to Silverstream means that he is now back with the Marist Fathers.

Philip left the priesthood in Brazil while working with a Marist Sister in formation on a team helping young adults to discern vocational direction in their lives.

‘We found we had to do some discernment ourselves. When you find that you’re working with somebody and the relationship develops in a way that you didn’t expect you need to sit down and ask the hard questions.’

Philip and his wife Zelita have three boys, 10-year-old Daniel, who was born in Brazil and twin boys, Dominic and Eduardo, now six months old.

Philip says after 17 years of priestly ministry and working as deputy principal of St Patrick’s College, Kilbirnie, in the late 1980s, he felt he had much to offer the Catholic school system.

I feel really happy about the fact that I’ll now be able to do that – take up a position in a school owned by the Society of Mary even though I’m not still with the Society of Mary.

He feels strongly about the importance of conveying the Marist charism to young men.

The school has a ‘unique blend’ of male student population and mostly male teaching staff but it is based on the model of a woman.

‘Some of the harsher elements of the male psyche are tempered by the gentler approach of the woman but also with the strength and firmness in Mary’s life which is an important quality.’

‘One of the key things that, as a Marist, I always tried to live was to think, feel, judge and act like Mary. You ask yourself “what would Mary be doing in this situation?” And there are enough examples in the scriptures of her working quietly and effectively behind the scenes – she was always there, she always fronted, she didn’t try to dominate but supported what her son wanted.

‘It’s a very rich and deep charism and it’s a great one for young men to learn when the hormones of puberty are exploding and making them quite macho. To have a staff that can model that for them is very important.’

Philip is keen to boost the number of boarders at Silverstream. Having increased the number of boarders at Sacred Heart, and the roll generally by almost 200, he feels it should be possible to attract a few more than the 75 boarders expected on the boarders’ roll in 2007.

The long waiting lists at Sacred Heart are testimony to the reputation Philip has given the school, along with a rigorous building programme and a strong staff.

‘We’ve obviously done a few things right. I’ve learnt a lot. It was my first shot at principal. I feel I’ve now got a better handle on it.’

Meanwhile, the chair of the school’s board of proprietors, Ben Sheehan, says the school is delighted that Philip Mahoney has accepted the position – it’s great to have someone of his calibre.

He says it’s the first time the school has had a laicised priest on the staff and he sees this as a strength.

‘It’s about what the church is doing – seeing how the partnership between lay and priests can work in terms of ministering to each other. It has less of a hierarchical feel about it.’

With the formation of the J C Colin project team, the school is now moving towards appointing a lay chaplain.

‘Change is really good for a college. The roll is oversubscribed and Silverstream’s going from strength to strength. Philip’s appointment is going to bring another special quality to Silverstream – further enhancing and fostering it,’ Sheehan says.

Elaine Hines, who chairs the school’s board of trustees, says the board is looking forward to hearing about different ways that Philip has experienced special character in the different schools he’s worked in.

‘He’s had the high level of thinking about special character and he’s been at the implementation stage in not just one school.’

Hines sees the new principal as a reflective leader who will be a good role model for the students.

‘He’s got his feet on the ground and he’s a good implementer – he follows through on things.’

Philip Mahoney whose interests include producing musicals, and coaching cricket, rugby, hockey and squash, takes up the position of principal at Silverstream in October, in time to celebrate the school’s 75th jubilee at Labour Weekend.