As a new day dawned over Trinity Catholic College, it was hoped the first rays of light also marked the start of a new chapter for the troubled Dunedin high school. About 20 pupils, survivors of sexual abuse, and members of the community gathered at the school at 5am on Saturday for a blessing to mark the start of the first school year under its new name.

Photo: Google Maps (Trinity Catholic College, formerly Kavanagh College)

The former Kavanagh College became Trinity Catholic College on January 1, following years of lobbying from abuse survivors.

The new name was chosen following an inquiry last year which concluded that the late Bishop John Kavanagh, after whom the college was named, did not act on a complaint of abuse when he was Bishop of Dunedin from 1957 to 1985.

On Saturday, Dunedin Catholic Bishop Michael Dooley said the early start was chosen to represent beginning in the dark and working your way into the light.

He noted the symbolism of that was very important both in Maoridom and Christianity.

“We seek to have light shone in the darkness, and our hope and prayer is that this school will be a place where the light will shine.”

He acknowledged the sexual and physical abuse that had occurred at the school, and that the church “has not responded well to that”, he said.

“That’s a part of our history that we need to honestly acknowledge so that we can go forward.”

Three groups were led around the school grounds as church leaders blessed each part of the school with water from three significant sources: Wellers Rock, Toitu Stream, and Lourdes Water from France.

For Male Survivors Otago spokesman Michael Chamberlain, the ceremony marked the first time he had stepped foot inside his old school since 1976.

“One would hope that moving forward, things can only be better,” he said.

“We are very mindful that abuse is not a historical event of the past, and that everyone needs to be vigilant moving forward as well as we know it still occurs today.”

By Daisy Hudson
Published in Otago Daily Times