By Paul Dobbyn
QUEENSLAND Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk spoke proudly of her Catholic roots during her official opening of the Saint John Paul II Building at the Australian Catholic University’s Brisbane campus last week.
“It’s a pleasure to be here as a Catholic premier,” she said.
“Queensland’s last Catholic premier was Mike Ahern, I believe.”
The Premier also shared thoughts on her Polish heritage with those gathered, including Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the ACU’s Chancellor John Fahey, Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven and Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) Professor Jim Nyland.
The towering presence of St John Paul II was among Premier Palaszczuk’s fond childhood memories.
“My grandparents were Polish,” she said at the May 28 opening.
“There were no less than eight pictures of (then Pope) John Paul II on display in the small lounge room in Crocus Street, Inala.
“We also had to remain completely quiet whenever the pope spoke (in broadcasts).”
Her comments followed Archbishop Coleridge’s reflections on his time as “one of many speech writers” to then Pope John Paul II.
“There was something of the saint about him,” the archbishop said before blessing the building.
“Although I didn’t think he’d be declared a saint quite so quickly; but he was always a man in a hurry.”
ACU Chancellor John Fahey told the gathering, the opening of the Saint John Paul II Building “was a very special event in the lifetime of Brisbane’s ACU campus – in this our 25th anniversary year”.
“As you wander across (this) campus, you can’t help but be in awe of the stunning new building that completes the university courtyard – named in honour of the great thinker and philosopher Saint John Paul II,” he said.
“This building and surrounding landscaping was fully funded by the university at a cost of $25 million and was completed with remarkable speed within two years.”
Professor Craven paid tribute to Professor Nyland’s role in driving the project, noting the new building was “a monument to the trajectory of the ACU”.
“Six years ago, the university had 14,000 students, today it has 33,000,” he said.
“And six years ago the campus had 1500 students, next year it will have 6000 students.”
Professor Craven also acknowledged the work of teams of architects and builders in constructing a building “which was always a challenge” in the sense of fitting in with existing campus buildings.
He also referred to a planned bronze statue of St John Paul II on the Brisbane campus.
“It will not be at the final time of his life, but using John Paul as a young seminarian in the alps of Poland in his strength and all his glory,” Professor Craven said.