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Admission and Installation of the 21st Rector of St John’s College, Dr Mark Schembri

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News | 3 Nov 2023

“Many colleges talk about being like a family, but at St John’s we are a family. We have a fantastic college which brings the best current minds in the professions and specialties to teach the best minds of the future. Students meet global leaders of today here, every week in this institution, knowing that these students might be called to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

“The office of rector of St John’s is always greater than the person. The symbols of duty carry with them reminders of great responsibility that we owe to each other.”

“The task of a university is not to demolish the foundations of knowledge and excellence. It is not to deny the reality of what we know, but to always continue to dig deeper, to better understand and penetrate the mysteries of science, of humanity and of ‘why?’.” 

Dr Mark Schembri

The installation of Dr Mark Schembri as the 21st Rector of St John’s College at the University of Sydney was a harmonious blend of ceremony, tradition, joy and a clear sense of purpose.

Held in the College Chapel, the ceremony, in the Oxbridge tradition, was led by Presiding Clerical Fellow Bishop Richard Umbers, and attended by a host of special guests, dignitaries, and friends of the College including:
His Excellency General the Honourable David John Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor-General of Australia, and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley
Prof Mark Scott AO, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Sydney
Prof Joanne Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Sydney
The Hon Michael Daley MP, Attorney General of New South Wales
The Hon Susan Carter MLC, Shadow Assistant Attorney General of New South Wales
Mr Chris Meney, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Sydney and Mrs Mary Clare Meney
Justice John Sackar, Supreme Court of New South Wales and Ms Alison Renwick, Vice-President of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales
Justice Francois Kunc, Supreme Court of New South Wales
The Hon Arthur Emmett AO KC, retired Justice of the Federal Court of Australia and New South Wales Court of Appeal and The Hon Sylvia Emmett AM, retired Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia
The Hon Lloyd Waddy AM RFD KC, retired Judge of the Family Court of Australia
Mr Lawrence Buhagiar, Consul-General of the Republic of Malta in Australia, and Mrs Rosieanne Buhagiar
Mr John McCarthy KGCPO KCSG KC, former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See
Mr John Bennett OAM, President, Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales
Mr Paul Dellow, President of the Alumni Association of St John’s College
Mr Shaun Cousins, Chairman of the St John’s College Foundation
Ms Fiona Hastings, Principal, Sancta Sophia College
Dr Tiffany Donnelly, Principal, The Women’s College
Reverend Canon Dr Ivan Head, former Warden of St Paul’s College
Assoc Prof Joseph Suttie, Head of Rural Medical School, University of Notre Dame Australia, and Assoc Prof Madeleine Suttie
The incoming 2024 House Presidents Anna Garnsey and Oscar Crowe were seated nearest to the Sanctuary and next to the Governor-General of Australia and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney respectively – highlighting that our students are the core of the College, and the responsibility the College and University hold to our students.

2024 Co-House President Anna Garnsey seated beside His Excellency General the Honourable David John Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d),
Governor-General of Australia, and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley.

The Presiding Clerical Fellow opened the Convocation, speaking in Latin throughout, emphasising again the indelible link between St John’s College and the Catholic Church. The Benedictus by Karl Jenkins was then sung by guest artists and friends of the Rector, Amelia Farrugia and Eugene Raggio, and joined by the College Choir, laying the blessing of the Lord upon the Convocation.

The Declaration of Appointment was handed to the Chair of College Council, Mr John Coorey, who unfurled the document and proclaimed the lawful appointment of the 21st Rector of St John’s College to the Convocation.

Following the reading of the Declaration of Appointment, Bishop Umbers bestowed upon the Rector the Insignia of the College – the ceremonial keys and seal of St John’s College. The Chair of College Council then presented the Rector with the Staff of Office, admitting the Rector to office, with the staff signifying the Rector’s obligation to fulfil his duties with integrity and strength.

The plain seat upon which the Rector sat was removed and replaced with the Rector’s Chair at the centre of the Sanctuary. The Presiding Clerical Fellow then admitted the Rector and installed him to his position in the name of the Council of the College.

In succession, the Governor-General, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Auxiliary Bishop Umbers, Attorney-General of NSW, and incoming 2024 House Presidents presented the Rector with the Symbols of Office.
The Governor-General presented the Rector with a collarette, symbolising the significant responsibility, authority, and dignity of the office of the Rector, and as a symbolic reminder of the Rector’s obligations of service and compassion for those in his care.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney presented the Rector items bearing the University coat of arms, symbolising the inheritance of a great tradition of inquiry and relentless pursuit of the truth, and as a reminder of the common vision and history of the University of Sydney and St John’s College.

The Auxiliary Bishop presented the Rector a bound copy of The Gospel of St John, a reminder that the Rector is bound not only by human laws but also by the natural and divine laws of Christ, and with an instruction to guide the students of this College with justice and mercy in Christ’s name.

The Attorney-General of NSW presented the Rector a copy of the Act of Incorporation and the By-Laws of the College, as a reminder of the Rector’s obligations to the common good, the rule of law, and the duties of office.

The Student House Presidents of 2024, representing the student body, presented the Rector with the College flag, as a sign and symbol of the Rector and students’ collegial life together. The House Presidents also entered into an accord with the Rector to only do honour to those who have come before and to those who will follow.

The Chair of College Council, Mr John Coorey, then addressed the Convocation with a touching tribute and kind words of confidence and assurance. Mr Coorey notably made mention of the Rector’s wife, Sarah, and children – also highlighting the fact that this was the first Rector of St John’s College to have had a child during his term of office.
The Rector then addressed the convocation. His speech can be found here.
To view the video recording of the event, please click here.

A moving solo performance of Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod) was then sung by guest artist and Opera Australia soprano Ms Amelia Farrugia – the ethereal qualities of which highlighted the holy solemnity of the occasion, with many in the Chapel moved to tears.

Concluding the ceremony, the Presiding Clerical Fellow pronounced the Blessing, with the Academic Procession exiting the Chapel to a recessional fanfare by Jean-Joseph Mouret conducted by Director Music Mr Richard Perrignon.

Following the formal ceremony, the guests retired to the Philosophical Room for refreshments, where each guest was personally greeted by the Rector. A special thanks to College staff members Richard Perrignon, Christina Goh, Margarita Buazon, and Vicky Kang for their extraordinary efforts in realising this ceremony.
But above all, I give my thanks to the students, who infuse this College with the Gaudium de veritate – the joy from truth.
More photos from the Rector’s Installation can be viewed here (Password: 1858).




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