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The call of the priesthood
St Patrick's College rector
Fr Paul Martin talks to Joseph
Romanos about living near
Alice Springs, school balls and
why he became a priest.
Fr Paul Martin: ''There has never been a time when I wished I was doing something else.''
Photo: JOSEPH ROMANOS
Where did you go to college?
St John s College, Hastings.
What did you want to be when you
Nothing in particular. I thought for a
while maybe something in banking. In
about the sixth form it crossed my mind to
go into the seminary. But you never know.
My younger brother was committed to
being a butcher or a priest. He became a
Was your family particularly
We were an ordinary Catholic family.
There wasn t a heavy emphasis on religion
and or any talk about any of us becoming
What about when you told them you
were going into the seminary?
My parents were happy as long as I was
happy. They certainly weren t discouraging.
Do you sometimes reflect on what
you've missed out on by becoming a
There are things, definitely, such as
having a family. But there has never been
a time when I wished I was doing some-
thing else. It s a sacrifice in one sense, but
a great life, too. I ve met lots of interesting
people and lived in parts of New Zealand I
might never have really seen. I also had six
months in an Aborigine community outside
How did that come about?
The Marist Brothers ran a school there,
Santa Teresa, 80 kilometres south of Alice.
It s a dry area -- no alcohol -- and they try
to keep it safe. It s actually a big cattle
ranch. I d finished my BA at Victoria Uni-
versity in the middle of the year, so went
there for six months.
How many people were there?
About 400 including teachers, hospital
workers, and about 100 schoolkids.
What was Alice Springs like?
A terrible place, really, but fascinating. It
was a place of refuge for all sorts of people,
brown and white.
Did you enjoy classroom teaching?
Very much. But you can t do it part-time.
When I was deputy principal at St Bede s,
I had one class and found it hard to get
cranked up. I greatly admire principals who
teach as well, but I feel I m busy enough
here. I wouldn t do teaching justice if I tried
to take classes as well.
What did you think of Wellington
before you moved here?
Growing up in Hawke s Bay, Wellington
was the big city. I came here in 1983 with
St John s on an exchange visit. It was excit-
ing. The St Pat s boys had a slight degree of
sophistication that we didn t, or I thought
that at the time, anyway.
Were you in the St John's rugby
Yes, the second XV that year, the first XV
the next. I was a lock, not surprisingly.
How tall are you?
I m 1.98 metres, just under 6 feet
6 inches. I have two brothers who are taller
than me, so I say to the kids I know what
it s like to be small! My sisters are 6ft 4in
and 6ft, so we re big people.
What are the strengths of St Pat's?
There s a wide range of socio-economic
backgrounds, ethnicity and of the schools
they ve come from. Our year 9s this year
came from 41 schools, so there s a real sense
of diversity. This prepares them well for
living in New Zealand. They aren t fazed by
You seem to do very well in the arts
We do. The Con Anima choir has been
fantastic, of course. The kids here are into
all sorts of things -- we even have a year 11
ballet dancer who has earned a cultural
What's your roll?
Our capacity is 800 and we re up to 793.
It s gone up by 100 in the past three years.
Do the colleges around Wellington
get on well?
We do. I ve felt very supported by
principals such as Roger Moses, Sally
Haughton, Kevin Carter, Jane Holloway,
Julia Davidson and Prue Kelly. And there s
a good eastern suburbs cluster. We meet
regularly for professional development.
You've had recent publicity over
your school ball and been accused of
being homophobic. Was that fair?
The whole issue got out of hand. Our
policy for school balls is that only boys cur-
rently at the school can attend. It s got
nothing to do with homophobia. It s around
Are school balls more trouble than
We ve been lucky. During my time here
we haven t really had problems. However,
I d like to see it become a leavers ball.
Is discipline more difficult in schools
On the whole I d say the kids are better
behaved. But discipline is more time-
consuming now and these days kids are
quicker to express what they feel.
Is it difficult trying to marry the old
St Pat's, before the shift in 1979, with
We ve been here 31 years now, so this is
St Pat s to a lot of people. I suppose it s
harder for the older old boys to relate to this
school. That s one reason we ve put up more
photos of the old school around our walls.
But old boys are old boys. When they watch
the first XV play, they are all old boys, no
matter where their school was situated.
12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, JULY 14, 2011
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