by PETER GRACE
After 14 years out of teaching, New Zealand Marist Brother Terry Costello will soon head to Fiji as principal of Marist Boys’ High School.
Br Terry told NZ Catholic that he has had to regain his teaching registration so he can take up the position. That was necessary because going overseas for more than two years means loss of registration, and his last teaching post was four years at Takuilau College in Tonga, about the late 1990s.
The Fiji school is considered historic because when it started the brothers were the first to offer education to Indian boys. “It’s interesting, because there’s quite a significant Indian Catholic population there now, but in those days it was Hindu,” he said.
The early brothers are considered to have set the scene for a multicultural society, although that took a bit of a battering with the military coups.
“But until then it was pretty harmonious, and a lot of credit goes to the brothers.”
There are many prominent old boys, including the prime minister and the deputy prime minister, as well as military leaders.
Br Terry said that he had heard it said that the Catholic Church in Fiji has influence disproportionate to its size. “Its influence is far greater… Like the girls’ school, especially in Suva, has a very high reputation.”
That school is run by the Cluny Sisters. St John’s in the north also has a fine reputation.
Education is free in Fiji, Br Terry said, meaning schools are not allowed to charge fees.
With respect to Catholic schools, there is a kind of integration. “Teachers’ salaries are bad . . . the major difference between here and there is that the ministry appoints the teachers.”
There were pluses and minuses, said Br Terry, “and one of the minuses is few Catholic teachers in many Catholic schools”. The government doesn’t recognise special character, as here.
Marist Boys’ High School has a very low number of Catholic teachers. “That would be the biggest challenge I face, especially next year.”
Br Terry said he was a product of the brothers in Auckland, at Vermont St and St Paul’s. He thinks the number one reason he was drawn to that vocation was the example of two of the brothers, “just how they were as people, their manliness; and that time at St Paul’s, every time we came back from holidays, the brothers had spent time improving facilities”.
One time, after very heavy rain, the chapel very nearly slipped away. He and other students helped build the retaining wall, and that was a defining experience for him. He was already keen on the military training that was offered, Br Terry said.
“I really only decided in my final year, year 13; the call felt a lot stronger and I made up my mind, otherwise I would have been destined for the army, really.”
The Costello’s were a typical state house family from Mt Roskill, he said, and the army offered fairly attractive cadetships.
In the final year at St Paul’s there were only 13 students left. “Because unless you were destined for university, guys left and went for apprenticeships after form 4.” He went on and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry.
His final profession with the Marist Brothers was in 1971, at the age of 23. He had already been teaching at Sacred Heart College since 1969.
Being a brother at Sacred Heart was virtually a 24/7 role, for nine years, as the brothers did so much. “It was demanding but enjoyable.”
He was then appointed principal of St John’s Hamilton and, after five years there, principal of St Bernard’s, Lower Hutt.
That was followed by his spell in Tonga.
From 2001 he was involved in administration for the brothers, then became deputy leader and responsible for formation in the Champagnat Character.
The joy of his career, he said, has been meeting former pupils with their families. “You see they are living good lives … though it is not always connected with the Church, and how they are transmitting our Marist values to their children.”
by PETER GRACE