Netherhall House, London (1960-1984): The Commonwealth Dimension

Netherhall House, London (1960-1984): The Commonwealth Dimension[1]

Abstract: The 1960s projected expansion of Netherhall House, an international hall of residence for students in London, took place at a time when the British Government was particularly concerned with the formation of the intellectual and political elites of its colonies or former colonies. This was also one of the aims of Netherhall House, and the hall would attract official help for its expansion plans. The article also examines, through an analysis of its operation, to what an extent the hall achieved those objectives.

Keywords: Netherhall House – British Council – Opus Dei – Josemaría Escrivá – Residences – London – 1960-1984

Abstract: Il progetto di ampliare la Netherhall House, una residenza universitaria internazionale con sede a Londra, è nato negli anni ’60, in un momento in cui il governo britannico era particolarmente interessato alla formazione delle élites intellettuali e politiche nelle colonie e nelle ex-colonie. Questo era altresì uno degli obbiettivi della residenza, che avrebbe potuto beneficiare dei contributi pubblici per il suo progetto di sviluppo. L’articolo esamina inoltre, attraverso un’analisi delle attività svolte, in qual misura la residenza ha conseguito i suoi obbiettivi.

Keywords: Netherhall House – British Council – Opus Dei – Josemaría Escrivá – Residenze – 1960-1984

The history of Netherhall House from its foundation to the present might perhaps be conveniently divided into three periods. The first could cover from 1952, when the hall of residence for university students was set up, to the year 1960. In this latter year plans were set in motion to increase the capacity of the hall and develop its international dimension. The completion of this project, involving substantial building works, was to be carried out in two phases over a long period of time, and these can be used to define the second and third periods of Netherhall’s history. The years 1960 to 1984 saw the building of the first phase of the new Netherhall (completed in 1966) and the extraordinary development of its international dimension. The academic year 1983-84 marked the start of a new period in the history of the hall of residence, when reduced capacity and mounting costs made it imperative to complete the project with the building of a revised second phase.

The present article concentrates its attention on the second period of Netherhall House’s history (1960-1984) and in particular on its Commonwealth dimension. The historical context in which the development of Netherhall took place and the influence it had in defining the aims of the project are described in the first part of the article. This includes a section covering the contacts with the British Council and its involvement in the project. A second part studies how and to what an extent the hall of residence in the years 1966 to 1984 served the aims, both general and particular, inspiring the project[2].

On Bank Holiday Monday, 4 August 1958, Saint Josemaría Escrivá— accompanied by Fr Álvaro del Portillo, Fr Javier Echevarría and Armando Serrano—stepped onto British soil for the first time. He was to stay in England till the middle of September. This was his first prolonged residence away from Rome since his arrival to the Eternal City in 1946, and part of the reason for his visit to England was to be able to work in a temperate climate, away from Rome’s oppressive August heat. He would return the following summers, the last being that of 1962. At the time of his visit, there were only three centres of Opus Dei in the country. Netherhall House, a student hall of residence set up in 1952, and Rosecroft House, a residence for women started in 1956, were in Hampstead, northwest London. The house rented for his stay was near these two places, and the morning following his arrival the Founder paid short visits to both of them. From the outset he encouraged the members of Opus Dei to expand their apostolate, reaching out of London to places like Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester. St Josemaría’s great interest in the apostolic work of his sons and daughters in Great Britain was long-standing. He was conscious of the importance and influence of the country’s metropolitan status as a centre for peoples from all over the world and also of the usefulness of the English language as a means of communication. Netherhall House had been from the first the result of his direct encouragement and he had expressed a hope that those students and trainees, who had come to take degrees and achieve professional qualifications in Great Britain, might also learn and take back with them to their own countries the true faith, and help spread the spirit of Opus Dei worldwide[3].

His walks around London reinforced in him the impression of the cosmopolitan character of the city. The streets were thronged with people of all races and customs, originating from the four corners of the world-wide British Empire and the Commonwealth: London was a “crossroads of the world”, he came to say from this moment onward. Those peoples were a constant reminder for St Josemaría of the many nations Opus Dei had not yet reached, and in his walks along the city he prayed that the people of those countries might find the true faith. Already in August he could write to Michael Richards, a lawyer, the first English Numerary member of Opus Dei, then in Rome: “This England, you rascal, è una grande bella cosa [is a wonderful thing]. If you help us—you specially—we will do some solid work in this crossroads of the world. Pray and offer little mortifications with joy”[4]. It was a theme that he would touch upon often in the following months, encouraging the members of Opus Dei to pray for the Work in Great Britain. As he wrote to his children in Spain, to do so was to pray for the Work in the whole world[5]. At the practical level, several projects were the result of his direct encouragement: the expansion of Netherhall House and a residence for students at Grandpont House, in Oxford, being the most representative. The first was an obvious development: those in charge of Netherhall House already had considerable experience in running an international hall of residence for students; the second was facilitated by the finding of some convenient property in Oxford which the Catholic hierarchy had an option to buy, but which it had decided not to exercise.

Netherhall House had been set up in April 1952 in 18 Netherhall Gardens. The property had been recently renovated, and, together with 22 Netherhall Gardens, was going to be used as a hotel. It came onto the market at that time because of a disagreement between the owners. St Josemaría had been encouraging the members of Opus Dei in London to set up a hall of residence and this property was just right for the purpose; the only drawback was that there was no money to buy it. Michael Richards convinced Mr H. Neville, who with Mr Shaw owned both properties, that, in order to facilitate the purchase and speed it up, Mr Neville could obtain a mortgage on both 18 and 22 Netherhall Gardens. The hall of residence would undertake the repayment of the mortgage on both properties, and the freehold of n. 18 would be transferred to a charitable trust once the mortgage was finally repaid[6]. Mr Neville agreed to the proposal, and the Abbey National Building Society provided what amounted to a hundred-per-cent mortgage for the purchase of the property. They took possession in April 1952, and started operating a students’ hall in the summer term of the 1951-52 academic year; the first residents coming from an advert published in The Tablet, a Catholic weekly, and through the recommendation of Mgr Gordon Wheeler, the then Catholic Chaplain of London University. The following summer, 16 Netherhall Gardens, the property of Westminster Catholic Archdiocese, was offered at very favourable terms: the Archdiocese guaranteeing a mortgage with the National Bank for the purchase of the property[7]. The new buildings increased the number of places available in the residence to about sixty (mainly in shared rooms, as was then normal in students’ residences). There was a good intake of students in the academic year 1953-54, and this was to continue in the following years. The interest of the Archdiocese in the project went beyond the facilities offered for the purchase of the property. The diocesan bishops were very supportive of the enterprise and visited the residence on several occasions: Cardinal Griffin did so in December of 1953; his auxiliary, Bishop Craven, the following May, and would do so often from then onwards; Cardinal Godfrey paid a visit to Netherhall in June 1958 and his successor, Cardinal Heenan, went to see the newly built Phase I in 1967; Bishop Casey, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, consecrated the altars of the new oratory in January 1969.

Netherhall House international character was evident from the outset. Among the first residents were Kinichiro Saito, from Japan, and Michael Britomotumayaga, a Christian Tamil from what was then Ceylon. In the first eight years of operation it offered accommodation to over three hundred students from nineteen countries. Almost two thirds of the residents were British; among the others there had been Irish (fifteen) and Spanish (twenty) students, as well as a good number of students coming from subSaharan Africa: Kenya (ten), Nigeria (ten) Ghana (twelve) and Uganda (six). The Far East was also well represented—Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan—and there were smaller contingents from both South and North America, and from Australia.

In 1958, and on subsequent visits, St Josemaría encouraged the members of Opus Dei in Great Britain to enlarge the hall of residence and to pay special attention to students coming from developing countries and from the new ones resulting from the process of decolonization. In the following years he was to send to Great Britain some people who had had experience in similar projects to help with the planning (architectural, economic, and so on) and with the negotiations necessary to get the project off the ground. The lawyer Dr Juan Masiá, who first came to Great Britain in 1960, had been involved in the setting up of the Residenza Universitaria Internazionale (RUI), which had opened in Rome in 1959. The RUI aspired to provide residents of all countries with a place to live in a friendly community of students, offering a programme of integral education that incorporated human, academic and professional formation. Masiá’s experience would play an important role in early approaches to the British Council and other government bodies.

Mgr Escrivá’s ideas were contemporary to important geopolitical events. In the late 1950s the process of decolonization was well advanced in South East Asia and West Africa. The general consensus, however, was that colonial rule in East Africa would continue into the 1970s and that European settler leadership would carry on for decades to come. Such predictions could hardly have been further off the mark. By 1964 most British dependencies in Africa had received independence on the basis of black majority rule: Ghana in 1957, Nigeria in 1960, Tanganyika and Sierra Leone in 1961, Uganda in 1962, Kenya in 1963, Zambia and Malawi in 1964. Both external and internal pressures had helped accelerate the process. An influential reason for granting independence to Malaya in 1957 and to the above African countries was the desire to gain the good-will of local politicians, and so to secure British economic interests and political influence in the newly independent nations. A peaceful and friendly transfer of power to nationalist groups was seen as the best way of achieving this. The logic of this position implied that effective and sustained nationalist pressure would prompt the British Government to concede their demands in order to avoid alienating popular nationalist sentiments and the emerging political leaderships.

The USA, as a matter of general policy, was in sympathy with and supportive of movements of self-determination, without taking much into consideration British responsibilities in preparing those countries for independence. As the Cold War intensified the competition between the two superpowers, American officials—without toning down their anti-colonialist rhetoric—came gradually to view the British Empire in a different light. In the wake of the Maoist triumph in China and stalemate in the Korean War, Washington came to rely more and more on the colonial powers, Britain and France in particular, to block Sino-Soviet expansion in Asia and in Africa[8]. This was a major theme of the 1959 government policy discussion paper “Africa: The Next Ten Years”. It was difficult to predict accurately the character of the emerging nations. It was obvious, however, that the political and social configuration of the new countries would depend in good measure on the ideological and political outlooks of those of their leaders who had had access to higher education. Government Minutes would therefore stress the importance of promoting education, whether by encouraging institutions of higher education in Africa or by welcoming African university students to Great Britain[9]. The importance of educating those new elites had not been lost on the Communist bloc, and Western and Eastern countries were to find themselves in competition to attract students from the emerging nations. Great Britain had a vital role to play in this process, as students from the fast-decreasing Empire and growing Commonwealth came to study in this country in increasing numbers.

Such themes would continue to occupy the minds of British and American strategists in the years to come. In this respect, it is interesting to note that from 12 to 14 June 1962 took place, behind closed doors, a longplanned Anglo-American Conference on UK/US Policies in Tropical Africa, organised by the Ditchley Foundation, and attended by officials, members of the respective governments, parliamentarians and experts from academia and elsewhere. The Conference, under the chairmanship of Lord Perth, articulated succinctly what had been for some time the general consensus of experts and policy makers. Of the four areas singled out for consideration— defence, economic matters, African votes in the UN and Soviet/Communist infiltration—the last topic received greatest attention. Sir Roger Stevens, Britain’s Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, would affirm that although the results for the first two years of African independence were not too unfavourable, the “Russians started with the advantage of being able to represent their own post-revolutionary development as a model for independent African states to follow, and their anti-colonial propaganda was very much in line with African aspirations”[10].

Those attending the conference were generally agreed that education was a key factor in retaining intellectual influence in the newly created nations and in helping to resist Marxist penetration. There was a need to satisfy the aspirations of those who were looking for higher education abroad: if they were not offered it in the West, they would look elsewhere. Russia and its satellites were already trying to attract university students in competition with Western countries (USA, Britain and others) in order to form or to influence a generation of future leaders with their respective ideologies. Besides, the influence of Communism was not confined to those who studied behind the Iron Curtain: Marxist ideas were also being absorbed by students in French, British and other European universities[11]. It was also noted that competition to attract students to overseas universities had resulted in a dearth of students for institutions of higher education set up in their countries of origin. Everyone was trying to draw on the same pool of people: the small number of those with A-level passes or their equivalent (final secondary school qualification). This situation made even more obvious the need for further training at lower academic level, in particular at the level of secondary education. As a result, there was a need for teachers from overseas until those countries could produce their own. So far, most teachers had been provided by religious bodies but the conference thought that these were bound to be fewer in future[12]. Still, the conference’s final press-release would stress the importance of non-governmental organisations in shaping the development of the newly independent countries, singling out in particular the role of the churches in education[13].

The conference also brought up a question often considered by the British government: the need to improve the attention and care provided for those who came to Britain for their studies. Bringing Empire and Commonwealth students to study in the metropolis, or at American universities, would not necessarily produce positive results. African students in the USA might be negatively impressed by coming into contact with the reality of American racial segregation, while in Britain students from former or present colonies might feel neglected if they were to live in inadequate accommodation, lack proper attention, and so on. It was obvious that the treatment of students in their host countries would have considerable influence on their later attitudes towards them.

The welfare of Empire and Commonwealth students had been in the late 1950s a particular object of concern for the departments of British Government more directly involved. Numbers of overseas university students in England and Wales almost doubled between 1954 and 1965, keeping pace with the growth in numbers of United Kingdom university students. In the academic year 1953-54 there were 6,837 full-time overseas students in England and Wales (10.3% of the total university student population); in 1964-65 the number of full-time overseas students was 12,378 (10.9% of total)[14]. This growth took place at a time of general crisis in the provision of student residential accommodation. It had not kept pace with the growth in the student population[15], and the need was particularly felt in London, which was naturally a favoured destination for most overseas students.

The Netherhall Project and the British Council

It was within this general atmosphere that Dr Masiá and Fr Cormac Burke approached the Colonial Office and met Lord Perth, Minister of State for Colonial Affairs and a prominent Catholic, on 9 August 1960. The memorandum they handed in to Lord Perth stressed the experience of Opus Dei in the cultural, spiritual, social and scientific formation of university students. According to the memorandum, Opus Dei was now intending to pay particular attention to university students from Africa and Asia, and two large halls were being planned in Oxford and London to accommodate a mix of home and overseas students. They emphasized that the hostels would be open to students of all races, nationalities and religious affiliations. The aim was to foster human, professional and spiritual development in an atmosphere of freedom, and to encourage in the students a sense of social responsibility towards the communities of which they were part. Significantly, the memorandum emphasized the importance of this task at a time when Communism was actively engaged in promoting Marxism among Afro-Asiatic students[16]. It added that the presence of those students in Western countries did not guarantee their absorption of Christian values and ideas, as a negative experience in the host countries—poor accommodation, racial prejudice—might have the opposite effect[17].

Those proposals found a warm welcome, and this atmosphere was maintained in subsequent meetings with different officials, including Sir Christopher W.M. Cox, the influential educational adviser to the Colonial Office[18]. Although they received encouraging words from all the officials they met, the possibilities of financial assistance for those two projects looked rather remote at that stage. The government’s resources, they were told, were limited and facing great demands. Dr Masiá and Fr Burke tried to form some sort of estimate of the chances of securing either capital or recurrent assistance at the present time or in the future but the officials they met, although manifesting a desire to help, were unable to give them any clear indication in that respect and could only suggest in vague terms different sources of possible finance: the British Council helping out of their budget for looking after students, obtaining funds from the Colonial Development Welfare Fund and so on[19]. Lord Perth continued to show interest in the project and, at a meeting in February 1961 with Fr Burke and Masiá, mentioned that the Government was considering plans to provide finance through the British Council for more residential accommodation for overseas students. During the meeting, Juan Masiá mentioned that the Italian government was very happy with the work being done in the RUI, and Perth encouraged them to make their work known to officials at the British Council[20].

Lord Perth also made reference to the recent proposals of a Ministerial Committee recommending the Cabinet to budget several million pounds for hostel building. The official announcement was made in the Commons on 2 March 1961: the Government had decided to spend three million pounds to provide additional accommodation for five thousand overseas students[21]. The plan counted on a partnership between the Government and voluntary organisations, and the programme, under the name Overseas Students Welfare Expansion Programme (OSWEP), was to be administered by the British Council.

The programme seemed to offer the best possibility of public funds being granted for the London hostel. By then, however, the panorama had somewhat changed. The Oxford project had run into heavy weather, through a campaign aimed at changing the initial favourable disposition of some officials of the University, and the Hebdomadal Council had decided not to grant the licence for the hostel. The application had been withdrawn. After those events, Dr Masiá and Fr Burke approached the Colonial Office again and, in a meeting with Sir Christopher W.M. Cox, said that they would now concentrate on enlarging the capacity of their present hostel in London to two hundred places[22]. Unfortunately, events at Oxford had changed the Foreign Office’s perception of Opus Dei. The unfavourable climate was reinforced by an article which appeared in The Spectator on 25 November 1960 and the letters published in response to it. The Foreign Office asked its representatives in Madrid and the Vatican for information about Opus Dei, and Lord Perth himself made some parallel enquiries of his own[23]. Foreign Office Minutes at the time began to build up a case against granting public funds for the London project. The reasons adduced were of various types: Opus Dei “evidently does not need money”; the hierarchy is not supportive of the work of Opus Dei; the organisation is aggressively proselytistic (a charge laid against Opus Dei at Oxford), and so on[24].

Another development impinging indirectly on the progress of the plans for Netherhall House took now place in the Autumn of 1960. Mgr Coonan, the National Catholic Chaplain for Overseas Students, had contacted British Council officials with a project to acquire a hotel and equip it as a residence for overseas students. Although Mgr Coonan was fully supportive of the Netherhall House proposal, the two projects were now to some extent in competition with each other in the search for government financial support. Grants were to be distributed proportionally among the different denominations[25], and the official feeling was that Mgr Coonan’s project should be given priority over Netherhall House. In the meantime, Lord Perth had met Cardinal Godfrey and asked him about Opus Dei. In the Minute he wrote on the meeting he reported that the Cardinal denied the rumour that the hierarchy in England viewed Opus Dei with disfavour or suspicion, adding that newspapers’ reports of secrecy and so forth were very wide of the mark; Opus Dei, the Cardinal had said, was working closely with Mgr Coonan, and the Cardinal would like both projects to receive government financial help. In Lord Perth’s opinion, however, the Cardinal would probably favour Mgr Coonan’s if, because of denominational competition, there were to be a question of financial support for only one Catholic project[26].

The plans for the Netherhall House project were ready in the early months of 1961, and planning permission was obtained from the London County Council (LCC) in April of the same year. Subsequently two proposals for OSWEP financial assistance were submitted in September 1961: one for a hostel of two hundred beds in London; the other for a hostel of twenty beds in Manchester. The application for the Netherhall project, re-drafted with help from the British Council[27], was made by Fr John Anthony Galarraga and Richard A.P. Stork, an engineer. It asked for a grant of a hundred thousand pounds[28]. In conversations during the Summer with Mr Bach, at the British Council, this official mentioned that although the Netherhall project was the best project that had come up under the OSWEP programme, he was concerned about how the adverse publicity over Oxford might influence the minds of members of the Committee[29].

In the following months, the urgent need to increase accommodation for Commonwealth and other overseas students made for a rather rapid process of dealing and approving the proposals from assorted voluntary bodies[30]. The application for the Netherhall project was considered at the end of October and beginning of November in successive meetings of OSWEP, the interdepartmental body set up to administer the funds made available by the Government. The British Council, as was its custom whenever an OSWEP application concerned the University of London, had written beforehand to Sir Douglas Logan, Principal of London University, asking for the University’s opinion[31]. There is no available record of the University’s answer but it would seem that it did not recommend the project[32]. The Minutes of the meetings of OSWEP dealing with the Netherhall application repeat some of the objections mentioned above, including, despite Lord Perth’s Minute of his meeting with Cardinal Godfrey, that the Catholic hierarchy was antipathetic to Opus Dei. The applications, according to OSWEP, could not be faulted on technical grounds. The recommendation on 7 November, however, was that the application should be rejected on the basis that Opus Dei could be regarded as a proselytising body, and that this would be contrary to the requirement that students should be entirely free from any interference in religious matters. OSWEP acknowledged that “it would be extremely difficult to give Opus Dei reasons for the refusal”. On the other hand, it was likely that Ministers might be called upon to defend in public their decision, positive or not, and OSWEP considered that a refusal was the better alternative, “as Opus Dei might well prefer to keep quiet the fact that they had been unable to obtain official support”[33].

Mr B. Cockram[34], Director of Information Services of the Commonwealth Relations Office, had a meeting with Fr Burke and Richard Stork a few days later. Cockram, aware of the recommendations of OSWEP to the Ministers who were to take the final decision, suggested—off the record and unofficially—that it would be good to reinforce the application with a letter from the Archbishop of Westminster showing his support for the project, adding that it could also be useful to inform those who—like Lord Perth and Sir Christopher Cox—had shown real interest in the Netherhall development about the progress (or otherwise) of the application[35]. On 2 December, Fr Burke sent to Cockram a letter from Cardinal Godfrey to Fr Burke supporting the project[36]. It was circulated to the different departments involved. C. Walsingham from the Treasury, in a letter of 8 December to J.H. Brook, of the Ministry of Education, considered that the letter did not affect the decision taken by OSWEP on 7 November. Brook, in his response of 12 December, confessed

to finding it difficult to draw a valid distinction […] between an application under the OSWEP scheme by, say, a Wesleyan organisation—which we have granted—and the current submission from Opus Dei. Are we entirely sure that the former is quite disinterested and that the latter are not, and are we approaching the hostel proposition in the spirit of “avowed intent”? The Herranz document says quite categorically, on page five[37], that its institutions “are open to every race and social class, on the basis of absolutely equal rights, and without any type of discrimination, whether on grounds of religious belief [,] or any other grounds.” Are we then to say that we just do not believe this? And, if so, are we prepared to say as much in public?[38].

By 25 January 1962 no decision had been communicated to the charitable trust in spite of Fr Burke’s repeated requests for information. The Netherhall project had been brought up again in the OSWEP (62/1) meeting of 5 January 1962. The Minutes registered, somewhat grudgingly, support for Opus Dei “in part at least of the Catholic hierarchy”. The action proposed in the meeting of 7 November had by then obtained ministerial approval from the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. The Colonial Office Ministers had not yet seen the submission. The Minutes added that, “as Lord Perth had been approached personally by Opus Dei it would be unwise to act on the assumption that he would necessarily approve the proposed course of action”. The Colonial Office ministers were to be informed[39]. This was done.

On 13 February 1962, Fr Cormac Burke and Enrique Cavana had met Lord Perth, who by then must have been aware of the OSWEP recommendations and their approval by the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. The interview was a serious and open discussion, and Lord Perth made it clear in the course of the conversation that he did not hold much hope of success for the application. Perth, leaving to one side the fact that Netherhall House had been running as an international hall of residence in London for almost ten years, advised that it would be better to try for a smaller project. This would have a double advantage: to show their competence in running a hall of residence for overseas students and to remove the prejudice against it of “aggressive proselytising”, the flag waved by those who in Oxford had opposed the Grandpont project. Then, in his opinion, it would be the moment to present a new application to OSWEP for financial support[40].

Perth’s official opinion, as reported in the Minutes of the next meeting of OSWEP on 1 March, followed similar lines. Lord Perth’s views on the matter, as “broadly” recorded in the Minutes, were: i) Opus Dei’s operations in the UK were not as narrow and bigoted as those in Spain and in parts of America; ii) Opus Dei should be told that they had to convince the Universities of their bona fides; iii) any grants should be conditional on “non-praselytisation” [sic]; iv) any form of Christian anti-Communist organisation should be encouraged. Lord Perth’s contacts with Fr Burke had made clear that the charitable trust did not have the funds to realise the project without government assistance. Perth wanted a definitive decision on this application to be withheld, and for the charitable trust to be told that a grant could not be approved until the anxieties expressed had been resolved. The Minutes speculated that the objections of National Catholic Chaplaincy might have been drawn from their knowledge of how the residences in both London and Manchester were run. The meeting suggested that Lord Perth could recommend Opus Dei to withdraw their present application and obtain the support of the universities before presenting a new one. If Lord Perth wanted to change the decision of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, he should contact the appropriate ministers in those departments[41]. The Minutes were dated 13 March 1962. By that time, Lord Perth had resigned, or was on the point of resigning, his position as Minister of State for Colonial Affairs.

Lord Perth did, however, follow up the Netherhall project after his departure from the Colonial Office. In April, he got in contact with Sir Hugh Fraser, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, also a Catholic, to talk about the Netherhall project. He wrote subsequently to the Archbishop of Westminster, informing him about the meeting, and asking whether he could meet the Cardinal to discuss the situation[42]. The meeting was not possible but Mgr Derek Worlock, the Cardinal’s private secretary, met Sir Hugh Fraser, and, in a subsequent letter, Fraser repeated the substance of their conversation: in his opinion there was nothing to be gained in pursuing the matter until the projects had won the support of the Universities, with the help of the Catholic chaplaincies. In his response Worlock mentioned that Mgr Tomlinson, the Catholic Chaplain of London University, and Mgr Coonan, the Chaplain for Overseas Students, supported the project, and that the Cardinal had done so all the way along[43]. Sir Hugh Fraser and Mgr Worlock met on 2 July to talk about the issue, and Fraser mentioned that if the present application were pressed to a definitive decision, this would be a rejection. There was, he said, opposition within the University to the proposal, based on the events at Oxford, although he asked Worlock not to mention this point[44]. His advice was to withdraw the application and to re-apply after a discreet period of time. Worlock offered to pass on his recommendations, and he did so in a meeting with Fr Burke and R. Stork on 12 July[45]. The Netherhall application for the OSWEP grant was withdrawn that same month.

The preparation of a second OSWEP application started soon afterwards, and involved a re-study of the 1961 design. The original application had been for a residence of two hundred places to be built in two stages and the initial 1962 study inclined to keep that number. A later re-appraisal settled on applying for a grant for a hall of a hundred places in its first stage with the possibility of adding a further hundred places (and a further OSWEP application) at a later time. The plans involved preserving the old buildings for residential accommodation and building of a new block to provide fortyeight new individual rooms (together with a Social Centre including library, reading room, oratory, auditorium and other facilities), plus a new block for the domestic staff, freeing some areas of the old buildings for residential accommodation.

By that time, the Commonwealth Relations Office and British Council review of the OSWEP programme in early 1963 had found that the provision of hostel accommodation for overseas students was making very slow progress. While the overseas student population had experienced a large increase since 1961, only some one thousand five hundred new beds had been provided of the original target of five thousand. A severe need for student accommodation continued to be felt, especially in London. The slow progress was blamed on several factors: voluntary bodies were experiencing difficulties in raising their share of the funds, while the guarantees required by OSWEP caused long delays in paying the grants. Both the Commonwealth Relations Office and the British Council recommended speeding up the procedure in order to accelerate the progress of the applications[46].

As far as the Netherhall application was concern, one of the first steps in spring and summer of 1963 had been to form a Development Committee of influential public figures, Catholic and non-Catholic, supporting the project. The Earl of Perth was to act for a time as Chairman of the Committee[47], and he was involved in drafting the application to OSWEP[48]. Some members of the Development Committee had been involved in their official capacity in the initial approaches to government bodies and in the study of the previous application for financial assistance from OSWEP and the planning application. Some of them seemed to have agreed to support the OSWEP application out of a feeling that the Netherhall project had not been treated fairly in 1961-62. A meeting took place in the House of Lords on 23 May 1963, involving Lords Perth and Longford, Mgr Wheeler and Tom Burns, plus Cormac Burke and Richard Stork. Their conclusions were: to ask first for the support in writing of the new Archbishop (when appointed), the Chaplain of London University and the Chaplain to Overseas Students (the latter had already promised his support), and to get in contact with some university authorities and government officials[49]. It was thought that a great deal depended on the support of the University of London. Fr Burke and Richard Stork had a meeting with Sir Douglas Logan, the Principal of London University, and Mgr Wheeler reinforced their visit with a personal letter. Sir Douglas, who had visited Netherhall during the study of the first OSWEP application, mentioned that he had always been behind the project, and was to write to the British Council in support of the Netherhall application on 12 August 1963[50].

The application, after some changes suggested by the British Council, would be presented in November 1963 by Netherhall Educational Association, the charity owner of Netherhall House, asking for a grant for seventy-five thousand pounds to be able to proceed with the project. There was no immediate response to the application, although there had been some encouraging unofficial reports saying that it had been approved in an OSWEP meeting in November and that in January 1964 the only step left was the approval of the Treasury[51]. Lord Perth approached the Treasury in January to enquire about the progress of the application but there was no positive response. Nothing more was heard for another couple of months. In March 1964 Perth made a personal approach to Lord Carrington, then Minister without Portfolio, who in his response made a reference to the reasons for not granting the previous grant application and mentioned that further information had been asked before giving the project their blessing[52].

The letter is misleading, as the process of the application must have been well advanced by then, and might have been approved already[53]. The approval in principle of a grant for seventy-five thousand pounds was communicated verbally on 1 April 1964, and the solicitors acting for Netherhall Educational Association, Titmuss, Sainer & Webb, received written confirmation in a letter from the British Council of 16 April 1964. The letter also specified the conditions under which it was granted[54].

The grant, however, was very small compared with the financial outlay involved in the project. In search of new sources of financing, the Development Committee had considered the possibilities offered by the Housing Act 1957, under section 120, which contemplated financial arrangements between a local authority and a housing association for the provision of housing. In London, the grants were administered by the London County Council. This body had been approached in December 1963 with a request for a loan to help finance the project. The final decision was delayed. The London County Council, concerned at the amount involved and over whether a hall of residence for students (not a housing association) fell within the object of the Housing Law, referred the matter to the Ministry of Housing[55]. The response was in the affirmative and the London County Council approved the loan in June 1964, pending final ministerial confirmation[56]. On the note sent to Rome to communicate the news and the imminent start of the building works St Josemaría, who had followed very closely every step of the project, wrote: “Deo gratias! 17-VI-64[57].

The works started soon after and were completed in 1966. On 1 November of that year Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, officially opened the new buildings in her capacity as Chancellor of London University. In her speech she mentioned the need for proper residential accommodation for the large numbers of students from all over the world coming to study in London: a place where they could find mutual respect and support, where beliefs and standards could be learned and practised. “I cannot imagine”, she added, “a better place to foster such standards than Netherhall House, which is based on Christian traditions—above all the tradition of service”[58].

An International Constituency

In 1966, with the completion of Phase I of the Netherhall House project, the residence had a capacity of some hundred places, an increase of some thirty places on previous years. There was also a considerable reduction in the number of shared rooms in the hall of residence: the new building contained only individual rooms and the number of shared rooms was further reduced by the lease of n. 16 Netherhall Gardens for use as a private school, thus providing a regular income to help balance the finances of the hall of residence. The shared rooms in n. 18 were at times used as single ones, given that students, as time went on, were more and more reluctant to share. Those rooms, however, could revert to multiple occupation if need arose.

During the 1960s, and especially after completion of the new block, the already international character of Netherhall House was further reinforced. The increase in the number of residents from Commonwealth countries at Netherhall was one of the conditions of the British Council grant: it stipulated that, “as far as reasonably practicable”, at least sixty-five places should be available to overseas Commonwealth students and fifteen to overseas students from other countries. The Directors’ Committee, in charge of the day-to-day running of Netherhall, made a determined effort to foster a rich variety of peoples and cultures in the hall of residence, and tried hard to keep to the quotas set by the agreement. It was not always easy. The demand from British students remained high, and many applicants had to be turned down; the proportion of British residents stayed more or less constant at about 40% of the total. The number of African students living in Netherhall continued being high during the 1960s: Kenya (twenty-two), Nigeria (nineteen), Uganda (twelve), and Ghana (ten) were the best-represented countries, with many others nations in single figures[59]. Perhaps the most significant change in the origins of residents during the 1960s, with respect to the previous decade, was the considerable increase in the number of students from South East Asia, the Far East and the Indian subcontinent. Malaysia was the bestrepresented country (thirty-two), followed by India (twenty-five), Pakistan (eighteen), Hong Kong (fifteen) and so on. In 1967 there were students from thirty-two different countries living at Netherhall, and thirty-five different nationalities were represented in 1968.

Another of the requirements for halls supported by OSWEP grants was the setting up of a Management Committee, including a British Council representative, notionally responsible for the overall policy of each particular establishment. The Netherhall Committee started its regular meetings in 1967, and its Minutes are an important source for the study of the hall’s operation during the following twenty years. The Minutes show that, in spite of increased numbers of Commonwealth students in Britain, it was not easy at times to keep exactly to the agreed quotas. This was due to diverse factors: few students being directed by the British Council to Netherhall in particular years, travelling costs from hall to more distant colleges, etc. There were, on the other hand, increasing numbers of applicants from other developing countries, especially from South America. The Netherhall Committee raised the question of whether these students could also be considered as part of the OSWEP quota. The official answer was formally in the negative: the programme was not capable of broadening its scope to include them[60].

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there were several significant changes in the numbers and nationalities of overseas students applying to Netherhall House. This in fact reflected a general trend experienced by British universities and institutions of higher education during those years. The main reason for the changes was a progressive and dramatic increase in the scale of fees to be paid by overseas students. There were three major instances of fee rises during those years, and each of them had an impact on numbers and on the provenance of students. Up to 1967 there had been a strong upward demand for places at British universities from overseas students. The Crosland[61] fee increases of 1967 halted that growing demand and temporarily depressed the number of overseas applications. A subsequent recovery was in turn slowed down by the introduction of creeping increases in the years 1975 to 1979. The most dramatic impact, however, resulted from the introduction in the academic year 1981-82 of “full-cost” fees for overseas non-European[62] students by the Conservative Government of Mrs Thatcher. It took place against the advice and wishes of the universities, and, depending on the type of degree, involved between three-fold and nine-fold increases in fees charges. As predicted since the change had been first mooted, this started a sharp decline in numbers of overseas applicants[63]. The number of new postgraduate entrants from overseas countries fell by 16% in 1980-81, while the number of undergraduate entrants (excluding European Economic Community students) fell by 19%. The percentage of accepted undergraduate entrants who failed actually to enter university was another indicator of the same phenomenon: it rose to 29.7% in 1980-81. There was also a tendency for grants awarded not to be taken up by students of poor and very poor countries because of a variety of circumstances, mostly of a financial character. In some cases, political conditions in their nations of origin also played a part in that decline, as in the fall in the number of Iranian students coming to Britain during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Study of the provenance of Commonwealth university students at undergraduate and graduate level coming to Britain in those years shows a dramatic decrease in the number of applicants from poor and very poor countries, while poor but developing countries seem to have maintained their numbers. Nigeria had been by far the country sending more students to Britain for most of the 1960s, followed by India, Jamaica and Malaysia (with less than half the Nigerian number of students). In the 1970s and early 1980s, there was a substantial reduction in the number of Nigerian, Kenyan, Indian and Pakistani students, overtaken by substantial increases in the number of those coming from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Middle Eastern countries, and specially those from the emerging South East Asia and Far Eastern Tiger Economies of Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Particularly significant in the late 1960s and during the 1970s was the increase in the number of Malaysian students coming to study in Great Britain: by 1968 it had become the country with most students in the UK, a position which it would maintain during the first half of 1980s, being briefly overtaken by Hong Kong afterwards[64].

The general decline in numbers of overseas students in the years 1979-81, together with a further reduction in the number of places in the residence in the 1980s, had a predictable influence on the number of different nationalities represented at Netherhall, although at its lowest ebb it never dropped below twenty[65]. The impact of the university fees-increases was also clearly reflected in the origin of the students living at Netherhall during those years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s there is a dramatic drop in the number of African students living in the hall, proportionally greater than the general reduction of the numbers of students from those countries in the UK[66]. The Kenyan, Nigerian, Zambian, Ugandan and other African students, so well represented at Netherhall in the first half of the 1970s, almost completely disappeared from the residence. The Kenyan residents had been the most numerous group of African residents in Netherhall in the 1960s, and Kenya continued providing the largest number of African residents in the years 1970 to 1977, reaching a maximum of thirteen in 1975-76. This state of affairs was to soon change. By the academic year 1979-80 there were only three Kenyan residents and the number never rose above that figure during the 1980s. Something similar might be said of other African countries like Ghana, Uganda, the Sudan, Tanzania and so on: after 1980, most of those countries would go unrepresented or have sporadically a single student; the numbers of Nigerian residents held up a bit longer but reached similar levels by 1984. As a result, the African nations represented in Netherhall went down from seventeen in the academic year 1975-76 to six in the year 1980-81.

Something similar may be said of the students coming from the subcontinent. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka had a significant presence in the residence, especially the first. There were eleven Indian residents in 1971-72 and eight in the academic year 1976-77. The number of residents from those countries, however, would be substantially reduced from 1977 onwards: in 1980-81 there was only one Indian resident in Netherhall[67]. The trend was markedly different in the case of the fast emerging Tiger Economies of the Far East. Malaysia continued well-represented at Netherhall during the 1970s reaching peaks of seventeen and thirteen residents in 1970-71 and 1979-80. But in the second half of the decade they were overtaken by students from Hong Kong, with twenty-one of them being at Netherhall in the academic year 1978-79 and eighteen the following one.

Among non-Commonwealth countries, Spain and Italy were best represented in the hall of residence from 1960 onwards. This was a natural consequence of the extension of the apostolic activities of Opus Dei had reached in those countries: many of those who applied to Netherhall from them had already had some previous contact with Opus Dei in their nations of origin. The number of residents from Italy and Spain, however, was never big and always far lower than the number of applicants. The number of Spanish students reached its peak in 1983-84 (fourteen), but for most of the period did not go beyond single-figures. Most European countries were represented in the residence—including some from the other side of the Iron Curtain—as were all American countries: Mexico (twenty), Argentina (thirteen) Chile (twelve), and Colombia (twelve) being the Latin-American developing countries sending more students to Netherhall in the years 1970 to 1984.

From a professional point of view, although the residents coming from the Commonwealth took a great variety of degree courses, medicine, engineering, economics, and accountancy were the studies attracting most students from the developing countries. Whatever their degree, the message that the hall of residence tried to imbue in the students combined the importance of serious study and the responsibility of acquiring the professional expertise necessary to make a positive contribution to the societies in which they were to live and work in the future. The atmosphere of serious study fostered in Netherhall contributed to good academic results over the years, the performance of the residents being consistently above average. It is difficult to form a clear picture of the professional paths followed by Netherhall residents during the period under study, and it is obviously even more problematic to quantify their contribution to the economic, cultural and social development of their respective countries. Still, as one former resident from Hong Kong would put it in an interview for the video “Home from Home”, made about Netherhall in 1996: over the years “many Netherhall residents have gone on to achieve positions of responsibility”. A former resident was struck by this line when watching the video:

[That] night the quote kept coming back to me: surely he had meant positions of power? But no, he hadn’t. It was in that one word that the whole Netherhall experience became clear to me. The whole reason that Netherhall came into existence […] is to help people to awaken to the fact that we are part of something far bigger than ourselves […]. As the years pass by, I start to think, not about what I have received from my parents, my country, my friends and in my life, but about what I should be giving as a person in a position of responsibility[68].

There are no records giving complete details of the professional careers of all or most former Netherhall residents, but those kept offer glimpses into the professional paths taken by them. In those years, the formation of medical doctors tended to be a priority for developing countries, and they were well represented in Netherhall. Among the many medical students in residence during the 1960s and 1970s, Peter Sinabulya (1967-68), one of a number of East African medical students during those years, was the first East African to gain the Fellowship of Ophthalmic Surgery and went on to run his own hospital in Uganda. Another, Nanda Amarasekera (1969), was President of the Sri Lanka College of Physicians in the 1990s, while, in Thailand, Suthi na Songkhla (1974), became head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at a hospital in Bangkok, and Kanit Muntarbhorn (1969) went on to occupy the chair of Otolaryngology at Bangkok University. Still within the area of general health, Anthony Chan became Chief Pharmacist of Hong Kong. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Netherhall hosted a sizeable and active group of lawyers, mostly from Malaysia, who organized a law group in the hall and edited their own law magazine. From among this group, Denis Chang QC CBE (1968-69) would later become Chairman of the Bar Association of Hong Kong (1985-88), and also a member of the Executive Committee of Hong Kong set up by Chris Patten, its last British Governor. Another member of that group of lawyers, Mah Weng Kwai (1968), after a distinguished career in the Malaysian Judicial and Legal Service, was President of the Malaysian Bar for a time and is currently President of the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific and a Judge. Ian Carlson (1967), another law student, would become a judge in Hong Kong. Others would be partners of large law-firms or run their own. Engineering was also well represented among Netherhall students. Two engineers from among them would be involved in running the railways of their respective countries: Jo Maduekwe (1965), Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation from 1991 to 1995; Peter Mbunu Kigira (1976) would be in charge of a section of Kenyan railways. Others ran engineering firms, like Max Walumbe (1973) who was in charge of Geomax engineers in Nairobi, or Chow Kok Fong (1978), from Singapore, who, as head of projects for City Developments Limited, would be in charge of the construction of the tallest building in Singapore.

Many Netherhall residents studied economics. The late Godfrey Kassim Owango (1969-71), became head of the Agricultural Society of Kenya, and later President of its Chamber of Commerce, while in charge of Milligan & Co in Nairobi. Yeoh Eng Khoon, who lived in Netherhall in the late 1970s, went on to run the largest private Palm Oil firm in Malaysia. Investment and banking would also attract a good number of Netherhall students, many although not all, from the Far East. The late Ghulan Rahman (1968) was Chief Financial Controller for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. A few residents became active in politics. Alfred Diettre Spiff (1965), who had studied Naval Architecture, was Governor of Rivers State, Nigeria; the late Sailoisi Kepa, from Fiji, was for a while his country’s High Commissioner in London, later Attorney General and by 1999 Ombudsman; Anu Patel (1971-72), another Fijian resident, became a Senator; while Tan Seng Giaw (1973), a doctor, became a Malaysian Member of Parliament, and Freddie Long (1969-71), a barrister, would be for many years a Member of Johore State Legislative Assembly and until recently Minister of Tourism and the Environment there; Prof. Peter Nyot Kok (1975), Chairman of the South Sudan Law Society, was Minister of Higher Education until 2007; and Mak Sai Yiu (1977) became Assistant Commissioner of Labour in Hong Kong.

Netherhall former residents who followed a career in academia include Gilbert Onwu (1965), Professor at Ibadan University, Nigeria; Mohan Ranaweera (1977), who went on to teach law in Colombo; Augustine Chong (1960), the first Singaporean resident, who became Professor of Physics in Singapore, where other residents, like Louis Ta (1970-74), Joon Eng Chua (1979 & 1982), and Steven Chew (1976) also taught at the University. In South Africa, Prof. Francis Antonie (1973) was for some years Head of the School of Public Management at the University of Witwatersrand, and has been recently appointed Director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, founded in honour of the celebrated anti-apartheid campaigner of that name with the aim of strengthening South African democracy by promoting liberty and equality, individual human rights and respect for the needs of the poor and powerless.

“A Home from Home”

In an interview of 7 January 1967 with Tad Szulc of the New York Times, St Josemaría spoke about the work of Opus Dei in some Englishspeaking countries. He mentioned the work carried out by university halls of residence run by Opus Dei, providing “not only a place to stay but numerous activities to complete students’ human, and spiritual training”. He went on to single out Netherhall House for special mention because of its international character: “students from more than fifty countries [close to a hundred, in fact] have lived there. Many of them are non-christian, since Opus Dei’s houses are open to all without any racial or religious discrimination”[69]. This had been very much the case of Netherhall since it first opened its doors, but it was particularly so from the mid-1960s onwards. The efforts of the Directors’ Committee had been focused, from the start, on trying to create a family atmosphere, and integrating people from very diverse cultures, races and religious beliefs. The remarkable success of Netherhall in so doing was due to many different factors. The Management Committee, and visitors to the hall, noted and remarked upon the effect that sharing meals together and the care of the material conditions of the house played in bringing people together[70]. The residence offered full board at a time when halls of residence for students in London were often not doing so, and many were not even providing breakfast or were contemplating the possibility of not offering it[71]. Netherhall House provided a “home from home”, and the students from overseas were, perhaps, the ones to appreciate it best, as the most likely to experience isolation in Great Britain because of the separation from family, friends and habitual environment. The holiday periods made an important contribution to helping them feel particularly at home and to deepening cohesion in the diverse body of Netherhall residents. During the years under consideration, few overseas residents returned to their countries of origin for the Christmas or Easter holidays because of the high cost of air transport and their own economic situation. The result was that, at times, there were over fifty residents staying for the holidays, and the festive atmosphere and increased contact among them served as a very powerful integrating factor.

In a sense, although Netherhall did not provide directly academic teaching and training, it resembled more a traditional college in a collegiate university than a mere hall of residence offering sleeping accommodation for students, as tended to be the case elsewhere in London. St Josemaría insisted that from the first the residence should have an intense cultural life, and that adequate facilities for it—common rooms, auditorium and so on—should be provided[72]. The hall organised from the very beginning a wide range of activities to help broaden the students general outlook on a whole range of topics and to overcome the often narrow specialization of their university or professional studies: seminars and talks on specific topics, discussion groups, music recitals and so on. As the 1965-66 brochure put it, the policy of the residence was “to foster as far as possible frequent contact between the students and those who have made headway in the world, particularly in the professions.” This took place specially through the Evening Guest Speakers—more after-dinner talks than formal lectures—that were organised on weekly or fortnightly basis. Prestigious personalities from academia, the political and business worlds, the arts, sport and other fields shared their experience and knowledge with the residents in an informal setting that fostered a lively exchange between speaker and students. These talks tended to be both informative and formative, insofar as the speakers served as inspiration for professional work done with competence and concern for ethical standards. They were normally well attended, and numbers naturally increased considerably in the case of some particularly important or popular personalities[73]. The list of speakers invited over the years is a very large one indeed and it includes former residents returning to speak to their successors in the hall. The members of the Directors’ Committee were immediately involved in the invitation and follow-up of the speakers. The Management Committee, conscious of the formative importance of this activity, followed with great interest the list of speakers and progress of the talks, making suggestions and providing contacts with new possible invitees.

The students themselves played an important role in organizing activities in and from Netherhall, especially through the House Committee elected by the residents themselves. It worked as a channel for the initiative of the residents with respect to the operation of the residence and for planning and running many different activities. Among them, in the international atmosphere of Netherhall, the House Committee organised traditional national celebrations like those for the Chinese and Iranian New Year or for the Hindu Deepawali. By the initiative of the law students there took place in the 1970s and 1980s some mock trials involving most of the house and presided over by a senior barrister or even a Queen’s Counsel acting as judge. A particularly interesting one was a re-enactment jointly by historians and law students of the State trial of Charles I of England. This involvement of the residents in the running of the hall could not fail to be noticed by outsiders, and, in the June 1970 meeting of the Wardens of International Halls hosted by Netherhall, the other wardens, having remarked upon the excellent material care of the residence, expressed their admiration for the number of tasks undertaken by the House Committee[74].

The students’ attachment to Netherhall was shown in different ways over the years, besides and beyond their participation in the life and activities of the hall. In 1964, the house diary speaks of a couple of residents of modest resources from the West Indies and Ghana who, wanting to remain in Netherhall “because of the homely and good atmosphere”, were working nights at the Post Office in order to pay for their stay[75]. At other times, the names of the residents appear in the diary because of their involvement helping with the organisation of many activities, doing repairs around the house or assisting in the running of Netherhall Boys’ Club. The picture, as might be expected, is not uniformly bright. The diaries also mention that when demands were being made of the residents, some rose to the occasion while others did not respond positively. In June 1965, when the new buildings were soon to be occupied and Netherhall was to receive a considerable number of foreign students, it was put to the existing residents that, if they wanted to return the following academic year, they would be expected to make a greater contribution to the integration of residents from overseas, contributing to the family atmosphere of the hall, participating more fully in the activities being organised, and so on. The diary, rather laconically, adds: “some said they did not wish to return”[76].

A few years later, in 1968, while the second phase of the Netherhall development was being prepared, a group of oriental students wrote in support of applications for funds being made to some companies connected with the Far East, stressing that what “strikes residents and visitors to the House is the truly informal family atmosphere one finds here, an atmosphere which has succeeded in transforming it from a mere Hall of Residence to a home”, contributing to an important work of international understanding[77]. Another telling instance of the residents’ appreciation and support for Netherhall took place in 1982, when the hall found itself in a serious problem of liquidity because of a deficit for the year of some twenty thousand pounds. The directors asked students to make loans to the house, raising over six thousand pounds in less than twenty-four hours[78].

The letters of individual residents tend to be more personal and less formal in the expression of their indebtedness to Netherhall House. An Iranian former resident, when sending Christmas greetings, would write: “I always loved the Christmas atmosphere in Netherhall. I wish I were with you. Although I left Netherhall over fifteen years ago I still have strong sentiments toward, what I call, the Netherhall family”[79]. Peter Nyot Kok, from Sudan, manifested his appreciation for the “most gentle and friendly attitude you have shown to me. I certainly regard all this as a valuable enrichment of my experience in the U.K. in the face of which I have not yet found how to express my thankfulness adequately”[80]. The words of the dental surgeon Jacob Kaimenyi, writing from Kenya to tell of his promotion to a senior lectureship in Nairobi (he is now Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi), encapsulate what many had found in the residence: “I am sure that whoever comes to Netherhall House gets a golden chance of seeing UNITY in diversity and also LOVE IN PRACTICE. People from different parts of the world are exposed to how they should live as brothers, despite their differences in COLOUR, CREED OR RACE”[81].

This respect for diversity has always been particularly noticeable in the field of religious beliefs. The application forms of Netherhall residents show a great variety of religious affiliations. A majority tended to be Christians, mostly Catholic, but other religious denominations have been well represented (Muslims and Hindus in particular), and the catering staff of the residence undertook the task of providing for the different dietary requirements of each particular religious group: no beef, no pork, after-dark meals in Ramadan, and so on. There were also a fair number of students who claimed not to have any religion, and it is significant that the majority of these tended to be from the Far East, mostly of Chinese or Japanese origin[82]. The Summer term of 1971 might serve as a sample of the religious diversity to be found in Netherhall: there were forty Roman Catholic residents; the second largest group, with ten, had no religion; there were nine Hindu students and as many Muslims; seven Anglicans and eight Christians of other denominations; four Buddhists; two Sikhs and two Zoroastrians; lastly, one of the residents described himself as a freethinker and another as indifferent. The years 1965 to 1977 were the period of the greater number of non-Catholic and non-Christian residents, with substantial numbers of Muslim and Hindu students: 1975 to 1977 registered the largest numbers of Muslim (thrity-two) and Buddhist (fourteen) students, while 1971 to 1973 saw the peak of Hindu residents (twenty-one). After 1977, the general fall in numbers of overseas students in British Universities, because of rising fees, also had some impact on the religious composition of Netherhall. All Christian denominations and non-Christian religions were still represented but the number of non-Christian students was dramatically reduced. These numbers, as might be expected, fell even further when the closing of n. 18 in 1984 reduced the capacity of the residence to forty-eight[83].

Perhaps the aspect that non-Catholic and non-Christian residents seem to have appreciated most from a spiritual point of view was the fact that Netherhall offered an atmosphere in which religious and spiritual values were highly prized and religious differences respected, creating a favourable environment in which to live one’s faith, Christian or otherwise. Harry Gunasingham (1973), a Hindu from Sri Lanka, stressed the atmosphere of religious respect in the residence, and wanted to replicate it in the Hindu Tamil communities of Southern India, with which he is deeply involved. I.K. Turay, from Sierra Leone, while thanking the residence for their assistance during his stay at Netherhall, added how he appreciated that “regardless of the religious differences, you accommodated me and made me feel at home”[84]. On his part, Ali, a Shia-Muslim from Pakistan, back in his country, would write to the director of Netherhall wanting to share with his friends in the residence the joy at his good fortune in having become engaged to a girl, also a devout Shia-Muslim[85]. A Hindu resident, Shanji Gatsuyaka, after leaving the residence, wrote to say how during his stay at Netherhall, he had “very much enjoyed the holy days of Easter. Although I’m not a Christian, I like the religious atmosphere and the pious people”, adding that, having stayed at Netherhall during Christmas, he would like to stay at Netherhall during Easter, if that were to be possible[86].

The hall offered Catholic spiritual and doctrinal activities which were open to both residents and non-residents, Catholic or not. The students were free to attend, if they so wished. Many did so. A sample study of the Netherhall diary shows frequent references to non-Catholics and even non-Christians attending classes of Catholic doctrine, either in groups or individually, and being present at Midnight Mass at Christmas or at the Easter Triduum ceremonies. The custom of paying a pilgrim visit to a shrine of our Lady during May—saying a part of the Rosary on the way, another in the shrine itself, and a third on the way back—seems to have attracted people of most faiths, including an atheist Bulgarian lecturer resident for a time in the hall. In such an atmosphere, it was to be expected that some residents would become interested in the Catholic faith. The Netherhall diary mentions the names of a good number of them and also permits following the progress of particular individuals from an initial show of interest in the faith to the moment when they were baptized or received into the Church. Other names disappear from the pages of the diary and, in these cases, it is difficult to know whether they continued receiving instruction in the Catholic faith and whether or not they were received or baptized in Netherhall or elsewhere. From the early 1960s to the present there are records of about thirty-seven people being baptized or received into the Church, although there is good reason to doubt whether this is in fact the full number of residents and friends who converted during their association with the hall. Looking at the converts, it appears that the majority were originally non-Catholic Christians, and a good number of them British. As far as the overseas students are concerned, there is a great variety of provenances and original religious convictions but most of converts are from the Far East—from Hong Kong in particular—and, before becoming Catholics, they seem to have nominally professed a traditional (mostly Buddhist) non-Christian faith or no faith at all.

There are no records extant of Hindu or Muslim residents being baptized during their stay at Netherhall. Hindu ideas about the validity of different religious experiences and beliefs made it relatively easy for Hindu residents to take a general interest in Christianity and participate in Christian religious events or celebrations, particularly at Christmas and Easter. On the other hand, this same religious philosophy might also tend to make conversion difficult. Muslim residents, for their part, seem to have been much more reticent in this respect. Both the exclusivity of Islam and the fact of being in close contact with other coreligionists in Netherhall may have contributed to a certain aloofness on their part from Christian doctrinal or spiritual activities[87]. The influence of the hall’s Christian atmosphere, however, did not seem to end with students leaving it. The record is, by its very nature, incomplete but a few stories may serve to illustrate the point. Almost forty years after leaving Netherhall, a Muslim resident of the 1960s, coming in contact with one of the Directors of Netherhall, mentioned that he was now a Christian and that he owed his faith to Netherhall. Ilyas Khan, a resident in 1980, would write thirty years later announcing his conversion to Catholicism: “The purpose of this e-mail is to say that the very very small flame that was ignited during those times has finally achieved its purpose of guiding my spirit to its rightful home. […] I have often thought of contacting someone at Netherhall […]. I doubt if anyone is still there from those days, but if so, I would be delighted if you could pass on my special thanks to them”[88]. The story of another former resident is perhaps more singular. Rajadurai Rajasingham, a Hindu by religion, had been a resident in the early 1970s. He was met in Kuala Lumpur in the mid-1990s by Neil Pickering who, after being a resident himself in the late 1960s, became secretary of Netherhall House (1973-77). In their conversation it transpired that during his stay in the residence, encouraged by Louis Ta, Rajadurai had started to visit the Oratory regularly: “the best thing in Netherhall”. Since leaving the hall, although not a Christian, he had been attending Holy Mass daily, unaware of the fact that another of the daily Mass-goers at the same church—Thomas Poh—was also a former resident. That fresh encounter with people from Netherhall crystallised his decision to receive Baptism. In order to do so, he wanted to go back to Netherhall, where his faith had first begun to grow. After spending a few weeks in London, receiving formal instruction, he returned to Kuala Lumpur, and, when everything was ready for his baptism, he flew back to London and was baptized in the Oratory of Netherhall on 3 November 1999, Louis Ta and Thomas Poh being godparents by proxy[89].

St Josemaría had said that to pray for Great Britain was to pray for the world. That was true in more than one sense. As mentioned above, Western governments, Great Britain and the United States in particular, viewed education as a key factor in the social and economic development of newly independent countries, and as a means to retain their influence in those nations, while resisting Marxist penetration. It was obvious that the number of students from post-colonial countries in Western universities were not enough to create the educated base necessary for national development at all levels. The Ditchley Foundation meeting, quoted above, also stressed the shortage of students with A-level qualifications in Eastern Africa and in other parts of the continent, and how this fact restricted the supply of students from those regions to overseas universities and also tended to depress the local institutions of higher education set up in their countries of origin. The situation was such that in the early 1960s Makerere University in Uganda and Royal College in Kenya were accepting students for A-level studies. The dearth of well-qualified teachers underlying this problem required foreign teachers to supply this need until those countries could provide their own. Members of Opus Dei, while trying to expand Netherhall residence to accommodate more overseas students, were also promoting Strathmore Sixth Form College in Nairobi. Strathmore aimed at bridging the gap between school education and the university, affecting in particular African students. The college, the first interracial school in East Africa, obtained the backing of the pre-independence Kenyan government and started its operations in 1961[90]. Netherhall House was involved to a certain extent in the early years of Strathmore. The international atmosphere of Netherhall put British and other European students in contact with those coming from newly independent countries and with their social and economic needs, and this awoke in some a desire to contribute to the development of those new nations. Jeremy White was one of the first to move to Nairobi. He had been received into the Church at Netherhall on 15 August 1960, while still a student at Cambridge, and he expressed his desire to join Opus Dei immediately afterwards. He was then told to wait for a while, as he had only just become a Catholic. Jeremy’s desire to join the staff of Strathmore College, however, was not subject to delay. He went to Strathmore in January 1961 and it was there that he joined Opus Dei. After working at Strathmore for a good number of years he moved to Nigeria, where he taught history at university, to help start the work of Opus Dei in that country. Strathmore also attracted other British people connected with Netherhall. Patrick Bennett David joined Jeremy at Genoa, while about the same time David Hogg, a Supernumerary, had set off on his journey to Nairobi by land. Peter McDermott, who had been attending means of spiritual formation at Netherhall around 1960-61, and would later become a Supernumerary, went for the start of the second academic year in March 1962, as did Jim Cavanna, a graduate from Oxford, and Santos Amer, a Numerary who had done his PhD in Physics at Cambridge. Both Jim and Santos would die in Nairobi in July 1963, in a car accident, while coming back from a rugby match. Other people associated with Netherhall would follow them over the years. In June 1980 Lars Nilson, a Swede who had been received into the Church at Netherhall, went to teach at Strathmore College Accountancy School (opened in 1966). Santiago Eguidazu, another Netherhall resident, joined Strathmore in 1983. He would die in August 1987, during a school trip to Mombasa, trying to save a pupil in difficulties while swimming in the sea. In time, a number of former Strathmore students would become residents of Netherhall House during their university studies in London.

St Josemaría had foreseen that the residents would also grow in appreciation for the spirit of Opus Dei and that some of them would help the expansion and development of the Work in their countries of origin or elsewhere, whether simply as friends or as members of the Work. This would in fact be the case from the very beginning. Professor Saito, one of the earliest Netherhall residents, was the one who received at the airport the first member of Opus Dei who went to Japan to start the apostolic work there. In other cases, the students themselves would be the ones bringing the spirit of Opus Dei to their countries of origin and asking the Work to start apostolic activities there. Thomas Poh, who had joined Opus Dei before his return to Malaysia, was protagonist of the first steps of the Work in that country, together with other ex-Netherhall residents. Stephen Lee and Anthony Chan, from Hong Kong, joined Opus Dei while in Netherhall and, the first already ordained a priest, were among those who took part in the early years of the apostolic work of the Prelature in Hong Kong. Michael Chan (1978-80), from Malaysia, after studies in Rome and ordination as a priest of the Prelature, returned to South East Asia, working first in the Philippines and later in Singapore. In more recent times, Peter Herbert, who had been director of Netherhall from 1988 to 1996, went to Hong Kong, where he worked in a school; he then moved to Taiwan, and, after some years there, has recently returned to Honk Kong to be headmaster of the school where he had previously taught.

Although an attempt to complete the second phase of Netherhall House had been made immediately after building the first phase of the project, the result of the fundraising drive at the time had been disappointing and the realisation of the second phase had had to be postponed. In the 1980s it could not be put off any longer. In 1983, the number of available places in the residence was reduced because of the structural conditions of n. 18 Netherhall Gardens. Some rooms were put out of use in order to carry out repairs in them and the capacity of the hall of residence was cut to seventy-five places. Worse was to follow. A structural investigation of the building reported that n. 18 was no longer safe for occupation because of subsidence and related problems. In the Autumn of 1984 Netherhall House was left, therefore, with only forty-eight study bedrooms, in the new building. As a result, the precarious economic situation of the residence in the previous fifteen years became now untenable, and only substantial subsidies from the parent charity helped keep it afloat. The building of second stage was imperative, and the planning for it started as a matter of priority. The years of planning for the second phase, the campaign to obtain the financial means for building it, its opening, and the life in the hall of residence after 1984 are beyond the scope of this article and will be told elsewhere. The strong Commonwealth dimension of Netherhall House, however, has continued during what we have called its third period, and it is significant in this respect that the first stone of the new building project was laid by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, on 1 November 1993 (the anniversary of the opening of the first phase of new buildings in 1966 by the Queen Mother), in the presence of a number of Ambassadors and High Commissioners[91] from the Commonwealth and other countries.

The years 1960 to 1984 witnessed the development of a truly international and multicultural community of students at Netherhall House. The analysis of the provenance of the students and the functioning of the hall of residence appear to show that during those years the Commonwealth dimension of Netherhall had fulfilled to a considerable degree the original expectations of the British Council, the London County Council, and of the promoters of the hall.

James Pereiro. Member of the History Faculty of Oxford University. He has published extensively on ecclesiastical history of the nineteenth century. Among his main publications are Cardinal Manning. An intellectual Biography (OUP 1998) and Ethos and the Oxford Movement (OUP 2008). At the moment he is coediting The Oxford Handbook of the Oxford Movement.



[1] Until 1949 the expression British Commonwealth was used to describe the group of countries which were united as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and owed allegiance to the British Crown. In 1949 India’s recent independence and its constitution as a republic, while intending to continue as a member of the Commonwealth, led to the introduction of a change of name and character by the “London Declaration” of 26 April 1949: from then on it was to be officially known as the Commonwealth of Nations.

[2] The article is based mainly on archival material and also on oral interviews of former directors of Netherhall House. The records connected with the present subject are far from complete, particularly those of Government and other official bodies. Gaps in the archival record have been noted in the footnotes. In the search for materials the author has incurred many debts of gratitude. Dr Andrew Hegarty made available to the author some of the results of his archival research; Richard Temple, the Archivist of London University, offered friendly help in tracing particular documents and in searching for others, some of them untraceable; Miss A. Carter did a similar job at the British Council. Thanks are also due to the archivists at The National Archives, London (TNA), and the General Archive of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei in Rome (AGP). I must also thank the Regional Commission of Opus Dei in Great Britain, the directors of Netherhall House and of Netherhall Educational Association for allowing me to use documents in their keeping. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography contains entries on some of the individuals mentioned in this article.

[3] See Testimonials of Juan Antonio Galarraga Ituarte and of Richard A. P. Stork, AGP A-212-3-1 and AGP A-243-3-14.

[4] “Esta Inglaterra, bandido, è una grande bella cosa! Si nos ayudáis, especialmente tú, vamos a trabajar de firme en esta encrucijada del mundo: rezad y ofreced, con alegría, pequeñas mortificaciones” (AGP A.3-4, 271-3, c-580800-3).

[5] “Rezad, poned como siempre a Nuestra Madre Santa María por intercesora, y veremos grandes trabajos de nuestro Opus Dei realizados en esta encrucijada de la tierra, para bien de las almas de todo el mundo” (AGP A.3-4, 271-3, c-580813-1).

[6] See Letter of R. O’Brian to Mr Neville, 29 February 1952, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[7] It was later arranged that the final transfer of the title deeds was to take place when the bank mortgage had been repaid or the guarantee given by the diocese released (letter of R. O’Brian to M. Richards, 11 November 1953, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain). Although the acquisition of numbers 16 and 18 had been facilitated by the favourable conditions offered by the sellers, the mortgage repayments would be in future years a heavy burden on the hall of residence.

[8] See William Roger Louis – Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Decolonization”, in William Roger Louis (ed.), Ends of British Imperialism. The Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization, London, Tauris, 2006, pp. 459-60.

[9] The British government considered that Christianity had a fundamental role to play “in keeping Africans orientated towards western ideals”. The churches were deeply involved in education in those countries (PREM 11/2587; PREM 11/2586 and PREM 11/2588, Macmillan Cabinet Papers 1957-1963, Digital Edition, TNA, London); see also the essay by Philip Murphy, “Decolonisation under Macmillan”, in the same digital edition.

[10] CO 1027/357, p. 7, TNA, London. The National Archives catalogue the documents preserving the reference given them in their departments of origin, in this case the Colonial Office; T (followed by a numeric reference) stands for the Treasury, ED for the Department of Education, BC for the British Council and FO for the Foreign Office.

[11] As Amadou Hampaté Ba would put it: “It is not the old wise Africa which is talking to you today but the Africa which is the product of your thinking. Our leaders only repeat what you Europeans have taught them”. Quoted in Walter Kolarz, “Religion and Communism in Africa”, The Heythrop Journal 3 (3), 1962, p. 222.

[12] See CO 1027/357, pp. 9, 21, 23, 34, TNA, London.

[13] See The Times, 15 June 1962, p. 8.

[14] See Statistics of Education. Part 3: 1965, London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1967, pp. 120 and 133. In 1953-54 there were also 2,551 overseas part-time students (24.3% of the total); in 1964-65 the number was 4,065 (28.1 % of total). These figures were subject to adjustment in later statistical studies.

[15] It is difficult to get an accurate picture of the situation. In 1967 London had a full-time university student population of 30,396. Of these, after a considerable effort in previous years to promote halls of residence, only 7,485 students were resident in colleges or halls. Statistics of Education: Universities, 1967, Vol. 6. London, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office. 1969, p. 11.

[16] During the 1950s and 1960s, the expansion of atheistic Communism was a concern generally shared by Christian churches and, within the Catholic Church, by the Vatican, Catholic Bishops, clergy, and laity. For an introduction to the subject see Dianne Kerby (ed.), Religion and the Cold War, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2003.

[17] The Memorandum is attached to Lord Perth’s minute of 9 August 1960, CO 1028/98, TNA, London.

[18] Mr T.H. Baldwin, at the Treasury, met them on 12 August, writing in his memorandum: “The little I know of ‘Opus Dei’ has led me to expect a high calibre and Dr Masiá did not disappoint expectations. To meet a cultivated European of his sort induces regret that the influence of Europe in world affairs should have declined in favour of East and West” (Memorandum 17 August 1960, CO 1028/98, TNA, London); see also Minute of interview of Fr Burke and Juan Masiá with Mr Cockram, of the Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO) (Minute 60/16-9, dated 16 Sept 1960, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain), who insisted on the importance of welcoming students from the Commonwealth and praised the Netherhall project; see also Minute of interview of Fr Burke with Mr Stone, of the Colonial Office, in charge of the colonial students, who said that that the project would have the wholehearted support of his office (Minute 60/28-9, dated 28 September 1960, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain). Fr Burke and Dr Masiá also met some officials at the British Council, specially Miss Nancy Parkinson (Home Controller) and Mr Stephen Bach (Assistant Home Controller).

[19] See Minute of meeting with Mr. T. H. Baldwin, of the Colonial Office, on 12 August 1960, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[20] See Minute of meeting on 26 January 1961, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[21] See Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, 1960-61, vol. 635 (February 20 to March 3), cols 1724-1725.

[22] See Minute of C.W.M. Cox, 1 November 1960, CO 1028/98, TNA, London.

[23] See D.M. Smith’s minutes, 19 and 27 January 1961, CO 1028/98, TNA, London.

[24] See CO 1028/98.

[25] Mr Cockram had already mentioned in the interview of 1 September that the funds would be distributed among the different denominations in such a way as not to give rise to complaints of favouritism. As a matter of fact, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the Methodist Church would absorb close to fifty per cent of the funds in the first couple of years of operation of OSWEP.

[26] See Minute by Lord Perth, 16 March 1961, CO 1028/98, TNA, London.

[27] Sent to Fr Burke with a covering letter from R.Washbourn (Assistant Controller III, Home Division) dated 15 September 1961, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[28] See documents filed in the Regional Commission of Great Britain. The Netherhall development intended to provide some 130 new places. The project involved the demolition of the Victorian buildings used since 1952-53 for the hall of residence.

[29] Report to Card. Godfrey (November 1961), Godfrey Papers, Westminster Diocesan Archives, London.

[30] Thirty three applications had been approved in principle by March 1962 (T 277/1162, TNA, London).

[31] See Nancy Parkinson to Douglas Logan, 13 October 1961 (Uncatalogued Box 236, file 4, London University Archive). The file contains the correspondence of the British Council with the University about the OSWEP applications. The above letter has a note pencilled on it, saying that a copy of the letter was in the Opus Dei file. In spite of the efforts of the Archivist, Richard Temple, we have not been able to locate this file.

[32] In the case of Mgr Coonan’s application to OSWEP, London University consulted Mgr Tomlinson, the University Catholic Chaplain; a report of his positive answer may be seen in the folder mentioned in note 31. Mgr Tomlinson must have also been consulted in respect to Netherhall, as this was the procedure followed by the University.

[33] See Minutes of OSWEP Meetings (61) 7th and (61) 8th, T 277/1065, pp. 1-2 and ED 46/1041, pp. 1-2, TNA, London.

[34] B. Cockram, in February 1961—before the plan for expanding the provision of accommodation for overseas students had been announced by the government—had already mentioned the possibility that the publicity surrounding the Oxford project could adversely affect the application for funds to the British Council (Minute 27 February 1961, AGP G-793).

[35] See Minute 1 Dec. 1961, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain. See also the report sent to Card. Godfrey (undated), Godfrey Papers, Westminster Diocesan Archives, London.

[36] See Card. Godfrey to Fr Cormac Burke, 30 November 1961, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[37] The “document” referred to was in fact an article first published in Studi Cattolici 24 (May-June 1961) and later in English, in pamphlet form: Julian Herranz, Opus Dei. The pamphlet had been sent together with a reprint of an article by José Luis Illanes, “The Political Activity of Catholics in Modern Spain”, published in the Wiseman Review (Autumn 1961).

[38] Both letters can be found in ED 46/1041, which also contains a photocopy of Card. Godfrey’s letter to Fr Burke.

[39] See OSWEP (62/1), T 277/1163, p. 1-2, TNA, London.

[40] See Minute Brit 48/62, dated 21 February 1962, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[41] See OSWEP (62/2), T 277/1163, pp. 1-2, TNA, London. The National Catholic Chaplaincy did not exist as a corporate body. Some chaplains—Oxford and Manchester—had expressed their objections; others, like Coonan, were openly supportive, and the Cardinal thought that the chaplain of London University was in favour of the Netherhall project.

[42] See Lord Perth to Card. Godfrey, 25 April 1962, Godfrey Papers, Westminster Diocesan Archives, London.

[43] See Sir Hugh Fraser to Mgr Derek Worlock, 5 June 1962, and Worlock to H. Fraser, 8 June 1962; both in Godfrey Papers, Westminster Diocesan Archives, London.

[44] OSWEPhadalsorecommendednottomentiontheopinionoftheuniversity,asithadbeen obtained in confidence. Mgr Tomlinson had officially maintained a positive approach to Opus Dei, seemingly because of the Cardinal’s interest in it, and had told Mgr Worlock how pleased he was “to find all the residents of Netherhall House at the University Mass at Soho each Sunday” (Mgr Worlock to Bishop of Salford, 16 Dec. 1960, Godfrey Papers, Westminster Diocesan Archives, London). He seems to have acted differently in private. Although we have found no documentary evidence in this respect, it might be assumed that he did not recommend the Netherhall project when asked about it by London University in 1961. Later, in 1963, he refused to provide a letter in support of the new application for an OSWEP grant. Archbishop Heenan, although disappointed at Tomlinson’s refusal, felt that to write personally to the University would leave Tomlinson in a bad light; he intended to write to Tomlinson, saying that he considered the project important (Minute of meeting of J. Masiá and C. Burke with Archbishop Heenan at the English College (Rome), 14 October 1963, AGP G-793).

[45] See Minute of Mgr Worlock, 12 July 1962, Westminster Diocesan Archives, Godfrey Papers.

[46] See Report of CRO and BC, T 317/298, TNA, London. The problem had become evident already in 1962 (see ED 46/1041, TNA, London).

[47] Lord Perth had agreed to be Chairman of the Committee for the appeal to the British Council but he felt that sponsoring fundraising outside the British Council would involve him in a conflict of interests vis-à-vis fund raising for Hinsley House (Lord Perth to C. Burke, 30 April 1963, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain). During its early years the Committee would also include Bernard Audley (Businessman), H. BartSmith (Solicitor), John Branagan (Vice-Chairman LCC), Thomas F. Burns (Publisher), Sir William Carron (Trade Unionist), Professor C.E. Dent (University College London), John Harvey (Barrister, Middle Temple), Eileen Hoare (LCC), Sir Hugh Linstead (Conservative MP), the Earl of Longford (Lord Privy Seal), Robert Mellish (Labour MP, Housing Minister), George F. Taylor (Banker), Sir Philip de Zulueta (Private secretary for foreign affairs to three consecutive Conservative Prime Ministers, 1955-64).

[48] See Cormac Burke to Lord Perth, 27 May 1963, and Perth to Burke, 10 June 1963, which are kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[49] See Minutes (undated) which are kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[50] See Sir Douglas Logan to Miss N. Parkinson, AGP G-798.

[51] See Minutes 8 November 1963 and 15 January 1964, AGP G-793. The delay seems to have been due to the fact of its being an application with a “past history”.

[52] See Lord Carrington to Lord Perth, 13 March 1964, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain.

[53] No records of the meetings of OSWEP dealing with the second Netherhall application have been found in TNA. The search in the British Council Archive, under the Freedom of Information Act, did not produce positive results: the OSWEP box entitled InterDepartmental Committee was almost empty; it only contained two folders unconnected with the Inter-Departamental Committee and OSWEP meetings.

[54] See John Frankenburg to Titmus, Sainer & Webb, 16 April 1964, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain. The agreement between the British Council and Netherhall Educational Association was signed on 27 October 1966. As it has already been mentioned, the delays in finalising the grants were due to the many details to be sorted out and the guarantees required by the British Council; these delays had been blamed for the financial difficulties encountered by some of the approved projects.

[55] See F.W. Lucas (LCC) to C. Burke, 23 January 1964; Burke to Lord Perth, 6 January 1963 [sic], Netherhall Educational Association, Wallet 5.

[56] The ministerial approval was communicated to LCC on 18 August 1964 (J. Mills to Clerk of LCC, Netherhall Educational Association). The original application was for £475,000. The LCC loan was £275,000 for the first phase of the project, and a further £200,000 for the second.

[57] AGP G-793.

[58] Netherhall House brochure 1977, p. [3].

[59] Both the Biafra war in Nigeria in the late 1960s and later the Idi Amin regime in Uganda in the 1970s created considerable problems for the students coming from those countries and Netherhall tried to help them in their plight.

[60] See Minutes of the Management Committee 1967-85, Netherhall House.

[61] Anthony Crosland was then Secretary of State for Education and Science in the Labour Government.

[62] The European Community regulations meant that students from its member countries were treated as nationals in all countries of the Community.

[63] See The Times, 6 February 1981. Prof. Ralf Dahrendorf, Director of the London School of Economics, speaking at Netherhall in 1979, had criticised the university policies of the Thatcher government and warned about a dramatic drop in the number of overseas students if the government were to go ahead with further increases in fees (Hampstead and Highgate Express, 26 October 1979).

[64] See University Statistics, vol I: Students and Staff for 1980, 1985-87 and 1993-94, University Statistical Record, London and Cheltenham, 1982, 1987, 1994; see also Richard Layard and Emmanuel Petoussis, Overseas Students’ Fees and Demand for Education, Centre for Labour Economics, London School of Economics, Discussion Paper n. 108, February 1982.

[65] See Director’s Report to Management Committee, December 1968, Netherhall House. The reasons for the reduction of places in Netherhall House in the 1980s are described on p. 50.

[66] See Residents Application Forms 1967-1985, Netherhall House.

[67] As was to be expected, un-sponsored students were to be the ones more affected by the rise in fees. The official bodies had been for a long time seriously concerned about the precarious situation of un-sponsored or private students, particularly from Africa. The number of scholarship students seems never to have been more than some 17-20% of the total number (a sample for 1963 may be found in the Report of the Colonial Steering Committee, T 317/298, Annex A, TNA, London).

[68] Aidan Morley, Netherhall News (Autumn 2000), p. 9.

[69] Josemaría Escrivá, Conversations with Mgr Escrivá de Balaguer, Shannon, Ecclesia Press, 1972, n. 56.

[70] Mr de Groot, from the British Council, who spoke at Netherhall on Tuesday 9 November 1971, mentioned how impressed he had been by the way the staff was run, while constant staff changes were a serious problem in other London halls of residence (Netherhall Diary, August 68 and May-November 71, AGP M 2.2-286-15). The Management Committee had remarked that the financial effort involved in providing high standards of meals and cleaning was high but was more than compensated by the catering department’s vital contribution to the general atmosphere of the house (Minutes of the Management Committee, 15 March 1983, Netherhall House).

[71] See Minutes of the Management Committee, 30 March 1976, Netherhall House.

[72] See AGP V-4927.

[73] Therearenodetailedrecordsofattendance;theonlyprecisenumericalreferencewehave found mentions that the talks attracted regularly some twenty-five to forty residents and friends in the early 1980s (Management Committee Minutes, 10 March 1983, Netherhall House).

[74] See Netherhall Diary, 19 April 9 September 1970, AGP M 2.2-440-11.

[75] See Netherhall Diary, 5 September 1964 6 March 1965, Dec 22, AGP M 2.2-286-10.

[76] Netherhall Diary, 7 March 28 September 1965, AGP M 2.2-268-11.

[77] Letter to J.F.E. Gilchrist, 5 April 1968, which is kept in the Regional Commission of Great Britain. The letter was signed by fifteen students from Singapore, Malaysia (Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak), Hong Kong, Korea and Burma; one of them was a member of the Executive Committee of the Great Britain Tamil Hindu Association.

[78] See Minutes of Management Committee, 15 March 1983, Netherhall House.

[79] Christmas card (no date), Netherhall House.

[80] Letter quoted in the 1977 Netherhall brochure.

[81] J. Kaimenyi to A. Hegarty, 3 August 1987, Netherhall House. The capital letters are Kaimenyi’s.

[82] See Residents Application Forms 1967-1985, Netherhall House.

[83] For the nationality and religion of the Netherhall residents see the application forms for the respective years in Netherhall House.

[84] I.K. Turay to B. Marsh, 20 May 1982, Netherhall House.

[85] See Ali R. to P. Herbert, 21 September 1990, Netherhall House.

[86] See Shanji Gatsuyaka to A. Hegarty, 20 May 1987, Netherhall House.

[87] The students committed themselves not to change the decoration of the bedrooms. This included a crucifix and an image of our Lady. Some Muslim residents did remove them on occasions; one of them is on record as having asked for permission to remove the crucifix in his room when kneeling in prayer towards Mecca, as the crucifix was on his line eastwards. Information received from Fr Bernard Marsh.

[88] I. Khan to P. Brown, 2 August 2010.

[89] I owe these two accounts to the oral testimony of Mr Neil Pickering, who was in contact with both former residents in question.

[90] The Times Educational Supplement published an article on Strathmore College on 30 March 1962, stressing the educational advantages of a sixth-form college, particularly in a Kenyan context. It presented a positive picture of the College, of its early success and integration policy. It is likely that this article, together with a pamphlet about Strathmore sent by Fr Burke to S.C.G. Bach on 17 January 1962, might have been brought to the notice of OSWEP when it was studying the second Netherhall application.

[91] Commonwealth nations exchange High Commissioners rather than Ambassadors.

The Early Days of Opus Dei in Boston as Recalled by the First Generation (1946-1956)

Abstract: This is a documentary account of the first trips members of Opus Dei made to Boston and Cambridge, Mass. (U.S.) and the subsequent development of the apostolate there, primarily among students and professors at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It covers the period between 1946 and 1956. The primary sources are personal recollections of those who met the Work there. These are supplemented by relevant material from Opus Dei’s internal publications and selected secondary works which provide the necessary cultural, intellectual, and religious context.

Keywords Josemaría Escrivá – Opus Dei – Harvard University – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Trimount – 1946-1956

Abstract: È la relazione del primo viaggio dei membri dell’Opus Dei alla volta di Boston e di Cambridge, Mass. (U.S.), e del successivo sviluppo del lavoro apostolico in primo luogo tra gli studenti e i professori dell’università di Harvard e del Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Il periodo preso in esame va dal 1946 al 1956. Le fonti primarie sono i ricordi personali di coloro che conobbero l’Opera in questi luoghi, completati da informazioni tratte dalle pubblicazioni interne dell’Opus Dei, e selezionate da altre opere che forniscono il necessario contesto culturale, intellettuale e religioso.

Keywords: Josemaría Escrivá – Opus Dei – Università di Harvard – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Trimount – 1946-1956


Concept and Method

The object of this study is to present in detail the beginning of the apostolate of the men of Opus Dei (Work of God) in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. It relies primarily on first person accounts, specifically the recollections—obtained between April and December 2004—of 24 of Opus Dei’s faithful who helped to establish the first men’s centers, Trimount House and, later, Elmbrook Residence, in metropolitan Boston. Their recollections were obtained mainly in writing, but also through oral interviews[1]. Contemporary articles and secondary materials provide supplementary and contextual information.

As most of the on-campus activities in the first years took place at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), this study focuses primarily on them. Some early residents of Trimount and Elmbrook attended other schools nearby and helped Opus Dei’s apostolate to expand in the Boston area and adjacent cities and states.

The sometimes extensive, sometimes brief recollections used in this study influence the narrative in many ways—most importantly, perhaps, in the emphasis given to persons who eventually felt a call to Opus Dei and asked for admission. But Opus Dei’s apostolic activities reached many more persons along with and through its early members. While most of those do not appear in this account, their participation helped them to live a more intense Christian life. By their own testimony in subsequent correspondence with friends in Opus Dei, many continued to benefit from the formation they received as residents or as visitors to Trimount House and Elmbrook, at activities the members of Opus Dei organized on campus, or simply from personal conversations.

Even at the time it would have been difficult or impossible to describe and calibrate the effects of all those apostolic efforts. It is not surprising, then, if many people merge into the background as this story is told fifty years later, while the recollections it weaves together come to life once again as their authors recall incidents in their own lives and in the lives of others with whom they associated[2].


A few introductory words need to be added about the period in American cultural, educational, and religious history that coincided with Opus Dei’s arrival in Boston. Historians have described the 1950s as a transition from the relative confidence and optimism that followed the Second World War to a “new age” that would bring insecurity and disruption to the nation, especially higher education.

American universities—notably those in the Boston area—shared conspicuously in the postwar prosperity. “It is important to recognize [this period] as… a unique chapter in the history of American higher education, when [Harvard] clearly understood and dutifully fulfilled its mission to acquire, deposit, and propagate genuine knowledge”. It was “the one moment in the twentieth century when Harvard succeeded in bringing together the best of instruction and the best of students”[3].

Something comparable occurred throughout academe in that period, and in a particular way, in Catholic educational circles. The long evolution of Catholic intellectual thought seemed to reach a kind of maturity and widespread acceptance in the middle of the twentieth century.

Metropolitan Boston was a logical place to “put out into the deep” soon after Opus Dei’s approval by the Church made it feasible to expand the apostolate to North America. When Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, the first successor of Opus Dei’s Founder, spent several days in Boston (Feb. 23-27, 1988) during a two-month visit to the United States and Canada, he could look back on 35 years of apostolic development: “I am very happy and grateful to God to be in Boston. From here, from its universities, have come people who did great good for your country—and others less so. You can be sure that I keep them very close to my heart”[4]. While in Boston, Bishop del Portillo prayed at the grave of Father José Luis Múzquiz (Father Joseph, as he was known in America), referring to him as “a solid foundation for the work of Opus Dei in this country”. Father Múzquiz was the first priest of Opus Dei to celebrate Mass in Boston’s first center (Trimount House, Christmas Eve, 1953).

In the 1950s the Boston metropolitan area numbered about three million inhabitants, most of them members of large families descended from Irish, Italian, German, and Portuguese immigrants, and dozens of other European, American, and Asian nationalities, along with a growing number of African Americans. Catholics comprised nearly fifty percent of the population and were immersed in the city’s cultural, professional, social, and political life; parishes with schools staffed by religious men and women were prominent in every neighborhood. It had been many generations since the first French Canadian bishop and priests arrived in the 18th century (Today two million Catholics live in greater Boston, about half of the four million total).

The Charles River, scene of recreational and competitive rowing, sculling, and sailing, separates the city of Boston from Cambridge, a community first settled at the same time as Boston in 1630. It was named for Cambridge, England, where its Puritan founders had studied. In 1950, the population of 120,000 ranged from distinguished professors to recent immigrants and included thousands of international students[5]. Some of those professors and students would play a prominent role in starting Opus Dei centers in the United States and other countries[6].

An Areopagus

Karol Cardinal Wojtyla came to Cambridge in the summer of 1976 to lecture on medieval Polish mysticism in the Harvard Divinity School[7]. He returned to Boston Common just three years later as Pope John Paul II during his first pastoral visit to the United States (Oct. 1, 1979). Later he began to use the concept “Areopagus” to indicate concentrations of intellectual and cultural influence like Cambridge where he thought a missionary outreach by members of the Church was especially needed: “After preaching in a number of places, St. Paul arrived in Athens, where he went to the Areopagus and proclaimed the Gospel in language appropriate to and understandable in those surroundings. At that time the Areopagus represented the cultural center of the learned people of Athens, and today it can be taken as a symbol of the new sectors in which the Gospel must be proclaimed”.[8]

Four years later the Pope reiterated: “The more the West is becoming estranged from its Christian roots, the more it is becoming missionary territory, taking the form of many different ‘areopagi’”. The younger generation must play a key role in this new evangelization, he added[9].

Fifty years earlier, José María González Barredo (Joseph, as he was known in the United States), was the first of Opus Dei’s members to arrive in the North American “areopagi” (1946). Barredo visited a number of cities, including Boston, before taking up residence in Chicago to prepare for the stable opening of the apostolate three years later when Father Múzquiz and Salvador Martínez Ferigle arrived from Spain. The first residence, Woodlawn, opened near the University of Chicago in September 1949 to begin the apostolate there and at nearby Illinois Institute of Technology.

Opus Dei’s apostolate expanded to Boston in 1952. Besides Harvard and M.I.T., eighty more colleges and universities attract thousands of students from throughout the United States and the world to metropolitan Boston—all the more reason, as Bishop del Portillo observed, for Opus Dei to work with the young people there.

The first steps—1946-53

Joseph Barredo

José María González Barredo visited Boston shortly after his arrival in the United States in March 1946 while searching for a place to use a three-year fellowship in theoretical physics granted by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. St. Josemaría had advised him to pursue his work in the United States so that he could make contacts and investigate the possibility of establishing Opus Dei centers in American cities.[10]

After a brief stay in New York City, Barredo spent the rest of the month traveling, getting to know a country still celebrating the return of peacetime, only to discover that a new kind of “cold war” darkened the prospects of peace. After meeting Msgr. Francesco Lardone[11], a specialist in canon law, at the Apostolic Delegation in Washington, Joseph made brief stops in Chicago and Boston before deciding to make New York his research base. He took a room at Columbia University’s International House and began to meet faculty members. Among them was historian Carlton J.H. Hayes[12], former U.S. Ambassador to Spain, who alerted him to the Boston area’s superior research facilities in his field.

Barredo followed this advice and made a trip to Harvard and M.I.T. He was warmly received and given a research position in the M.I.T. physics department, where he spent the remainder of the spring and summer, residing at Graduate House. Among others he met there was a professor of chemistry from Barcelona, Dr. Amat, also doing work at M.I.T. Barredo introduced himself to archdiocesan authorities, beginning with the secretary of Archbishop Richard Cushing, Msgr. John J. Wright, who would soon become Auxiliary Bishop (June 1947). What Barredo told Msgr. Wright about Opus Dei struck a chord with him, and the future Cardinal became a loyal friend and supporter of the apostolate in the United States[13].

In April, 1946 Barredo went to St. Benedict Center, located next to Harvard Square, to meet Father Leonard Feeney, S.J. who at the time had a large following among Catholic students and professors, and was famous for making converts. Through Father Feeney Barredo met Daniel Sargent, a well-known Catholic biographer and lecturer, who took a keen interest in Opus Dei and became one of its earliest friends and benefactors in the U.S. Father Feeney invited Barredo to speak about Isidoro Zorzano (1902-1943), one of the first members of Opus Dei, in the St. Benedict Center’s lecture series. This was an occasion to meet Harvard faculty members and students, and to distribute prayer cards for private devotion of Zorzano, whose cause of canonization was about to be introduced in Madrid. Barredo had known Zorzano in the early years of Opus Dei.

In the fall of 1946, Barredo moved to Washington and secured a research position at the National Bureau of Standards. He remained there about a year before taking a position in the laboratory of Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago in October 1947 (returning to Cambridge in spring 1948 as invited participant in a physics symposium at Harvard). On April 18, 1948 Barredo welcomed don Pedro Casciaro and two companions who had been sent to the U.S. by St. Josemaría to prepare the ground for Opus Dei’s apostolate in North America. Barredo accompanied them on some of their visits to various cities, including Boston.

Father Joseph Múzquiz

Fr. José Luis Múzquiz was the next member of Opus Dei to visit Boston— a few days after Barredo met him and Salvador Ferigle (known in the United States as Sal, and later Father Sal) upon their arrival in New York, Feb. 17, 1949[14]. While Ferigle remained in New York City, Barredo accompanied Father Múzquiz to Boston, where they spent two days calling on persons Barredo had previously met, including Bishop Wright. After similar visits in Washington, they rejoined Ferigle in New York and on Feb. 22 traveled by train to Chicago to begin the organized apostolate in the United States.

On numerous subsequent trips to Boston, Father Múzquiz continued to develop and broaden those initial contacts, assist with the apostolate, and become acquainted with the city, its universities, their students and professors. These trips were part of many journeys to meet people and deepen friendships wherever the apostolate would eventually spread.

The Pioneers

When the next members of Opus Dei arrived from Spain to take up residence in Boston at the beginning of 1952, a good number of persons had already learned of the Work and were hoping to see it open a center in Boston. Dr. Santiago Polo (who soon became known as Jim) was the first “permanent settler”. He took lodging near Harvard University—at 12 Ellery St. in Cambridge—in the boarding house of Mrs. Sullivan. Polo had received a two-year post-doctoral appointment to pursue research in spectroscopy at Harvard[15].

A few months later, Luis Garrido (who would be known as Louie) arrived from Spain to pursue a doctorate in physics at Harvard. Garrido and Polo rented an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, just across the Charles River from Cambridge. By then, John Loria, a married graduate student at M.I.T., had become friends with Polo, and helped find furnishings for the apartment. Loria was intrigued by the way these newcomers cheerfully reacted to the unfamiliar environment. Among other things, “they had very little to eat. Once when I went shopping with Louie, he bought only two large jars of marmalade; later I learned that bread and marmalade was their staple”[16]. They were on a limited budget because they were sending as much of their stipends as possible to help relieve the financial needs in Rome where construction of Opus Dei’s international headquarters was under way.

By fall 1952 Polo and Garrido had gotten to know several Harvard students including Bernard Law, the future Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, whose fluency in Spanish facilitated a friendship. Law introduced them to a number of his friends, including Bill Stetson, a junior in pre-law, and Bob Bucciarelli, a first year student in history[17]. Bucciarelli liked to talk with Polo and sometimes visited him in his lab. He recalls that one time they talked about why the Catholic Church should have schools of its own in the United States.[18] During that first year, Bucciarelli also met Stetson and some of his friends, primarily through gettogethers at Adams house where Stetson was living[19].

Polo and Garrido explained Opus Dei to Law. Around Christmas 1952 he decided to enter a diocesan seminary, which he did soon after his graduation in spring 1953[20]. In later years, he jokingly attributed his decision to follow a call to the priesthood instead of to Opus Dei to a poor meal he had been served in the Commonwealth Avenue apartment[21]. Before leaving Harvard, he asked Bucciarelli to “take care of” his two Spanish friends.

Meanwhile, Loria was continuing to meet regularly with Garrido and Polo at their apartment and in his home. Loria credits his wife Maria, whom he had met on active duty in the Philippines, with having kindled in him a new commitment to practice the faith, thus laying the groundwork for what was to come. He found in his new friends’ simple, ordinary path to sanctity exactly what he had been searching for: “I had a strong feeling that this was the answer to my search… Everything Jim said about Opus Dei seemed so clear and obvious… I was already going to daily Mass, but something was missing—an overall plan for my spiritual life. My wife and I had often spoken about the need for spiritual direction for lay people… It was Our Lady who heard these pleas and answered them”[22].

The Lorias had made their home in Cambridge—“by coincidence” at 13 Ellery, just across the street from Mrs. Sullivan’s boarding house—shortly after he returned from military service in 1947 to complete his program in aeronautical engineering at M.I.T. (B.S., 1950; M.S., 1952). Their third child was on the way.

One day in 1953, Loria asked Polo how many supernumerary members there were in the United States. “You would be the first one”, Polo responded. By then, Loria had met Father Múzquiz on one of his trips and was encouraged to pursue his formation. A few months later Loria decided to ask for admission. Father Múzquiz urged him, in a letter from Chicago, Nov. 6, 1953, to “talk with Jim. He will explain more things to you—and the more you know the more you’ll love it. Father Bill [Porras] is going to Boston in a few days and I’ll be going a little later”.

The First Residence

Polo and Garrido, assisted by John and Maria Loria, had begun sometime in 1952 to look for a suitable building to serve as a student residence but had made little progress, primarily for lack of money. The arrival in Boston of Fr. Guillermo Porras Muñoz, a recently ordained (1951) Mexican member of Opus Dei known in the United States as Father Bill, triggered a series of rapid steps that would lead to the opening of the first center of Opus Dei in the city[23].

Father Porras contacted Sol Rosenblatt, a Jewish attorney with a warm spot in his heart for Hispanic culture; Father Múzquiz had met him on an earlier trip to New York[24]. In the course of that meeting—the start of a long friendship with Opus Dei—Rosenblatt had offered to be of any help he could.

Father Porras phoned Rosenblatt to ask whether he knew anyone who might be willing to provide a second mortgage in order to buy a house. Rosenblatt asked the logical question: “How much money do you have to start with?” One can imagine his astonishment on hearing the young priest’s reply: “About a hundred dollars”. But when Father Porras heard Rosenblatt’s response: “Father, you can’t buy a house for a hundred dollars”, he retorted: “That’s why we need a second mortgage”. Recalling Father Múzquiz’s optimism and daring, and musing to himself that Opus Dei must really be a work of God if it operated on faith like that, the attorney put Father Porras in touch with a Boston colleague, Mrs. Louise Day Hicks, who might be able to help[25].

Mrs. Hicks, who belonged to an Irish Catholic family, was well connected and inclined to assist people in need[26]. She met with Father Porras, was impressed by his combination of seriousness and sincerity and by the importance of his mission, and put him in touch with the chancellor of the Archdiocese, Msgr. Walter Murphy, who the very next day sent a friend of his, Mildred Baird, a realtor, to meet with Father Porras. Miss Baird, too, was ready to help this idealistic young priest who wanted to bring a Catholic presence to the secular life of the community and its universities. She was undaunted by the fact that the members of Opus Dei had so little money. It was enough to see their intentions and to know that they had come with the blessings of the Archbishop[27].

In late November, Ms. Baird showed Father Porras two connected town houses at 22 and 24 Marlborough St., well situated in the Back Bay a short distance from the Public Garden and just across the Charles River from Cambridge and M.I.T. Members of Opus Dei had looked at this property earlier but rejected it as too expensive. Now however, Ms. Baird offered to donate her commission on the sale as part of the down payment and Msgr. Murphy provided the rest of the down payment. With that, the bank mortgage arranged by Rosenblatt, and a second mortgage from Mrs. Hicks, they were able to purchase the adjoining houses in December 1953[28].

This first center of Opus Dei in Boston would be called Trimount House[29]. It comprised two 5-storey brownstones with basements that had been in use as a boarding house. The 34 rooms and 15 baths were fully furnished, although many furnishings were so dilapidated they had to be discarded[30]. The first floor had high ceilings, and a long, broad staircase led to the second floor landing that opened into what would become the oratory in front and the study room in back.

The First Mass

Boston’s Archbishop, Richard J. Cushing, was “enthusiastic about the project and wrote to say that he saw a ‘real need’ for the apostolate of the Work and wanted to bless the house and say the first Mass”[31]. That ceremony was not to take place until things were better settled—in October 1954, after the oratory was properly installed.

Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in Trimount House on Christmas Eve, 1953 by Father Múzquiz, who traveled from Chicago for the occasion. It took place in the study room and was attended by several former residents of the boarding house who had stayed on, students from four universities, and early friends and benefactors, some of whom provided sacred vessels and vestments. The universities represented were Harvard, M.I.T., Boston University, and Tufts University Medical College[32]. As a reredos, John Loria’s sister-in-law, Joan Loria, painted a large copy of a classical painting of the Flight into Egypt[33].

Father Porras’s observations are reported in a written account, which concludes:

Some new fellows are coming around, and the apostolate increases day by day as we are able to give them the attention they deserve. From now on, our work… will be more stable. Among those who are closest, we are thinking we can start days of recollection. We have spoken with them, and soon they will form a select group… It’s a great feeling to be getting started in the city of Boston, although we were already here for some time. Trimount House is a great step forward in the apostolate—made possible by everyone’s prayers. It won’t be long before you hear more news from us, and it will fill you with joy to see how things are developing in the old capital on the three hills[34].

Getting organized—1954

Trimount House

Acquiring the house was a major step forward, but much remained to be done both to refurbish it and to organize the apostolic activities. José Manuel Barturen (first known in the U.S. as Mel and later as Manolo) arrived from Spain early in 1954 to serve as director[35]. About the same time, Dick Rieman arrived from Chicago to help put the house in order and meet students. A recent graduate of DePaul University and a Navy veteran, Rieman had become the first member of Opus Dei in the United States on July 15, 1950. After six months in Boston, he moved on to Rome to spend three years in Opus Dei’s international center of formation, the Roman College of the Holy Cross[36]. After his ordination in 1958 he returned to Trimount as “Father Dick”, the second chaplain of the residence. It was the beginning of his long and continuing association with the apostolate in Boston.

It was beyond their means to hire professional labor, except for the most indispensable tasks such as plumbing[37]. To do most of the work, the residents and their friends had to acquire new skills—restoring and repairing used furniture, masonry, painting, and varnishing. Throughout the spring of 1954, Barturen, Father Porras, Garrido, Polo, and Loria put a number of helpers to work. These included several Harvard students, among them Bucciarelli and Stetson[38].

Pedro (Peter) Ejarque arrived in the summer from Spain to join the work effort. Even Father José Ramón Madurga Lacalle (known in the U.S. as Father Ray), was pressed into service as he passed through Boston on his way to Chicago (he became the second Counselor of Opus Dei in the United States the following year). As Father Múzquiz put it, “since they were in a hurry to finish the remodeling, they greeted him with one hand and handed him a paintbrush with the other”[39].

The remodeling was well under way by late spring, but greatly hampered, as usual, by lack of money. Fund raising was a high priority. Many people were invited to visit the residence, in the hope that they would become interested enough to help financially. In April a prestigious Boston engineer introduced more than a dozen business associates to Trimount and encouraged them to help. They gathered in the sparsely furnished living room, shared a meal in the dining room, and before an informal get-together were given a tour of the house. Such “get-acquainted” sessions were repeated several times that year with a growing number of friends and benefactors[40].

One of the people met in that way was a used furniture dealer. He personally selected items he thought would give the residence an agreeable tone and a few days later returned with a truckload of dining room and parlor chairs, curtains, and other furnishings. Then another truck brought a dining room table, six sofas, and small items such as vases. “When we visit the store”, a contemporary account narrates, “we follow this procedure: ‘That piece is nice’. ‘Can you use it in the residence?’ ‘It might look nice in the hall’. ‘Well then, take it’”. Similar “negotiations” took place at other used furniture stores. Prices came down, and some pieces were donated: “If you don’t mind, we’ll send these right over”[41].

Sometimes help came from entirely unexpected quarters, apparently chance acquaintances whom they had no reason to expect help from. These were referred to as “angels”. One owned a plumbing company. Contacted for assistance in stopping leaks, he replaced defective bathroom fixtures at his own expense. Another was the president of an advertising company that maintains billboards along highways and on buildings. When they phoned him he promised to send painters, but then a late August hurricane damaged 340 billboards they had to repair or replace. Nevertheless, three African-American painters volunteered to help at night after their regular hours.

One way or another, when the fall semester began in September, Trimount had been renovated and refurnished by the people of the Work, friends, and “angels”. “Angels” also found new residents—among them, Jean Duvivier (from Quebec), Vincent Solomita, and Lou Mazzola.

A major source of support was a “ladies auxiliary” that formed under the enthusiastic leadership of Mrs. Helen McManus and Mrs. Jim Fitzgerald; eventually it had about forty members, some well known in the city. Among them were the professional women who had found the house and begun furnishing it—Ms. Baird and Mrs. Hicks. Bishop Wright’s mother was also among them, and lived out her days as an active cooperator[42]. Each member asked friends for $50 contributions (the equivalent of $500 today). One of them approached the owner of a factory and several lumberyards in Boston. She was a widow supporting the education of ten nieces and nephews, but she agreed to make a large contribution for the oratories and sent over an adviser on chapel installations (Mr. Hayes)[43].

Virginia Paine and several other ladies contacted the priests who supplied vestments for Mass and Benediction, sacred vessels, altars and benches. These priests became lifelong friends of Opus Dei: Msgrs. Murphy, Murray, Lawrence Riley, and Thomas Riley. Msgr. Murphy was chancellor, and Msgr. Thomas Riley rector of St. John’s Seminary[44] (Both Thomas and Lawrence Riley subsequently became auxiliary bishops[45]).

Spiritual activities had begun while remodeling was still in progress. A day of recollection took place on Sunday Feb. 7, 1954 for residents and their friends and continued thereafter each month[46]. In midyear, the first American edition of Camino (The Way) appeared and immediately became an important resource. Father Múzquiz was the chief translator, and William Doyle Gilligan, first director of Scepter Press, saw it through publication[47]. This first book of St. Josemaría to become available in English was the “primer” of the spirit of Opus Dei for the young Americans who came into contact with the Work in the early years. A corrected second printing was published in 1956[48].

Monthly evenings of recollection for married men began in September for people already in touch with the Work. One of the participants was Jacques Bonneville, a graduate of McGill University in Montréal who had come to M.I.T. from Quebec in September 1950 with his wife and young children to pursue doctoral studies in mechanical engineering. “I first learned of Opus Dei when Father Múzquiz gave a talk at M.I.T.’s Newman Club in 1953. A friend who accompanied me, Roger Langlois, spoke for me as well when he commented, ‘I could go for this if I weren’t already married’. I was set straight on that score when I met John Loria in 1954. He invited me to the evening of recollection where I met Father Bill Porras. He was always cheerful, and had a fine sense of humor”[49].

The Official Opening

The formal beginning of the apostolate in Boston took place on October 19, 1954 when Trimount House was inaugurated and the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the oratory. The events of that day were reported in a written report. The account is worth reproducing at length:

Opening day had been anticipated with great eagerness. Just a few hours earlier, the house seemed to be in complete disarray. But when the actual moment came, everything was sparkling. The preparation had occupied us for months, but on October 18 a thousand details still awaited attention—even in the oratory, as we moved the altar forward in order to hang a drapery behind the reredos [in the bay window of the former ballroom]. A little later in the day the benches arrived, and a couple of men laid the carpet. A seat and a kneeler for the Archbishop were placed on the Gospel side… Another kneeler was placed on the Epistle side for the Counselor [Father Múzquiz] who came from Chicago to be with us.

Carnations and roses graced the oratory, living room, and library—the gift of a Jewish florist. The oratory was resplendent. Above the altar shone our ivory 15th-century Gothic triptych—a gift of Daniel Sargent, one of our first cooperators. He had received it from the previous Archbishop, Cardinal O’Connell, who had received it in his turn from a member of the Spanish royal family. An ejaculation in gold letters outlined in crimson had been added: on the upper part “Sancta Maria” [Holy Mary] and on the sides “Spes Nostra, Sedes Sapientiae” [Our Hope, Seat of Wisdom][50].

The Archbishop had been looking forward to this occasion ever since we acquired the house. As he was not feeling well, it took a special effort for him to celebrate this Mass for our friends and benefactors, especially the ladies auxiliary. The doors leading to the hallway were opened, and from there residents and students attending our spiritual activities sang the Mass responses[51].

At the end of Mass, the Archbishop said: “I met Opus Dei in Spain some years ago, in the residence in Santiago de Compostela. I was so impressed that I began to foster a hope that Opus Dei would come to Boston. The reality we see here only increases that hope; it is just a beginning”[52]. Archbishop Cushing went on to speak of the country’s need for a Catholic culture and said to those present, some of them his personal friends: “There is a tremendous urgency for the Work here in America. I am very grateful for the help you have given, and I expect you will continue helping”[53].

The contemporary account continues:

After Mass we went to the dining room for breakfast. The Archbishop kept speaking of the great mission Opus Dei has begun in the United States. In the afternoon there was an open house for 300 to 400 guests—including officials of the archdiocese and the city[54]. The ladies auxiliary arranged everything: the table with its elegant tablecloth, and as a centerpiece an antique silver vase filled with red roses. One of the ladies brought a crystal bowl and encouraged her friends to leave donations; eventually everyone made a contribution. The residents guided our friends through the house in small groups amidst many compliments. That day everyone was drawn closer to the Work.

For many days we received phone calls and visits from people wanting to donate articles for the various rooms. One of the callers was Msgr. [Walter] Murphy: “The chalice Mrs. McManus gave you needs a rich ciborium in the same style. Tell me the price; I want it to be in my name”. A retired professor offered books for the library. An article with photos appeared in the press. And so our residence has officially opened with residents from five universities. One of the visitors spoke for all of us when she told her young son, “I want you to remember this day well because one day perhaps you will also live in this house when you are older and love God more”[55].

A New Chaplain for Harvard

In the course of Trimount’s inaugural reception, Archbishop Cushing appointed Father Porras chaplain of Harvard’s Catholic Club. At the time, Harvard had about 400 Catholics among its approximately 4400 undergraduates[56]. Their spiritual care was entrusted to a Catholic Club, Harvard’s equivalent of the Newman Clubs that exist on the campuses of most secular universities in the United States. The Club was housed in St. Paul’s parish. From 1952 to 1954, the chaplain, Rev. Vincent McQuade OSA, had not been able to function effectively since he was simultaneously president of Merrimack College, 90 miles away in Andover, New Hampshire. When he resigned from the chaplaincy in spring 1954, the Club was virtually defunct[57].

Several influential Catholics, including Mrs. McManus and Mrs. Fitzgerald had previously observed to the Archbishop that Father Porras would make a good chaplain[58]. Now at the reception, the appropriate moment seemed to have arrived. According to Msgr. Bucciarelli, “Mrs. McManus, whose son was a classmate of mine, turned to another classmate, Leo Zavatone, and me: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if Father Porras were chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Club?’ Upon receiving our affirmative reply and without further hesitation, she turned to the Archbishop and asked him to make the appointment”[59]. Dr. Schmitt adds: “Spontaneously, on impulse—the Archbishop’s characteristic way of acting—he walked up to Father Múzquiz and asked if he would like to be appointed; slightly flustered, Father Múzquiz replied, ‘I think you mean that priest across the room’. Then the Archbishop went up to Father Porras and repeated the proposal”[60]. Upon his agreement, the Archbishop made the appointment on the spot[61].

Father Porras lost no time beginning his duties as Harvard’s Catholic chaplain, although he had no office on campus at first. He also increased his efforts to acquaint himself with the University. At the December meeting of the Club’s officers (the president was Leo Zavatone) he helped them lay plans for the new academic year. Among other things it was decided to begin a monthly day of recollection at Trimount, separate from the scheduled activities of the house[62].

The Harvard Setting

Harvard is the oldest center of higher education in the United States (1636). Originally an undergraduate College, graduate and professional schools were added in 1870 and thereafter. Like most American universities, Harvard experienced unprecedented growth in every measurable statistic in the twenty years following World War II. Already the country’s most prestigious and wealthiest university, a new dynamic began to drive Harvard in the early ‘50s— precisely when the apostolate of Opus Dei arrived to help give it direction and substance in the lives of many students and professors. A recent historian has termed Harvard in that period an “Eden, a truly collegial place where the life of the mind was valued and everything needful was at hand”[63].

In spite of growing ethnic and religious diversity during the 1950s, a distinctive self-conscious socio-academic culture still characterized the student body. According to one historian, “the prevailing social style was polite arrogance—spare, dry, cautious, and angular… Most undergraduates of the fifties and early sixties appear to have reveled in the heady mix of high status and social and intellectual vitality”[64]. A “proudly male” undergraduate population was complemented by a feminine presence at neighboring Radcliffe College (its gradual absorption into Harvard began in the 1950s at the graduate level, and was completed in 1999). Admission of women to Harvard’s graduate and professional programs began in the 1950s, and to the faculty in the 1960s.

When the apostolate of Opus Dei began at Harvard, Catholics accounted for 12% of the student population in a largely Protestant environment (52%)—a smaller minority even than those with no religious affiliation (20%) and Jewish students (15%). The religious environment had gradually evolved over three centuries from strict adherence to Congregational (Calvinist) tenets through a long period of Unitarianism (a softer and more tolerant form of Protestantism) to the semi-dogmatic secular humanism of today. Under President Charles W. Eliot (1869-1909) “the last vestige of the Puritan seminary disappeared”; compulsory chapel became voluntary and Harvard’s original crest (Veritas – Christo et Ecclesia) was simplified to a purposely ambiguous “Veritas[65].

Catholics steadily gained intellectual respect at Harvard throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. As at many secular colleges in America, many conversions took place there, and some converts became scholars of the first rank. By mid 20th century, significant shifts had occurred both in Protestant and in Catholic conceptions of higher education and its relationship to the study and practice of religion. A 1957 study by the Harvard Student Council found that the institution “nurtures a vague but pungent faith of its own which can be characterized roughly as humanitarian, democratic, and scientific”; within that context, formal “religion has largely shifted for itself”. But the study questioned the common perception that the Harvard experience tends to weaken the faith of students. Assuredly, the secular academic fear of advocacy had led most teachers to omit religious topics, but this was offset by a “wave of religious interest” that began with World War II[66].

Nathan Marsh Pusey, appointed President of Harvard in 1953, was a powerful influence in giving religion a more prominent place in the life of the university and in promoting a greater integration of faith and the humane disciplines. Like his predecessors, Pusey was descended from an old New England family and a Harvard graduate (B.A. ’28, Ph.D. in classics ’35)—the last president with that distinction. As would become apparent in later decades, Pusey guided Harvard “to one of the highest points in its history”. Under his leadership “departments, faculty, course offerings, and so far as one can tell, the classroom experience reached the crest of an historical wave… It was the first time in many decades that the Harvard undergraduate was virtually guaranteed a comprehensive education”, with access to “argument, exposition, contemplation, and camaraderie” that made “Pusey’s Harvard” unique in the land[67].

As these factors coalesced during the chaplaincy of Father Porras, Catholic culture flourished more than at any other time in Harvard’s long history; “the chaplain and students in the fifties were less defensive […] and more intent on establishing the spiritual and material means to nourish and fortify Catholic students”[68]. Harvard’s age-old “white Anglo-Saxon Protestant” character began to fade as the faculty and student body became more cosmopolitan. “Pusey had an ecumenical sympathy with Catholics, substantially reciprocated. And Catholics themselves became more ready to send their sons to Harvard” during his tenure[69].

Like Harvard’s new president, Father Porras linked student success to the quality of their formation. As everywhere, he observed, students who come to Harvard with poor formation “are influenced by the environment instead of being an influence on it”[70]. The solution was to make solid formation more accessible and attractive through the Club’s chaplaincy and programs. At the initiative of its officers, an office was secured on campus in Phillips Brooks House, and the chaplain kept regular hours. In 1955 the Catholic Club was one of 78 active undergraduate organizations with university recognition. Its membership rose slowly to about 200 in 1958-59 (the second largest student religious group after Hillel, which had 700). To reinforce the development of future leaders, the Club brought to the campus in the mid-‘50s distinguished speakers (most of them converts and laymen)[71].

New Friendships

At a lecture by Catherine de Hueck Doherty in September 1954, Carl Schmitt (just back at Harvard to pursue a doctorate in history)[72] was introduced to Bob Bucciarelli by James Murphy. The three of them had grown up in the vicinity of New Canaan, Connecticut. Schmitt and Murphy were also friends of members of the family of Malcolm Kennedy, a freshman from New York City, who would soon join the blossoming friendship.

Such meetings of like-minded students would occur over and over at the lectures and frequently develop into lasting friendships. “During that school year”, Msgr. Bucciarelli recalls, “Carl and I saw one another often because we took some medieval history courses together. Carl joined St. Paul’s choir, of which I was also a member. We traveled together between school and home, sometimes hitchhiking or in a car I would borrow from home. From time to time we went to a movie or some cultural event in Boston and to get an Italian meal in the North End”[73].

At the end of 1954, Father Porras received a unique opportunity to form a friendship that would also put his work on a strong supernatural footing when God sent the best “angel” of all. Bishop Wright, now in the neighboring Worcester diocese, was visiting a 17-year-old high school athlete (from Canterbury College in Worcester) confined to an iron lung in a Boston hospital, a victim of poliomyelitis that left him paralyzed from neck to feet[74]. Bishop Wright asked Father Porras if he could bring daily Communion to this student, whose name was Richard.

That very afternoon, when Father Porras arrived at the hospital, Richard identified him as the Opus Dei priest who was giving spiritual direction to two of his teachers. Richard began the conversation: “Earlier I had wanted to ask some questions, but the opportunity hasn’t come until now. If you are up for it, we could talk a while every day”. After agreeing on a regular time for his visits, Father Porras left, as Richard smiled and called out, “Sorry I can’t accompany you to the door”.

Father Porras tried to make the daily visits entertaining and cheerful gettogethers. Often Richard mentioned the Work. One day Father Porras asked if he would like to take part in the Harvard apostolate by offering his forced inactivity for that and other intentions as well: “for the Father, for the Roman College of the Holy Cross, and the expansion of the Work in Boston and everywhere”. This suggestion met with great enthusiasm as a way to make good use of his confinement: “Yes, yes, I’ll pray a lot all the time. I promise!”. The next day, Father Porras brought Richard a relic of Isidoro, which had just arrived from Spain. From now on, he will be “very close to all of us”[75].

Developing the apostolate—1955

The Harvard Front

The pace of the apostolate quickened after the official inauguration of Trimount House, thanks in part to a recently published brochure. The number of residents increased, and each day brought some new development. One day a lady came to the door with $15 in coins. Her husband (probably John Loria or Jacques Bonneville) had helped to work on the house during the renovation. When their small children and playmates heard about the lack of money to pay workers, they decided to help out by skipping candy bars and saving the money. Another time a group of Catholic students from various Latin American countries including Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Panama, and Peru asked to make a day of recollection at Trimount, following the typical schedule of meditations and talks. After Benediction they asked many questions about Opus Dei in the course of a long get-together[76].

Before the new semester began in January 1955, freshman Malcolm Kennedy returned from vacation and went to Kirkland House for Sunday dinner with Carl Schmitt, now back at Harvard after a three-year post-graduate absence. Bob Bucciarelli joined them just as they were finishing, and Bill Stetson arrived shortly thereafter from his job as organist at a local church. Bucciarelli introduced Stetson to Schmitt, and the four of them decided to go downtown to a movie. “It was an Anglo-Italian production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Beacon Theatre—a beautifully photographed film which I learned later had provided St. Josemaría with ideas for designing and decorating a room in Villa Tevere [the central house in Rome], then under construction”[77].

After the movie, since it wasn’t dark yet, we went out of curiosity to the nearby Common. Bob suggested we walk over to Marlborough St., which was nearby; he said he knew some people there. He rang the bell at the front door of Trimount House with some insistence, but no one came. Finally, a window on the third floor opened and a heavily accented voice informed us that no one was home. I suspect they were away on retreat. The interesting thing about this incident is that the four of us would be in the Work not long thereafter[78].

Msgr. Bucciarelli recalls that a month or so later a flu confined him to the student ward of Mt. Auburn Hospital for a couple of days. “The word reached Father Bill, who came to visit me. That kindness impressed me very much. Later that year I brought a number of friends to Trimount for Sunday dinner and get-together”[79]. Although Bucciarelli had been in contact with members of Opus Dei for some time (helping out at Trimount and introducing friends), he had not attended spiritual activities. By contrast, Stetson (another helper) had begun attending Saturday meditations and Benediction and was bringing friends along.

In the opening months of 1955 the apostolate was getting into full swing. The few members of the Work began organizing seminars on different topics of spiritual as well as intellectual interest for the members of the Catholic Club. In addition to their intrinsic value, the seminars offered one more occasion to get to know other students and to build friendships. A number of those initially contacted in this way began joining members of the Work on excursions and going to Trimount for the Saturday meditations and get-togethers, as well as days of recollection one Sunday a month. In many cases, they found themselves attracted by the family atmosphere of the residence and by the simple, unpretentious friendship they observed among the residents. Other members of the Catholic Club, such as George Rossman, a first-year student from New Hampshire, would meet Opus Dei later.

Among the Catholic Club’s spring activities, Father Porras inaugurated a weekend retreat during Lent at Campion Hall, North Andover, Mass. Among the forty students who attended was Michael Curtin, a sophomore in physics from southern California. Shortly afterwards, he recognized this as an extraordinary opportunity to begin speaking with a priest about the direction of his studies and his life. He began attending the family and spiritual activities at Trimount, and a little before the semester ended, he became the first Harvard student to ask for admission as a numerary member of Opus Dei. Father Porras was often heard to remark in later years, “Mike joined the Work and then left for his summer job at home—life-guarding at a swimming pool!”[80].

As the spring semester drew to a close, students began reserving rooms at Trimount for the following school year, including some from other universities where they were Newman Club leaders. On his application, one of them wrote: “We need a solid interior life in order to raise the tone of our club”. In June, Manolo Barturen left Boston to “break ground” in the country’s largest city, leaving the residence in the hands of Peter Ejarque, Jim Polo, and Louie Garrido. For the rest of his life, Barturen conducted his business in New York, welcomed newcomers, and helped start the first centers in the metropolitan area[81].

Meanwhile at M.I.T.

Early in the spring of 1955, Dominick Fortunato, a co-op sophomore at M.I.T.[82], was introduced to the Work at Trimount. He spoke briefly—just long enough for a seed to be planted—with Father Porras before leaving for several months of work experience with the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. That year Dominick was serving as spiritual activities coordinator of M.I.T.’s Newman Club and had organized its student retreat at Miramar, the Franciscan center in Duxbury on the South Shore. Ed O’Brien, Club President, had become a good friend of Dominick, who later introduced Ed to Trimount[83].

Jacques Bonneville, the Canadian graduate student at M.I.T. who had first learned about Opus Dei in 1953 and had been attending evenings of recollection for married men, joined the Work as a supernumerary in January, thereby becoming the first Canadian member of Opus Dei[84]. He was followed by Trimount residents Harold “Nick” Nicholson, a guitarist and folk singer from suburban Wellesley, whose Volkswagen was handy for excursions; Alberto Mazzolini, a medical intern from Milan, and Don Coyne, who entered the Navy shortly thereafter.

Expanding the Apostolate

During the summer, student networking continued in Boston and elsewhere. In New Canaan, Bucciarelli renewed his acquaintance with Schmitt’s younger brother, Chris; they had attended high school together. Most of the Trimount residents who remained during the summer were international students. Some of them decided on their own to beautify the living room with a new set of furniture[85]. There was an air of expectancy about the fall term at Harvard, M.I.T., and other universities, as well as the possible expansion of the Work in the Eastern United States, primarily Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. Bishop Waters of Raleigh had visited Chicago in 1952 to express hope that the Work would establish a student residence in his diocese. Father Múzquiz reciprocated by traveling several times to meet potential members of the Work in North Carolina[86].

In the fall semester Father Porras began attending the meetings of Harvard’s campus ministers in University Hall to explore common interests. Under the presidency of Dennis Looney, the Catholic Club continued to attract new members and began a newsletter edited by John O’Reilly. One of the new members was a freshman from Boston, Paul Donlan. Another member, George Rossman, now a sophomore, met the Work when he visited Trimount House on Oct. 2, anniversary of Opus Dei’s foundation in 1928, at the invitation of his Lowell House roommate, Jim Manahan, an active member of the Catholic Club who would be its president the following year.

The club, still without a meeting place of its own, used facilities in various parts of Harvard Yard. The officers usually met in Father Porras’s office in Phillips Brooks House[87]. The chaplain used the office at stated hours for appointments with students who came to consult him about moral and professional questions. Some of them began to see him for regular spiritual direction and Confession, and some he invited to visit Trimount House, which was twenty minutes away by subway.

Father Porras recorded at the time an important event, the celebration of the first Mass on the Harvard campus:

October 7, 1955 was a landmark day for us at Harvard. For the first time, Mass was celebrated on campus [in a large meeting room on the top floor of Phillips Brooks House]. As we began to plan it, there were not a few difficulties to overcome. One was the lack of precedent; all Catholic services had been confined to [St. Paul’s] parish. The Archbishop had not thought it opportune to permit Mass to be celebrated in a secular institution long hostile to religion. The university authorities also had to grant permission.

But everything worked out, and on the first Friday of October, which coincided with the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, [I] celebrated Holy Mass at Harvard. A large crucifix was mounted on the wall above a portable altar. Students filled the room and followed the Holy Sacrifice devoutly. It was Our Lord’s first visit to a place where for many years disrespectful silence has offended Him. How we begged Jesus that morning never to leave again! We offered Him our lives once more and told Him we wanted many vocations from Harvard. When Mass was over, the room was arranged for breakfast and we began to meet new fellows. Some have already come to the house and are starting to be our friends[88].

By fall, Carl Schmitt (graduate study in history), and Bill Stetson (secondyear law) had become actively involved in activities at Trimount. Together with Mike Curtin, they started inviting newcomers to the Saturday meditations, monthly days of recollection, and spiritual direction. Bob Bucciarelli (senior in history), began seeing sophomore Malcolm Kennedy more frequently, but came only occasionally to the residence for social activities. These five were becoming good friends; Father Porras had a way of facilitating such friendships among the Club members, which also helped them to get better acquainted with him[89].

On Two Fronts

A “two-front” effort got under way that fall to provide students with challenging opportunities for intellectual formation. It also aimed to increase their awareness of notable achievements by Catholic laymen in several fields of endeavor—something many of the faithful were unaware of at the time. One front, a Professional Orientation Course in the residence, was aimed at bright secondary students in Boston schools; the other front was a series of colloquia on the Harvard campus organized by the Catholic Club to supplement its lecture series.

The first front opened at Trimount with a prestigious Harvard professor who surprised the students with his clear ideas and sound judgment, and even more when he remained to pray the Rosary with them. At the Catholic Club, which had often sponsored talks by priests, the surprise was in listening to prominent lay professors. The first speaker was Dr. Heffernan from Tufts University, who spoke on “Doctors and Dogmas”—an exposé of the widespread campaign to promote birth control under way in the United States at that time[90].

The campus series continued with Dr. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddhin of the University of Vienna, who commented on the contemporary intellectual and religious atmosphere in Europe. Dr. Taylor, a Princeton University dean, spoke on the responsibilities of American Catholic intellectuals, and Dr. Francis Rodgers, Dean of Harvard’s Graduate Faculty, addressed the same topic in the context of his research in Portuguese history. He had become a friend of Father Porras, who asked him to serve as informal faculty adviser of the Catholic Club[91].

A contemporary account concludes: “What excites us the most” about this initiative is the way it is “facilitating friendships that will lead to many more discoveries, both for the students and the professors”[92]. In sum,

the apostolate at Harvard goes forward. We are reaching further as we get to know the fellows better and have more friends. Some who have already graduated are surprised because they had pretty much given up on Harvard and didn’t think much could be done here. A few days ago 250 students attended a Catholic Club rally. Something like that hasn’t happened before, but it’s just the beginning. We are looking for generous souls who want to give themselves completely, and many of them are responding[93].

One such person responded shortly before Christmas. Bob Bucciarelli had been in contact with the Work since Bernard Law introduced him to Jim Polo shortly after both arrived at Harvard in 1953 but was not taking part in the days of recollection at Trimount. On Dec. 7, Polo explained to him the vocation of supernumerary members of Opus Dei. “It may have seemed to him that I was waiting to be asked, because I took that step the very next day—December 8”, feast of the Immaculate Conception[94]. After receiving some talks about how to live the vocation to Opus Dei, and concretely the norms of piety that Opus Dei members try to live, Bucciarelli went to his family’s home in New Canaan for Christmas. During the vacation, he visited Carl and Chris Schmitt, who lived nearby.

A reduced number of residents remained to celebrate Trimount’s second Christmas. Father Porras gave the Christmas Eve meditation beside the Crib in the living room and said the three Masses beginning at midnight (as was customary at the time) with a number of guests in attendance. A get-together followed. On Christmas day, gifts were opened during the afternoon get-together; in the free time until the evening get-together, there was a movie, and on television a concert of holiday music.

The day after Christmas, some residents decided to go skiing. The meditation, Mass, and breakfast on St. John’s day, Dec. 27, took place very early so the skiers could head for the slopes. Connie, a Swiss by birth who had lived in South America before coming to Boston, provided an old Chrysler for the trip in addition to “Nick” Nicholson’s Volkswagen Beetle—at the time a novelty in the American market, still dominated by large American cars. Another resident, Dick, was born in Lithuania and had experienced wartime privations and religious persecution before coming to the United States with his parents in 1948. Like Connie, Dick studied engineering at M.I.T.

The group arrived at Laconia, N.H. about two hours later after much “talking, singing [Christmas carols in several languages], praying the Rosary, and reading from The Way”. Before long, they were at the slopes, and the “experts”— Dick and Nick—provided instructions and warnings before taking the rope tow and going off to ski. The beginners—Louie Garrido and Mike Curtin among them—took a few spills, but learned the basics on a gentler slope. After another two hours of song and prayer, the adventure ended back in Boston[95].

Wynnview in Vermont

The history of Trimount’s second year concludes with the story of Wynnview, a country place that would soon become the first conference/retreat center of Opus Dei in the United States and host future ski trips, as well as summer camps and courses.

The story begins on August 20, 1955 at 11 a.m. when Francis Kervick, a retired architecture professor at the University of Notre Dame, arrived at Woodlawn Residence in Chicago after a 90-mile trip from South Bend to offer Opus Dei his family’s 60-acre (25 hectare) farm near the town of Randolph in central Vermont[96]. Before moving to Boston to study and begin his career, Kervick had spent much of his early life on the farm. The idea of donating it to the Work had recently occurred to him upon reading an article about Opus Dei. “The farm”, he said, “belonged to my grandparents, and I want to give it to someone who will use it to bring a Catholic influence to that part of the country, where a Protestant atmosphere predominates. What little I have read about Opus Dei pleases me a lot—lay people dedicated to God. And so I’ve come to see if you would like to accept it”.

Three months later Father Múzquiz phoned Kervick to discuss the matter. The professor further specified his purpose: “My only condition is that it be used to benefit the Church, even if only some professional men and students come to play golf nearby. That would already be a good influence. In Randolph there isn’t a single Catholic professional man”. Kervick wanted to show him the farm as soon as possible, even in the winter “when the landscape is so beautiful”.

Father Múzquiz took advantage of a trip to several places in the East to visit the farm on Dec. 12 in the company of Ejarque and Garrido, who drove up from Boston. A contemporary account describes the property, as “of substantial size, with a fine view of the Green Mountains. A small stream crosses the back of the property, which has an abundance of trees and meadows. A rise across the road affords a panoramic view of the area. The snow-covered landscape gave us a sense of new life”.

The town of Randolph (pop. 4000) has a train stop that brings it within four hours of Boston and three of Montréal. A small college, Vermont Technical, is a few miles away, and a Catholic college—St. Michael’s—a bit further[97]. After visiting Wynnview, Father Múzquiz returned to Chicago through Burlington, to visit Bishop Joyce[98].

The acquisition of Wynnview concluded in Chicago on Jan. 18, 1956, in a LaSalle Street law office where Kervick transferred the farm. According to legal custom, he was paid $1 and “other valuable considerations” in this case “gratitude for his generosity and wishes that the word of the Lord be heard in Vermont”[99].

Fruition and promise—1956

An Apartment in Cambridge

The distance of Trimount House from the Harvard campus was becoming an obstacle to regular contact with many Harvard students whose busy lives did not permit them to get to the residence regularly by subway. Someone suggested renting a small apartment in the neighborhood of the campus that could provide a base for the students. When Bucciarelli returned from Christmas vacation in early January 1956, he “was asked to help search for an apartment where Harvard students could study. I asked Carl to go with me, and someone from Trimount [most likely Garrido], to look for a place”[100]. They found an apartment on the second floor of a residential hotel, the Ambassador, at 1737 Cambridge St., very near the Harvard campus. It had a living room, and two bedrooms.

A contemporary account describes the first days in this new location, which would play a major role in the flurry of vocations about to take place during spring semester:

On the first day, its living room and two study rooms were nearly empty—a single table and several chairs. We obtained another table and eight [captain’s] chairs from the University at a reasonable price. In spite of these rudimentary conditions, we wanted to begin using the apartment right away when classes resumed after the holidays. As has always happened, we decided to begin with the little we had; the rest would come later as the apostolate grew. Our expectation was not disappointed. When the apartment still lacked nearly everything, the Lord sent what we most wanted”—people[101].

Little by little, students began to assemble in larger numbers for evening study sessions. One of them, George Rossman, describes the routine as it developed during the semester:

People were given a key to come and go. On weekdays we got good crowds studying there. When the reading period came in May, the place was packed every night. We would take a prayer break for fifteen minutes at 9 p.m. During that time, Father Porras would make a brief comment on some points in The Way, read at intervals. This was followed by a short Coke break, and then back to the books. Father Porras usually received people in the other room. It was amazingly simple, but so effective[102].

“The apartment was convenient to visit because it had a kind of private entrance—a stairway right off the street. Father Bill used one of the rooms many evenings to talk with our friends; when he wasn’t there, Louie used it. When it was free, we could use it for group study projects”[103]. “The study room was narrow, with room only for the table and four chairs on each side. If someone got up, everybody else had to move to let him out. That was an incentive to keep working until the break”[104].

Besides activities at the apartment, Father Porras continued to celebrate the first Friday Masses in Phillips Brooks, and the Catholic Club continued to sponsor lectures. In the spring semester, the first speaker was John T. Noonan, a prominent attorney and future law professor and judge. Then came Father Martin D’Arcy SJ, whose series on modern philosophers was exceptionally well attended. Dorothy Day followed with a talk on her Catholic Worker Movement. Bishop Wright lectured and also addressed the club’s Communion breakfast[105].

Dr. Schmitt recalls a “memorable (and historic)” spring reception at Phillips Brooks House organized by Father Porras as club chaplain for Archbishop Cushing and President Pusey. It was the first time a Harvard president had met an archbishop of Boston. “At Father Porras’s insistence, the Archbishop came in full regalia. The affair was a great hit”[106].

The “Explosion” of the Apostolate

Bob Bucciarelli had been friends with Carl Schmitt since Carl returned to Harvard in the fall of 1954. During the following academic year, Bucciarelli turned to him for help with his senior thesis in history. In late January 1956, Schmitt accompanied Bucciarelli to Trimount for dinner and get-together.

On that first visit I wasn’t impressed by the ‘non-Harvard’ style of the residents… But when Louie took me aside to explain Opus Dei, I was completely taken by what he said; it was exactly what our times needed and completely in line with everything I believed in and hoped for. I learned of plans for the apartment when Louie and Peter drove Bob and me back to Harvard. I was reluctant at first when they asked me to help select it. But this enabled them to explain its purpose more fully. What was going through my mind was ‘holy envy’ that these guys were actually doing such a thing with holy conviction and determination.

A little while later, Bob informed me that Louie was organizing a retreat for Harvard faculty and asked me to attend (I hadn’t made one since the winter of 1953-54 at Chicago). As a proctor and adviser in a freshman house, I wasn’t really a faculty member, but Louie assured me that was no problem. The retreat, in early February, was at Miramar, the Franciscan house in Duxbury. My roommate was Vince Solomita, a young architecture instructor. Father Bill’s first meditation made a strong impression on me. He pointed to the stained glass windows—a lineup of saints, none of them lay people. Louie’s talk also impressed me—the need for a plan of life, especially including daily Mass and prayer, as a way for laymen to do everything with a prayerful spirit.

Unlike my previous retreats, when this one ended, I was eager to start living what it had been about. In place of the subtle pessimism of previous retreats, here was a new optimism and confidence. I immediately looked for Bob to inform him of my enthusiasm, and the same day he told me Louie wanted to speak to me.

The next day, February 22, I went to see him in the new apartment—the very day the rent started. By then it had a foldout sofa bed; there we sat as Louie put the question [of my vocation as a numerary member of Opus Dei]… I resisted (I was going with a girl at the time)… [but eventually] I said OK. The only writing surface was the small glass table at the base of a lamp. As it was close to the floor, I had to kneel in order to use it. We drove over to Trimount, where I spoke to Peter and stayed overnight. In a day or so I informed my girl and kissed her goodbye when she responded, “Any good Catholic girl knows very well that she has one Rival that she must yield to”[107].

Less than a week later, the next person to request admission as a numerary member was Bucciarelli himself. He attended a retreat given by Father Cormac Burke at the Passionist retreat house in Brighton. During the retreat, he spoke with Fr. Burke about becoming a numerary member, and did so on the last day of February[108].

About the same time, Schmitt wrote to his younger brother, Chris, a graduate of Syracuse University (where he had studied geography), now back home in Connecticut following a stint in the Army.

I had been encouraging Chris to begin a graduate program in cartography (his main interest) at the University of Wisconsin, where Randall House, an Opus Dei student residence, had just opened. But as I planned to spend the Easter break at Trimount, I invited him to come and spend the week with me there. He did, and after only a few days—on [March 25], Palm Sunday—decided to join the Work. He wrote our parents that he was going to stay a while and look for a job in Boston[109].

The next person to join Opus Dei was John Debicki, a Harvard freshman. Bucciarelli “met John one morning after Mass at St. Paul’s. He lived in Wigglesworth, in the Yard. Shortly afterwards, he went with me to Trimount House and started coming to the apartment. It was in March or April when I spoke with him about the Work—a cold afternoon or early evening. We walked around the block near the apartment. He was ready from the start to give himself to God”[110].

Debicki “had returned early from Christmas break and decided to begin attending daily Mass. There I saw Bob Bucciarelli, Mike Curtin, and a couple of other people I had already met”. At first, Debicki declined Bucciarelli’s invitation to visit the apartment, but “sometimes I would join him and Carl for breakfast at the Union”. Occasionally Bucciarelli invited him to Eliot House to listen to music.

The turning point in Debicki’s story appears to have been the Catholic Club’s regular Lenten retreat at Campion Hall where he shared a room with Rossman.

After that I started to pray on my own at St. Paul’s. I knew that I had some kind of vocation and prayed to St. Joseph to discover it. It was around his feast day (March 19) that I started coming around to the apartment. Bob talked with me about a vocation to Opus Dei on the evening of April 23 as we walked around in a cold drizzle. When we got back to the apartment, I talked with Father Antxon [Antonio] Ugalde[111]. All I knew was that this was what I was supposed to do; I would learn [the details] as I went along. In May, Carl, Bob, and I drove to Washington, where my parents lived. Father Joseph was there, and I introduced them to him. He accompanied us back to Boston, stopping in New Canaan on the way so he could also talk with Bob mother[112].

Debicki was the most recent member of Opus Dei for only one day. Like Bucciarelli, Bill Stetson had been introduced to the Work by Bernard Law during the 1952-53 school year, when he was a junior. Little by little he met other people connected in one way or another with Opus Dei and began to form friendships with Bucciarelli and Schmitt. On occasion, he would drop by Trimount for dinner, but took little or no part in spiritual activities at the residence until more recently. By the time the apartment opened, he was immersed in his law studies[113]. Then came the breakthrough: Bucciarelli and Schmitt “got together with Bill at an all-night cafeteria in Harvard Square (Hayes Bickford) to discuss the Work and his vocation”[114]. On April 24 “I asked to be admitted, and in May moved to Trimount House”[115].

Two Harvard sophomores joined Opus Dei early in May. George Rossman had visited Trimount for the first time the previous October, invited by his roommate, Jim Manahan. He had made the Catholic Club’s February retreat with Debicki, and had been invited to the apartment by Mike Curtin. Ever since he arrived at the College from his home in nearby Concord, New Hampshire, Rossman had taken part in Catholic Club activities, but like Debicki it was the February retreat, followed by conversations with Father Porras and Curtin, that made him get serious about the direction of his life and his studies[116].

A few days later, Malcolm Kennedy asked for admission to the Work. He has recorded in detail the story of his vocation:

I first heard of Opus Dei during my freshman year when Gil (“Jolly”) McManus, a fellow alumnus of Portsmouth Priory, entertained us at a dinner hosted by Dom Aelred Wall, O.S.B., Portsmouth’s headmaster, when he visited us in Cambridge. Gil told amusing stories about some Catholic laymen his mother had met who spoke little or no English. It was not until a year later that Carl clarified matters for me about the Work; I had known him my whole life because of the friendship between our families. At first I declined his invitations to visit the apartment because I was busy with a production of “The Merchant of Venice”. When that was no longer an excuse, I did go. It was a Wednesday evening, and Father Porras’s meditation was on St. Joseph. When we talked afterwards, I told him I didn’t think I had any faith. He made me understand that what I meant was that I wanted more faith.

After that conversation, I began to frequent the apartment because it was one of the few places where I could study well, and I had a great deal of catching up to do because of the play. I got into long conversations with Carl about history, the significance of Opus Dei, and the adventure of seeking sanctity in the middle of the world. To me it seemed a radical, exciting way beyond what is now called “the cutting edge”.

Early in May I agreed to make a pilgrimage with Carl[117]. When we went to Trimount to get a car, it was my first time inside the residence. What a revelation! What struck me was how happy everybody was, even if they were engaged in a rather silly game that seemed inappropriate entertainment for Harvard intellectuals. But here they were—physicists, doctors, historians—having an uproarious time. How much they enjoyed one another’s company!

The pilgrimage was to a Marian shrine outside Boston; though the shrine brought together the worst excesses of 1950s tackiness, the prayers brought me to ask to join the Work a few days later after a long conversation with Carl and then Louie at the apartment. It got very late, so I suggested coming back at 8 the next morning to give him my answer. During that whole semester I may never once have been out of bed that early, but there I was at the apartment at 8 o’clock sharp to say “yes”. We went straight over to Trimount. Father Múzquiz happened to be there. He told me he had been praying for me, and that now I should look forward to studying philosophy in Chicago the following month[118].

The new members of the Work needed to learn more about the details of their vocation and to acquire a deeper life of piety. As a small step in that direction, a weekly meditation for them began in May.

“We began going to Trimount on Wednesday mornings for a preached meditation and Mass. It was very early, long before the usual rising hour for students even at that time. We used Bill’s car. At first there were Mike, Carl, Bill, and I [Bob]. But when Chris, John, and George started to attend, a portable altar was set up in the apartment so the meditation and Mass could take place there. Sometimes one of us would stay overnight on the sofa, when we had to study late—as when I was working on my senior thesis with Carl’s help”[119].

Meanwhile at M.I.T., Dominick (Dom) Fortunato had returned to Boston in February from his internship in Detroit. Having a difficult time readjusting to the routine of classes, he went to see the Newman Club chaplain, Father Edward Nugent CSP, in early April. When the chaplain learned of his previous contact with Trimount, he suggested that Fortunato resume his visits with Father Porras, who was out when he came by. Father Antxon welcomed him and suggested he get in touch with Garrido, who phoned him a few days later. They chatted about his concerns, and Fortunato was delighted to learn that he could “continue in engineering and serve God at the same time”. This led him to ask for admission as a member of Opus Dei then and there.

That same day in mid April, Fortunato met Father Múzquiz, who was visiting from Chicago. He began walking the six blocks from his fraternity house to Trimount for daily Mass and began attending the days of recollection and Saturday meditations. Sometimes he would take the subway to the apartment in the Ambassador Hotel[120]. When summer began, he returned to his hometown in New Jersey to work in his father’s construction business. Father Burke, on a trip to Washington, stopped to visit him. Fortunato returned to M.I.T. in July to take two courses, moved to Trimount, and attended the second summer course of formation at Wynnview in late August.

Summer Courses

The fullest opportunity for the new members of Opus Dei to develop their understanding and practice of the vocation came in the summer when they joined older members at several family-style courses lasting between three weeks and two months, depending on their availability. Emphasis was on piety, family life[121], and study[122].

The largest of three courses was a “philosophy semester” at Woodlawn residence in Chicago. Bucciarelli (a June Harvard graduate), Carl and Chris Schmitt, Stetson, Rossman, and Kennedy joined newer members from other cities for an intensive schedule of philosophy and formation while working at summer jobs to support themselves. Bucciarelli worked on a Coca Cola delivery truck. Rossman found a job at the Illinois Institute of Technology metallurgy lab[123]. Debicki arrived late for the course and had a hard time finding a job, but eventually landed one loading trucks for a paint wholesaler. He recalls the typical daily routine: “We would have a meditation, Mass, and quick breakfast before going off to work. Most of us said the Rosary and did our spiritual reading on the el [rapid transit]. After work, dinner was followed by a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, an informal get-together, a talk on some aspect of the spirit of Opus Dei, and two classes, with half an hour free time”[124].

Father Kennedy, a New York native, provides a fuller account:

A summer of philosophy—in Chicago, of all places—was a rude shock. Bob met me on arrival and gave me a quick orientation to family life in the Work, about which I was, as he realized, without a clue. That evening, Father Jay Meroño gave the first of a series of impenetrable talks on the “conceptus universalis[125]. They were funnier to me than the silly games at Trimount House. Next day I started the job search. First, I was hired as a machinist, of all things—the only white person in a sweatshop on the south side. After two weeks, the man who hired me realized his terrible mistake, and I was given an unconditional release. There was an opening at the north side metal chair factory where Mike Curtin and Jim King were working. The fact that the work clothes they were issued were beyond laundering and had to be discarded every other day was not a good omen. After two days, I was out on the street again. I finally got lucky and found a job on the staff of the Engineering Corps that was designing the Eisenhower Expressway. All I had to do was indicate on large maps the nature of each property in its path. When summer ended, I was given an elegant certificate proclaiming me a valued member of the team designing Chicago’s highway system.

Other memorable things about that summer: weekend trips to St. Louis and Madison where the first residences were being furnished. It all ended too soon, and for me the scene soon shifted to Randolph, Vermont, and then Rome[126].

The First Wynnview Courses

The other two summer courses took place in August at Wynnview. To get things ready, members of the Work and friends from Boston had made several trips in early summer bringing furniture and working on the house. Father Al (Fr. Gonzalo Díaz, borrowed from Woodlawn, where he had been serving since 1953) stayed in Randolph at the parish rectory (Sts. Rogation and Donation, named for late third century martyrs in Gaul) while installing the oratory in the attic under the rafters. A moderately tall person could stand upright only in the center of the room. Because the roof was steeply pitched, the ceiling sloped down sharply on either side[127].

Dr. Schmitt recalls one of the trips: “Louie and several residents loaded furnishings into a pick-up truck and trailer and headed for Wynnview. Along the way, just at nightfall, the pick-up broke down and this delayed their arrival. The first order of business was to call service men to hook up the plumbing, telephone, gas and electric utilities, and to locate a local carpenter”[128]. Several more weekend excursions followed (in the old Chevie and Stetson’s Buick) to make the house habitable. As before, the ladies auxiliary and priest friends provided everything needed for the oratory—“very simple, but adequate”[129]. “The water supply was minimal. It reached us by gravity through an underground pipe from a spring in the meadow up the hill across the road, trickling continuously into a metal-lined wooden tank at the rear of the attic. From there it fed the plumbing throughout the house. There were no showers. People bathed in the stream behind the house”[130].

Accounts of these first Wynnview summer courses give an impression of fun and formation in a crowded and rustic setting. The first course ran concurrently with the Woodlawn semester and seems to have been primarily for younger men. Besides the formational activities, they continued to work on the house. Sal Ferigle, Woodlawn’s director, was in charge, and Father Múzquiz was the priest of the course. Dr. Barredo and Father Meroño drove with them from Chicago[131].

The second course, August-September, followed the Woodlawn semester, allowing those returning to the Boston area (Curtin, Carl Schmitt, Debicki, and Kennedy) an opportunity for more concentrated formation without daytime jobs. “We drove cross-country to get there. Father Cormac was present. Four people slept in the living room and the rest of us in two very multiple bedrooms. We had two bathrooms (which couldn’t be used at the same time without exhausting the water supply), did all our cooking, and planted some small pines around the house”[132].

Also driving from Chicago for this course were “older” members—John Duffy and Bill Gilligan—[133]. Those who had spent the summer working at home also attended this course. Dom Fortunato recalls that “some fellows came and went at various times during those three weeks, as their schedules required. When Malcolm arrived, he was much too tall for the oratory. Father Joseph spent time with us and gave us meditations. He took me for a walk and asked about my health. We went to a nearby farm to get milk, and made a sort of swimming hole of the stream behind the house”[134].

Several of the new American members of Opus Dei went to Rome at summer’s end to study at Opus Dei’s international center of formation for men, the Roman College of the Holy Cross, and to learn the spirit of Opus Dei directly from the Founder. Bob Bucciarelli and Chris Schmitt departed in late August to join five American students already studying in Rome. Malcolm Kennedy interrupted his Harvard studies to join them a month later. Other Americans who went to the Roman College that fall included Bob Rice from Chicago.

How was all of this explained to the families? Father Múzquiz had done Bucciarelli

the great favor of talking with my mother some weeks before, explaining the Work and the Roman College to her. This, along with the fact that Chris Schmitt would be going with me, reassured her (our parents were acquainted). My father was not as convinced, but he had already driven out to Chicago during the summer course to see how I was getting on. Both our parents accompanied Chris and me to the dock on New York’s East Side for the transatlantic crossing, and would come over four years later to attend my ordination to the priesthood and Chris’ Mass of Thanksgiving[135].

Kennedy informed his parents about joining the Work and going to Rome on the way from Woodlawn to Wynnview in late August. Because they expressed reservations, Carl Schmitt went with him to visit them at their summer home in Altamont (near Albany), N.Y. Carl was already acquainted with the Kennedys since the families had long known each other when the Kennedys lived near the Schmitts in Connecticut. In June, Carl had gone with Malcolm to the ordination and first Mass of his brother in New York[136]. Eventually “my parents had no objection if it was what I wanted; although understandably they were puzzled about my leaving Harvard so precipitously, without graduating first”[137].

Second Wind

The departure of three members of the Work was only a temporary setback to the apostolate at Harvard, and the new academic year began with ambitious plans there and at M.I.T. Returning Harvard students looked forward to resuming the apostolate in a second Ambassador Hotel apartment, a little more accommodating than the first (which was vacated in June). “In September we rented a furnished apartment on the fifth floor and followed the same routine as before”[138]. George Rossman, a junior and resident of Lowell House, looked after the apartment. President Jim Murphy and Father Porras planned the Catholic Club program; the chaplain saw students every Tuesday and Thursday in his office.

More M.I.T. students came to live at Trimount, which was under “new management”. Peter Ejarque moved to Chicago in August, and after some months would return to Spain. Having completed his post-doc, Jim Polo took a position at Princeton University. In their place, Carl Schmitt and Bill Stetson assumed major responsibility for the residence, with the partial assistance of Louie Garrido, now nearing completion of his doctorate and planning to take a position in Barcelona. “The only real continuity was Father Bill, who practically single-handedly had to educate Carl and Bill in their tasks”[139].

“Father Bill was a solid rock behind both of us at every turn. That September I began tutoring on the committee overseeing the honors program in history and literature. Besides group tutorials with sophomores and individual tutorials with juniors, we directed senior theses. What a great encouragement Bill was [busy himself with the final year of law school] in moments when I felt overwhelmed as director of a residence of 35 people and being young in the Work”[140]. Mike Curtin, a senior in physics, could also be relied on for assistance, as well as Trimount’s first director, Manolo Barturen, who visited regularly from New York.

For the first time Trimount reached its capacity. Among the newcomers were John Debicki, entering his sophomore year, Dom Fortunato, and his brother, Enrico (Rico), a freshman at M.I.T. Stetson organized a choir for residents and friends from several universities. Sal Ferigle spent a few days at Trimount in early September on his way to Rome to prepare for ordination after directing Woodlawn since it opened in 1949, completing his doctorate, and teaching physics at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

New denizens of the apartment in Cambridge included David Sperling, a graduate student in Arabic Studies. He had entered the Church the previous Easter at St. Paul’s. At that “historic” spring reception, Father Porras had introduced Sperling to Carl Schmitt. “We became friends and began having lunch together fairly regularly”[141]. Another newcomer was an unusually “fresh” Harvard freshman from North Dakota, Dennis Helming:

My first knowledge of the Work came in late October when I went to see the Catholic chaplain with some troubles. Father Bill was an impressive man, owing to his age [34 in 1956], stolid appearance, discretion and authority. He heard me out without saying much. When he asked if I had met the Work, my negative response drew from him a few broad brushstrokes and an encouragement to meet some congenial students at an apartment nearby. That night I visited it, but without any books.

Bill Stetson took me aside prior to the prayer break, and for an hour told me about Opus Dei and the vocation, ending with encouragement to consider it for myself. I begged off, saying that it seemed like a fine idea, but I didn’t know if it was for me or not; there was a lurking possibility of the priesthood. I stayed for the meditation and break, and returned to my room with the thought of further rubbing elbows with those like-souled young men. I started to frequent the apartment; the study atmosphere was winning and very helpful, as were the quickie meditations. Most impressive was the fellowship and the interest put forth by older students in a small-town greenhorn [someone lacking experience][142].

An equally “fresh” graduate student named Bob Yoest entered M.I.T. that fall, having completed his undergraduate studies in chemistry at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, his hometown. Although he had attended a Catholic university, it was not until he arrived in the M.I.T. atmosphere that he began to recognize the importance of daily Mass at the Newman Center on campus “if I was to uphold and practice my faith”[143]. The president of the Newman Club was Ed O’Brien; others Yoest met there were Dom Fortunato and several other residents of Trimount. He turned down every invitation to attend a day of recollection. O’Brien, too, continued to show no interest in activities at the residence.

Fortunato, now a senior, embarked upon his studies with renewed vigor and turned a dismal junior year into dean’s list quality in one semester. About mid-term he assumed secretarial duties at Trimount, “which consisted mainly of fixing things and typing 4 x 6 notes”. Noticing his brother’s increased involvement in the residence, Rico began “asking questions”, and on October 11 he asked to be admitted to the Work[144]. “As soon as I decided to stay at Trimount, I started attending daily Mass and Saturday meditations, but knew nothing about Opus Dei. After a couple of weeks Bill Stetson had a long conversation with me, explaining the Work and inviting me to join. I resolved the ‘vocational crisis’ in three days after a couple of conversations with Father Bill”. The next day (the Columbus Day holiday) he joined the others in an excursion to Mount Monadnock in the southwest corner of New Hampshire[145].

In late November the Trimount apostolate received pastoral reinforcement with the arrival of recently ordained Ignasi Segarra (Mossèn Ignasi), who immediately assumed his “American” name of Nick. Besides his duties in the residence and at M.I.T., he assisted at the apartment. During his first Mass, on arrival in New York, “I reminded the Virgin that we are ready for everything, with her constant help, knowing that she will always open to us new fields among the activities of these people”. At Trimount, Father Nick’s first adventure was an excursion with Bill Stetson and two residents to Wynnview. On the way back, they visited Stetson’s parents and grandmother in Greenfield, Mass[146].

By Christmas, another new priest had arrived at Trimount from Spain, Fr. Fernando Acaso (who became Father Mark). Taking stock of the increasing pace of life in Boston and Cambridge as the year drew to a close, Stetson simply remarked, “It was an exciting time”. The following August, he himself would be moving to Rome with Paul Donlan and Dennis Helming[147].

The departure for Rome of these first new members of the Work left more work for the others, but already in the next academic year, the apostolate continued to grow and produce fruit. By 1959 the Cambridge apartment gave way to a new student residence in Cambridge—Elmbrook Residence. But the story of these developments must await a future article.

John A. Gueguen, Jr. Professor Emeritus in Illinois State University and resident scholar in Wespine Study Center, St. Louis, Missouri. Born in Independence, Missouri (1933); educated at the University of Notre Dame (BA 1956; MA 1958); University of Chicago (PhD 1970). Taught at Notre Dame (1958-1966), San Francisco State University (1966-1968), University of Chicago (1968-1972), Illinois State University (1972-1996). Publications: primarily edited volumes, anthologies, study guides, articles, and reviews growing out of course research and conference papers.


Trimount House, the first university residence of Opus Dei in Boston, located on Marlborough Street.
Trimount House, the first university residence of Opus Dei in Boston, located on Marlborough Street.
On October 19, 1954, the archbishop of Boston, Richard James Cushing, blessed the house and celebrated Holy Mass for the official inauguration of the residence.
On October 19, 1954, the archbishop of Boston, Richard James Cushing, blessed the house and celebrated Holy Mass for the official inauguration of the residence.
A panoramic view of Harvard University in the 1950s, where many of Trimount House’s residents studied.
A panoramic view of Harvard University in the 1950s, where many of Trimount House’s residents studied.



[1] Contributors of Personal Recollections:
JBa     Dr. José María (Joseph) González Barredo (deceased)
JBo     Dr. Jacques M. Bonneville, Brossard, Que., Canada
RB     Msgr. Robert P. Bucciarelli, Dublin, Ireland
JD     Rev. John P. Debicki, Washington, D.C.
PD     Rev. Paul A. Donlan, Los Angeles, Calif.
DF     Dominick (Dom) Fortunato, Media, Pa.
RF     Enrico (Rico) Fortunato, New York, N.Y.
JG     Dr. John A. Gueguen, St. Louis, Mo.
DH     Dennis M. Helming, Washington, D.C.
MK     Rev. Malcolm Kennedy, New York City
JLo     John Cecil Loria, Reston, Va.
HM     Henry Hardinge Menzies, New Rochelle, N.Y.
JM     Rev. José Luis (Joseph) Múzquiz (deceased)
GR     Msgr. George M. Rossman, Sydney, Australia
CS     Dr. Carl B. Schmitt, Jr., Washington, D.C
WS     Rev. William H. Stetson, Washington, D.C.
IV     Ismael Virto, Washington, D.C.
RY     Rev. Robert L. Yoest, Lagos, Nigeria

[2] Another reason for concentrating on those who found in Opus Dei their lifelong calling has to do with the nature of Opus Dei and its apostolates. Their goal is to spread the message of the universal call to sanctity in the middle of the world and to provide those who wish to heed that call the formation and spiritual assistance they need to follow it in their everyday lives. There are, of course, many other paths to holiness in the world; only a small percentage of those who take seriously Christ’s invitation to sanctity do so as faithful of Opus Dei. Nonetheless, it is natural that vocations to Opus Dei are likely to arise within its apostolic context and then serve to sustain its ability to spread the universal call to sanctity.

[3] Brian Domitrovic, “Nathan Marsh Pusey: An Appreciation”, Modern Age, 46 (summer 2004), pp. 278, 281.

[4] General Archive of the Prelature (AGP), Sec. P04 1988, p. 538.

[5] Catholic families began to settle in Cambridge in the early nineteenth century; their numbers were greatly augmented by Irish immigrants in the 1830s and ‘40s. The first parish, St. John’s (later Sacred Heart) opened in 1842. St. Peter’s followed in 1848, and then St. Paul’s, near Harvard Square (converted from a Congregational meetinghouse in 1873). The original St. Paul’s was replaced in 1923 by an imposing Italian Romanesque structure. The pastor, Msgr. Augustine F. Hickey (1884-1965), was in his 40-year tenure when the first members of Opus Dei arrived at Harvard. A History of St. Paul’s Church, <> [visited on April 30, 2005]; Jeffrey Wills (ed.), The Catholics of Harvard Square, Petersham, Mass., St. Bede’s Publications, 1993, p. 165.

[6] Opus Dei is interested in spreading the universal call to sanctity among people of every profession and social position. In places where Opus Dei has begun to reach mature stature, a large percentage of its members are working class people with no particular educational attainments. When Opus Dei starts in a country, however, it concentrates at first on the college educated because of their ability to assimilate its message and pass it on quickly to people of all social strata.

[7] Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., p. 101.

[8] John Paul II, Litt. enc. Redemptoris missio, Dec. 7, 1990, n. 37, AAS 83 (1991), p. 284.

[9] John Paul II, Ep. Ap. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, Nov. 10, 1994, nn. 57-58, AAS 87 (1995), pp. 39-40. As if by anticipation of those visits of Pope John Paul II in 1976 and 1979, a frieze of St. Paul preaching to the Athenians was placed in the parish church adjacent to Harvard—St. Paul’s—during its construction in the early 1920s.

[10] This section draws upon the recollections of Joseph Barredo, Mar. 12, 1977, pp. 1-8 (AGP, Sec. A, Leg. 81, Carp. 3, Exp. 3). Dr. Barredo was born in Asturias (Spain) in 1906. While studying physical chemistry at the University of Madrid, he met the Founder of Opus Dei and became one of its first members on Feb. 11, 1933, four years after its founding (Barredo, like the others who came from Spain to start Opus Dei in the U.S., was what Opus Dei refers to as a “numerary member”, i.e. someone whose vocation includes apostolic celibacy and who normally, although not always, lives in a center of Opus Dei together with other numeraries. The majority of Opus Dei faithful are “supernumeraries”, whose vocation does not involve a commitment to celibacy and who normally live with their families). After the harrowing experience of the Civil War in Madrid, Barredo resumed his teaching and research at the University of Zaragoza. He is remembered by early members of Opus Dei in the U.S. as a sprightly, eternally optimistic man, often with a song on his lips, undaunted in approaching people on the street, in public transit, and especially in the schools and colleges he frequented in order to meet colleagues and students. He was able to outpace younger persons even after a train accident in Chicago (1967) left him with a leg prosthesis, which he designed himself. “Joseph delighted in conversation and often spoke about St. Josemaría and the early history of Opus Dei”. After helping to develop the apostolate in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., he returned to Spain in the mid 1980s and died in Pamplona in 1993. Recollections of Dr. John Gueguen; hereafter JG.

[11] Msgr. Lardone (1887-1980) became a Bishop when he began his long career as Papal Nuncio in Caribbean and Latin American countries in 1949 (cfr. Annuario Pontificio 1979, p. 789).

[12] Professor Hayes (1882-1964), a devout Catholic historian, spent World War II as U.S. Ambassador to Spain (1942-45). He was well known as a professor and author in the field of modern European history. In 1945 he served as president of the American Historical Association (cfr. J.L. Morrison, “Hayes, Carlton Joseph Huntley”, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, Washington D.C., The Catholic University of America, vol. 6 [1967, repr. 1981], pp. 957-958).

[13] John Joseph Wright (1909-1979) was a Bostonian who served the Archdiocese as priest and Auxiliary Bishop from 1935 to 1950. When the neighboring Worcester Diocese was created in 1950, he became its first ordinary and served there until appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1959. He was elevated to Cardinal in 1969 when he became Prefect of Clergy in the Roman Curia (the first American to head a Vatican congregation). He spent the remainder of his life in Rome. Besides his service to the Church as pastor, theologian, and arbitrator, Cardinal Wright wrote several books; his discourses and addresses (1939-1969) have been published in two volumes entitled Resonare Christum. He was esteemed for the warmth of his personality, his witty and well-informed conversation, and his deep interest in people and in the contemporary world (cfr. D.W. Wuerl, “Wright, John Joseph”, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, Washington D.C., The Catholic University of America, vol. 18 (1989), p. 558.

[14] José Luis Múzquiz de Miguel was born near Badajoz in Extremadura (Spain) in 1912. He met Opus Dei in Madrid prior to the Civil War and asked to be admitted upon his return from Germany in 1939. He earned doctorates in civil engineering and in history from the University of Madrid. While teaching at Madrid’s School of Engineering, he prepared for the priesthood under the supervision of St. Josemaría and was one of the first three members of Opus Dei to be ordained (1944). Five years later he came to the U.S. to begin the stable apostolate in Chicago and spent 13 years there as “Counselor”, the head of Opus Dei in the region, and as Regional Delegate (Since Opus Dei’s erection as a personal prelature in 1982, the head of Opus Dei in a region holds the title “Vicar” of the Prelate). In 1962, Father Múzquiz moved to Rome to assist the General Council of Opus Dei. Later he did pastoral work in Switzerland and Spain. He returned to the U.S. for a second period as Counselor (1976-1980) in New York City. Thereafter, he did pastoral work among lay people and priests in the Boston area. He suffered a heart attack while teaching at Arnold Hall Conference Center, Pembroke, Mass., and died nearby in Plymouth on June 21, 1983, shortly after his 70th birthday and Bishop del Portillo’s first visit to the U.S. “It is easy to picture Father Joseph’s bright face and spare figure, somewhat bowed in later years. There was a ready smile and word of affection or encouragement in his soft but persistent voice. His enthusiasm was contagious. His eyes sparkled with a cheerful optimism that never abated. A patient, gentle manner was his way of imitating St. Josemaría’s desire to ‘pass unnoticed’, never wanting to cause anyone an inconvenience or ask for special consideration. His humility, childlike simplicity, naturalness, affability, industriousness, and sense of order provided a basis for tireless dedication to priestly and administrative duties. The first American members noticed these traits primarily in his preaching and conversation, and they saw him constantly making notes and keeping current a large file of information about individuals and families he tried to stay in touch with. He had the historian’s propensity to preserve things for future use, and the engineer’s knack of knowing what could be useful” (JG).

[15] Recollections of John Loria; hereafter JLo. Shortly after his arrival, Polo met John’s father, Claudio, as both were returning home on a bus crossing the Harvard Bridge.

[16] JLo.

[17] Stetson and Law had met at the Harvard Catholic Club in fall 1950, shortly after Stetson entered Harvard College. Law introduced Stetson to other Catholic students, including Carl Schmitt, then a senior.

[18] Recollections of Msgr. Robert Bucciarelli; hereafter RB.

[19] RB. Law, Stetson, Bucciarelli and others met frequently at the early Mass at St. Paul’s, the parish that served Harvard students. Several of them sang in the choir.

[20] Recollections of Rev. William Stetson; hereafter WS.

[21] Recollections of Dr. Carl Schmitt; hereafter CS.

[22] This section relies primarily on Loria’s recollections. These first two supernumeraries in the Eastern U.S. raised seven children; there were 30 grandchildren when Maria departed this life on Dec. 28, 2003.

[23] Guillermo Porras Muñoz was born in El Paso, Tex. on July 17, 1922, into a family whose remote origins were in Chihuahua, Mexico. About 1940 he went to Mexico City to study history and jurisprudence at the National University. Advanced research took him to the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain, where he met Opus Dei about 1945. Not long after converting to Catholicism (he had been an atheist), he became the first Mexican-American member of Opus Dei and went to Madrid to study philosophy and theology. While preparing for the priesthood, he added canon law to his previous studies. After helping to lay the foundations for the Opus Dei apostolate in Boston (1953-1960), Father Porras returned to Spain to complete his canon law degree, and then helped to establish the apostolate in New York City (1963-1965) before returning to Mexico City to resume his scholarly work in historical and legal studies. He died June 28, 1988. Cfr. Romana. Bollettino della Prelatura della Santa Croce e Opus Dei, 4 (1988), p. 167. Henry Menzies recalls Father Porras as “a tall, stately aristocrat, a real ‘southerner’ even before ‘the South’ existed. His ancestors had settled in West Texas long ago when it was still part of Mexico. When we first met, I took him to be a distant, even haughty person. But later I came to know his kindly manner toward everyone. He was famous for his quick wit and skill in saying a lot in a few words—an absolute delight to be with on any occasion. He preached fine, well-prepared homilies, and the residents all loved him—as did everyone he knew”. Recollections of Henry Menzies; hereafter HM.

[24] Recollections of Ismael Virto; hereafter IV.

[25] Adding to Rosenblatt’s admiring and amused astonishment, Father Porras phoned him again several months later to say that Mrs. Hicks had indeed helped find a real estate agent who had located a fine house, and that now he needed a second mortgage on another house, this one to be a women’s residence. In the early 1960s, when Carl Schmitt met Rosenblatt—by then he was a cooperator of Opus Dei—Schmitt heard this story and its conclusion: “So this man bought two houses with a hundred dollars. That’s got to be a work of God!” (CS). Sol A. Rosenblatt (1901-1968), a prominent New York attorney, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1924. Among his many charities, he was a generous benefactor of the New York Archdiocese, to the extent that Archbishop Terence Cooke attended his funeral in Synagogue Emmanuel. He was also of assistance in establishing the first center of Opus Dei in New York. Recollections of Rev. Malcolm Kennedy; hereafter MK.

[26] Louise Day Hicks (1916-2003), stylish wife, mother, lawyer, and public official, was a tough and courageous daughter of South Boston’s Irish community, a defender of working and middleclass Bostonians whose deepest loyalties she shared. When she met Opus Dei in 1953 she was a recent graduate of Boston University Law School and partner with her brother in their father’s law firm, Day and Hicks. She later served as a member of the Boston School Committee (1961-69) the U.S. House of Representatives (1970-72) and the Boston City Council (1972-78).

[27] Subsequently, Mildred Baird received formation in the women’s center, became a member of Opus Dei, and was buried in St. Joseph’s cemetery near the grave of Father Múzquiz (CS).

[28] About the same time, Father Múzquiz passed through Boston on his way to Spain to meet St. Josemaría and other early members at Molinoviejo, a conference center located near Segovia, Spain (Opus Dei had just observed its 25th anniversary). When Father Múzquiz informed the Founder of the plans for a student residence in Boston, “he told me that we should move forward. He viewed with enthusiasm the Work’s extension to Boston, as he would also do a few years later when we were ready to begin in Washington”. Recollections of Rev. Joseph Múzquiz; hereafter JM, pp. 24-25 (AGP, Sec. A, Leg. 81, Carp. 3, Exp. 1).

[29] Msgr. John J. Murray, one of the first priests Father Porras met through Bishop Wright, told Carl Schmitt that it was he who suggested that name. Msgr. Murray had been pastor of St. Paul’s in Harvard Square and chaplain of the Catholic Club from 1950 to 1952. In 1953 he was Rector of St. John’s, the Archdiocesan Seminary. “Msgr. Murray, along with Msgr. Larry Riley (later an Auxiliary Bishop of Boston) were among our most steadfast friends in the U.S. and faithful in their friendship in difficult times”. Recollections of Rev. John Debicki; hereafter JD.

[30] “Many evenings and weekends were necessary to dispose of the old furniture out the rear windows, and it took numerous trips to the dump late at night to get rid of the mess that accumulated in the alley” (JLo).

[31] AGP, Sec. P03 II-1954, pp. 40-42.

[32] AGP, Sec. P01 II-1954, p. 67.

[33] JLo.

[34] AGP, Sec. P03 II-1954, p. 43.

[35] Born of Basque parents in Havana on Jan. 1, 1926, José Manuel Barturen Palacios met Opus Dei while studying engineering at the University of Madrid. After a year at Trimount, he began an import-export business in New York City and helped lay the foundations for the apostolate in that city. He died there of a heart attack on Nov. 22, 1998 after seeing several centers open in the city, including the regional comission of Opus Dei, Murray Hill Place, located in the heart of Manhattan at 34th and Lexington. His contemporaries remember his wry smile, carefully measured speech, and undying loyalty to Basque traditions. Loria describes him as “a princely sort of man” (JLo, IV); cfr. Romana. Bulletin of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, 14 (1998), p. 316.

[36] Temporarily located in Villa Tevere—the center of general council of Opus Dei—, the Roman College of the Holy Cross, established in 1948, was receiving students from the countries where Opus Dei’s apostolate was established—twelve at that time.

[37] Archbishop Cushing paid many of those indispensable expenses: “‘Send me the bill’, he told Father Porras” (JM).

[38] RB.

[39] JM, CS.

[40] AGP, Sec. P03 IV-1954, pp. 73-76.

[41] Ibid., pp. 19-21.

[42] JM.

[43] AGP, Sec. P03 VI-1954, pp. 41-44.

[44] Ibid., pp. 19-21.

[45] Cfr. Annuario Pontificio 1979, p. 697.

[46] AGP, Sec. P03 II-1954, p. 43.

[47] Born in Limerick, Ireland, Bill Gilligan immigrated to Chicago with family members and served in the Korean War. In 1953 he organized Scepter Press in Chicago (in conjunction with Scepter Dublin) and served as its director during its first two decades. In the early 1970s he began Lumen Christi publications in Houston, Tex., where he died on Apr. 21, 2004 at the age of 76.

[48] An early comment on The Way was done by Bishop Wright, shortly after he was appointed ordinary of the newly created Worcester diocese: “I’ve read The Way carefully and find it to be a profound and practical presentation of a way that will bring those who follow it close to Our Lord”. AGP, Sec. P03 XII-1954, p. 75.

[49] Recollections of Dr. Jacques Bonneville; hereafter JBo.

[50] This exquisite piece of art with 45 carved miniature figures of scenes from the life of Christ and his Mother set within ornate borders bearing additional ejaculations was moved to the men’s center of Opus Dei in suburban Chestnut Hill in 1974 when demographic changes in the Back Bay ended the 20-year life of Trimount House. A recent appraisal identified it as a 19th century copy of the Renaissance original (CS, JD). Daniel Sargent (1890-1987), historian and writer, was descended from a prominent Massachusetts family of writers and artists. In midlife he converted to the Catholic faith. Recalling his initial meeting with Joseph Barredo, he was happy to learn of plans for a residence and eager to make a contribution. He became a lifelong friend and cooperator of Opus Dei and often received Trimount residents at his home a little west of Cambridge in South Natick for long conversations sprinkled with historical anecdotes. His principal contribution to Opus Dei’s apostolate in the U.S. resulted from Barredo’s suggestion that Isidoro Zorzano be added to Sargent’s series of biographical studies of lay Catholics he considered significant in the life of the Church. After God’s Engineer was published (Scepter Press, 1954), he promoted private devotion to Zorzano in Boston and Chicago. Among the early members of the Work in Boston, probably Carl Schmitt and Henry Menzies knew him best. On a trip to Rome he met St. Josemaría. His journal entry states simply, “Today I met a saint” (HM).

[51] AGP, Sec. P03 X-1954, pp. 44-48. Msgr. Bucciarelli adds: “Father Bill had asked if we could get the director of St. Paul’s choir, Ted Marier, and a few student members to sing the Mass, which we did”. These included Bill Stetson (RB).

[52] Bishop Wright had escorted the Archbishop during the 1948 Holy Year of St. James. Archbishop (later Cardinal) Joseph Ritter of St. Louis was in their company, and likewise eager to help Opus Dei establish a residence in his city. In 1956 he granted the venia for Wespine House to open with his assistance. Richard James Cushing was born in South Boston into a family of Irish immigrants in 1895, was educated at Boston College and St. John’s Seminary, ordained as a priest in 1921, as auxiliary bishop in 1939, and appointed the sixth ordinary of Boston in 1944. He was enrolled in the College of Cardinals in 1958. He died in 1970 and is buried in the Portiuncula Chapel of the St. James Fathers in suburban Hanover. Cardinal Cushing became one of the most visible (and audible) Irish Americans of his era, well known to Americans of all faiths because of his raspy accent, salty language, and humorous quips (Cfr. T.F. Casey, “Boston, Archdiocese of Bostoniensis”, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, Washington D.C., The Catholic University of America, vol. 2 [1967, repr. 1981], pp. 722-723). After his initial visit to Trimount, he maintained a lively interest in the progress of the apostolate, meeting periodically with the director and chaplain.

[53] Among the reception guests were two faculty members of Gaztelueta, a high school in Bilbao, Spain, the first corporate work of apostolate of Opus Dei in the field of secondary education. They had come to the U.S. to visit high schools. One of them commented on the Archbishop’s enthusiasm for Opus Dei: “It was evident how pleased he was to be with us. His naturalness and trusting affection clearly showed how much he loves us and how well he understands us”. AGP, Sec. P03 X-1954, pp. 65-71.

[54] The dignitaries included Bishop Wright (JM).

[55] AGP, Sec. P03 X-1954, pp. 44-48.

[56] Harvard’s total enrollment for fall 1954 was 10,364, which included 4,430 in the undergraduate College (all male) and 5,934 in the graduate faculties and professional schools. Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Nov. 27 (1954), pp. 205-206.

[57] Archbishop Cushing was especially anxious to find a suitable chaplain because of tension at Harvard and throughout the Boston area due to the controversies surrounding Father Leonard Feeney SJ. A brilliant thinker and speaker, he had won many converts and aroused much interest in the Church. But around 1950 he began to preach an extreme version of the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church, concluding that anyone who is not a formal member is consigned to hell. Father Feeney was excommunicated in 1952, but in 1954 he still exerted considerable influence among Boston Catholics. He was reconciled with the Church before his death. Cfr. T.F. Casey, op. cit., p. 724; Ep. S. Officii ad archiep. Bostoniensem, Aug. 8, 1949, in DH 3866-3873.

[58] CS.

[59] RB.

[60] CS. Another witness, Father Stetson, a law student that fall, gives a terse summary: “The Archbishop spoke to the Counselor, who gave permission, and Father Porras was named chaplain” (WS).

[61] Given the role it played in the development of the apostolate of Opus Dei in the early years at Trimount and on the Harvard campus, some background on the Catholic Club is pertinent. From the beginning it was largely an initiative of undergraduates. Notice of the intention to form an organization for Catholic students first circulated on the Harvard campus in May 1893. In the first two years, the nine co-founders succeeded in enrolling 175 students, perhaps half of the College’s Catholic students. Many of them distinguished themselves in later life, whether in religious life or as leaders in secular professions. Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., pp. 70, 75, 77, 81. Catholics were gaining recognition at Harvard in other ways, as well. On Apr. 1, 1894, an alumnus, Rev. Peter J. O’Callaghan ’88, a Paulist, became the first priest to lead Sunday prayers at Harvard. A year later he wrote: “Harvard is the most splendid and richest field for missionary effort that can be found in the United States. It is a field wide open and inviting us to enter”. Peter J. O’Callaghan CSP, “Catholics at Harvard”, The Catholic Family Annual (1895), pp. 74-80. The purposes of the Club were “to promote the religious interests of the Catholic students at Harvard and to quicken the spirit of Christianity among all the students” by inviting prominent speakers to address monthly meetings and to hold biennial public lectures. When Phillips Brooks House opened in 1900 for use by student organizations, the Club began to meet there. John LaFarge ’01 played a leading role in that respect; he became a well-known member of the Society of Jesus and the first Catholic Dudleian lecturer at Harvard (1947). In 1904 he gave this summary of Catholic life at Harvard: While students suffer no discrimination, there is an “allpervading indifferentism” and “erroneous teaching in history and philosophy” that endangers their faith. Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., pp. 77-78, 80, 83. The Catholic Club had no chaplain nor formal connection to St. Paul’s parish, where most Catholic students attended Mass, until Rev. John Farrell, an assistant there, was appointed chaplain in 1901. He later became an active promoter of the Newman apostolate at secular universities. Subsequently there were eleven chaplains, six of them serving concurrently as pastor or assistant at St. Paul’s, until the Harvard and Radcliffe Catholic Clubs merged in 1960, upon the departure of Father Porras. When the Harvard house system went into operation in the 1930s and became the dominant influence in student life, the Catholic Club had been in decline for a decade and by 1933 was virtually assimilated into St. Paul’s parish. Its chaplain at the time, Rev. Augustine Hickey (assistant, later pastor) informed Boston’s Archbishop O’Connell that Harvard’s indifference to religion was “truly a matter to cause concern”, for it was keeping Catholic students “on the defensive” and making it difficult for the chaplain “to keep in touch” with them. Yet that indifference had another side: Rev. (now Cardinal) Avery Dulles SJ, ’40, observed that official religious neutrality was a contributing factor to the growing number of conversions and priestly vocations at Harvard. It also permitted Harvard presidents to begin inviting prominent Catholic laymen to participate in the university’s corporate life, and with the advent of summer school, many students and faculty members from Catholic colleges were attracted to Harvard, including priests—one of them, the Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen of Catholic University (1927-30). Ibid., pp. 86-87, 89-90, 91-92. During Cardinal Law’s undergraduate years (1949-53, immediately preceding Father Porras’s chaplaincy), the Catholic apostolate at Harvard “was practically all student generated. We had no center, no full-time priest, no staff. We did it mostly ourselves, out of conviction, and sharing the faith with people around us”. In his senior year, Law served as the Club’s vice-president and sang in St. Paul’s student choir with Stetson. Ibid., p. 169, quoting remarks delivered at Elmbrook University Residence, Oct. 13, 1989.

[62] AGP, Sec. P01 XII-1954, p. 84.

[63] John T. Bethell, Harvard Observed: An Illustrated History of the University in the Twentieth Century, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 210.

[64] Morton and Phyllis Keller, Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America’s University, New York, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 276, 290-291, 297.

[65] Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., p. 75; Harvard archive, courtesy of archivist Marvin Hightower, June 1, 2004.

[66] Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Apr. 6 (1957), pp. 504-505. A survey of Catholic students in 1963 concluded that Harvard’s “challenge… to their beliefs and moral conduct” was likely to stimulate among those with prior Catholic formation “a strengthening, deepening, and enriching of faith”. Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., pp. 174-182.

[67] Brian Domitrovic, op. cit., pp. 278-283. An able teacher and effective administrator, Pusey (1907-2001) professed a classical humanism firmly rooted in committed Christianity. As a devout Episcopalian layman, “his faith was at the source of his character”; as an educator, his ideal was to strengthen the link between Christian faith and the liberal arts in an age increasingly dominated by science and technology (Morton and Phyllis Keller, op. cit., p. 177). Pusey’s collected addresses, 1953-1962, The Age of the Scholar: Observations on Education in a Troubled Decade, Cambridge (Ma), Harvard University Press, 1963, spell out that aim (“troubled” because of a constant struggle with agnostic professors). “My deep conviction”, he wrote in the preface, “is that true learning […] requires fundamental spiritual commitment at its center, or it is nothing”. Without “the joy of belief […] higher education would have no real power to affect man’s highest aspiration” (p. vi). Cardinal Newman would have found Pusey’s idea of a university resonant with his own.

[68] Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., p. 96.

[69] Morton and Phyllis Keller, op. cit., p. 276. Pusey’s annual reports to the Board of Overseers (Harvard’s governing board) further delineate his plan for the university.

[70] Conversation with Rev. John McCabe, May 16, 1955, in Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., p. 96.

[71] These included Rev. John LaFarge SJ (see supra note 61); Rev. Martin D’Arcy SJ (1888-1976, English theologian and apologist from Oxford, wrote scholarly books and lectured widely); the Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1896-1985, a pioneer in implementing the social doctrine in North America and author of more than 30 books on social action and spirituality); the Servant of God Dorothy Day (1897-1980, social activist and writer who gave primacy to the spiritual life, and co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933); Erik von KuehneltLeddihn (1909-1999, Austrian historian, author, and lecturer who became a leading authority on 19th century European liberalism and its later ideological distortions); Jacques Maritain (1882-1973, French philosopher who promoted the 20th century Thomistic revival); and Christopher Dawson (1889-1970, British historian who came to Harvard Divinity School as occupant of the first chair of Catholic Studies). Typical themes were Father LaFarge’s 1959 and 1960 talks, “Why Be Social Minded?” and “Mature Faith in a Confused Year”. Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., pp. 95-96.

[72] Schmitt first heard of Opus Dei in spring 1951, at the end of his senior year at Harvard, when his Adams House roommate met Joseph Barredo as they traveled together between Boston and Chicago. After Schmitt’s graduation, he studied in Europe for two years, and then did a year of graduate work at the University of Chicago (1953-54). There he met Barredo at Calvert House (that university’s Catholic Club) and was invited to visit Woodlawn Residence to attend a lecture on Isidoro Zorzano by Daniel Sargent (Feb. 1954). God’s Engineer, had just been published (CS).

[73] RB.

[74] Ironically, in the same year, 1954, Dr. Jonas Salk produced a long-awaited vaccine that eventually stamped out the dread disease.

[75] AGP, Sec. P01 XII-1954, pp. 13-15.

[76] AGP, Sec. P03 X-1954, pp. 49-51. For a description of “meditations” preached by priests of Opus Dei, see, John F. Coverdale, Uncommon Faith: The Early Years of Opus Dei (1928-1943), Princeton (N.J.)–New York, Scepter Publishers, 2002, pp. 139-142.

[77] RB.

[78] MK.

[79] RB.

[80] JG. A photo of the students on that first retreat (Jeffrey Wills, op. cit., p. 145) shows Curtin third from left on the front row. Lawrence Michael Curtin was born in Steubenville, Ohio Sept. 20, 1935 and spent most of his early years in southern California. After graduating from Harvard in 1957, he would spent four years in Rome, obtain a doctorate in theology at the Lateran University, and be ordained (1961). Mike was asked to accompany St. Josemaría and his first successor to London in the summers of 1959 and 1960; he left memoirs of those special months. After he devoted many years to pastoral work in several cities, primarily among university students at Chicago and Harvard, James Cardinal Hickey of Washington appointed him director of the Catholic Information Center (downtown Washington) in 1992. He suffered a series of heart attacks and died there on Feb. 4, 1999. Cfr. Romana. Bulletin of the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, 15 (1999), p. 134. Fellow students remember “his infectious smile” and good-natured quips—“a typical Californian: mellow and laid-back. He studied hard but never gave the impression of being overly studious. He loved family life, get-togethers, and especially the singing on feast days”, accompanying himself on the guitar. Recollections of Dominic Fortunato, hereafter DF; of Rev. Paul Donlan, hereafter PD.

[81] Shortly after his arrival in New York, Barturen received a letter from St. Josemaría similar to the ones he was sending at the time to those who were turning the first furrows in several countries: “I know that you are clearing the way in that huge city. I am accompanying you and praying for you, because your fidelity and labor now will bring about a great work with souls there later. At times I really envy you, and you make me recall those early times, also heroic”. Andrés Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei: The life of Josemaría Escrivá, vol. III, New York, Scepter, 2005, p. 132.

[82] The co-op program alternated periods of classes at M.I.T. with practical experience working for participating firms.

[83] DF. Ed, whose home was in Lenox, Mass., was also a co-op student. After graduation, he began doctoral studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he would again meet and join Opus Dei.

[84] JBo. Jacques and his family would soon be returning to Canada: “When I completed the doctorate in June, I got a job near Quebec City with the Canadian Defense Research Board and at the same time started teaching at Laval University. Before I moved back to Boston in 1961, Father Joseph visited my wife and me several times, occasionally accompanied by Jim Polo or Carl Schmitt. After the center opened in Montréal (1958), the people there took over” (JBo).

[85] AGP, Sec. P01 VI-1955, pp. 82-83.

[86] AGP, Sec. P01 VII-1955, p. 78. Bishop Vincent S. Waters (1904-1974) became the third ordinary of Raleigh in 1945. Although the diocese embraced the whole state of North Carolina, it had only 13,000 Catholics. Missionary zeal inspired him to open a good number of parishes and schools. By 1972, when a second North Carolina diocese was created (Charlotte), there were 70,000 Catholics in the state. Bishop Waters was best known as a pioneer in civil rights. In 1947 he began to accept African-American seminarians; of the first two ordained, one became bishop of Biloxi, Miss. In 1953 Bishop Waters declared that racial segregation would no longer be tolerated in the diocese, and he inaugurated a bold plan to achieve integration. Cfr. J.T. Ellis, “United States of America”, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, Washington D.C.,The Catholic University of America, vol. 2 (1967, repr. 1981), p. 437. Bishop Waters recognized in Opus Dei a providential means to mobilize lay leadership, especially among young people. He first encountered the Work in Spain, and on his return began to look for potential members in his diocese. One of them, Henry Menzies, first learned of Opus Dei through him in 1955 and at his suggestion visited Woodlawn Residence in Chicago the following year—the beginning of a vocational saga to be recounted here in due course. Bishop Waters made several trips to the centers in Boston between 1959 and 1962 when Menzies was practicing architecture there. Bishop Waters, one of Opus Dei’s strongest supporters in the United States, was greatly disappointed at its inability to open a student residence in his diocese.

[87] Recollections of Msgr. George Rossman; hereafter GR.

[88] AGP, Sec. P01 X-1955, p. 32-33.

[89] RB.

[90] The birth control campaign, a reaction to the “Baby Boom” that followed World War II, began when secularized intellectuals raised a cry of “overpopulation”. Its primary agent was Planned Parenthood of America, founded in 1916 by Margaret Sanger, and now gearing up to do battle with Americans who desired large families.

[91] CS.

[92] AGP, Sec. P01 XII-1955, pp. 64-68.

[93] Ibid., p. 83.

[94] RB.

[95] AGP, Sec. P01 I-1956, pp. 67-70.

[96] Francis William Wynn Kervick (1883-1962) was one of Opus Dei’s first cooperators in the U.S. His South Bend home would later serve as a meeting place for students in touch with Opus Dei at Notre Dame (1956-60), prior to the opening of Windmoor House. He retired from the architecture faculty in 1950 after a 40-year career of teaching, writing, and designing campus buildings. His principal book was Architects in America of Catholic Tradition (Rutland [Vt] C.E. Tuttle Company, 1962). The Notre Dame archives hold his professional papers and correspondence, including the Wynnview negotiations.

[97] Father Joseph’s trip had included stops in Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, N.C. “An immense work lies ahead of us” in that “intellectual center” of North Carolina where people in three major universities “are waiting for us”. AGP, Sec. P01, II-1956, pp. 38-42.

[98] Ibid. Bishop Robert F. Joyce (1896-1990), sixth ordinary of Burlington, was a native Vermonter and 1917 graduate of the Univ. of Vermont. He was ordained Bishop in 1954 as Auxiliary to Bishop Edward F. Ryan, who died in 1956, shortly after Father Joseph’s visit. G.E. Dupont – J. Sullivan, “Burlington, Diocese of (Burlingtonensis)”, in New Catholic University, Washington D.C., vol. 2 (1967, repr. 1981), p. 901. During the tenure of Bishop Joyce (1956 until his retirement in 1971) he visited Wynnview and received numerous visits from members of Opus Dei.

[99] AGP, Sec. P01 I-1956, pp. 30-31.

[100] RB.

[101] AGP, Sec. P01 IV-1956, pp. 18-20.

[102] GR.

[103] CS.

[104] JD.

[105] GR.

[106] CS.

[107] CS.

[108] RB. Father Burke, the first member of Opus Dei from Ireland, had recently arrived from Europe to serve in the new Washington residence, Baltemore Lodge.

[109] CS. In May Schmitt took a week off to visit his parents in Connecticut “to tell them that Chris and I had joined the Work. A few days earlier, Chris had written them a letter, which arrived the day before I did. My mother showed it to me: ‘Dear Father and Mother, I have joined Opus Dei. I am obedient to the head of it, the Father, in Rome, and he is obedient to the Pope. Newby will explain the rest. Love, Chris’ (I was known as Newby in the family—and by Father Múzquiz— because at one point I was the ‘new baby’ to my seven older siblings). After explaining things as best I could, I drove on to New York City to meet Manolo Barturen. Later I introduced my brother Peter to him because he was working there; he got excited about the Work, too, and sometime thereafter asked for admission” (CS).

[110] RB.

[111] Fr. Antonio Ugalde [Father Antxon] had recently come to Trimount from Spain and occasionally substituted for Father Porras at the apartment; he would soon leave for the Midwest, where the first center in St. Louis (Wespine House) was in need of a priest.

[112] JD.

[113] In the U.S., students obtain a bachelor’s degree in some other subject before beginning the professional study of law (3 additional years).

[114] RB.

[115] WS.

[116] GR.

[117] “Pilgrimages” made by members of Opus Dei are simple affairs. A couple of friends visit a shrine or church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying five mysteries of the Rosary on their way there, five mysteries at the shrine, and another five mysteries on the way back. For an explanation of the origin of this custom, see John Coverdale, op. cit., pp. 177-178. In May 1956, older and newer members of the Work made many pilgrimages to thank and petition Our Lady. Bucciarelli made his first pilgrimage with Father Múzquiz and Father Porras: “We went to Mission Church in Roxbury where there was a much-venerated image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. They must have been praying a lot for my perseverance since I was leaving shortly for New Canaan to get ready for my first flight—to Chicago—to find work while attending the philosophy semester at Woodlawn Residence” (RB).

[118] MK.

[119] RB.

[120] DF.

[121] The familial tone of life in a center of the Prelature is an important element of the spirit of Opus Dei.

[122] All numerary members, not only those who eventually become priests of the Prelature, undertake formal studies of philosophy and theology at the university level. A large part of the classes are taken in the evening or during summer “semesters” that are compatible with an individual’s other commitments—pursuing an academic degree, or developing a professional career.

[123] GR.

[124] JD.

[125] Father Meroño had arrived in the U.S. on Feb. 1, 1956 from Italy, where he had just completed his doctorate in philosophy. A native of Andalucia, he had an understandable difficulty teaching in English. AGP, Sec. P01 III-1956, pp. 44-45.

[126] MK.

[127] DF.

[128] CS.

[129] AGP, Sec. P03 VI-1956, pp. 17-20.

[130] CS.

[131] CS, MK.

[132] JD.

[133] MK.

[134] DF.

[135] RB.

[136] CS.

[137] MK.

[138] CS.

[139] RB.

[140] CS.

[141] CS.

[142] Recollections of Dennis Helming; hereafter DH. Along with John Coverdale, Helming became one of the early publicists of Opus Dei in the U.S. His story of meeting and learning to live the spirit of the Work appeared in a 1972 Scepter Booklet, “Christianity for Everyman”.

[143] Recollections of Rev. Robert Yoest; hereafter RY. He recalls first hearing of Opus Dei in the fifth grade at St. Athanasius School (1945) in a story about the escape of Álvaro del Portillo and his companion from the communist zone of Spain in October 1938 during the Spanish Civil War (St. Anthony Junior Messenger).

[144] DF.

[145] Recollections of Rico Fortunato; hereafter RF. This 3,000-foot national landmark is a favorite hiking place for Bostonians.

[146] AGP, Sec. P01 I-1957, pp. 61-63.

[147] WS. Father Nick would move on to Chicago in a few months, and Father Mark to Japan.

Like a Bridge over Troubled Water in Sydney: Warrane College and the Student Protests of the 1970s

Abstract: This article refers to events occurred in Sydney, from 1966 to 1974, to provide some general background to the foundation of Warrane College, a university hall of residence entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei and affiliated with the University of New South Wales. Primarily based on journalistic accounts, this study is divided into three main sections: first, it provides a narrative of the foundation of the college, then an analysis of the particular aims and ethos of the residence, and finally, it describes the growing opposition to the project and the subsequent protests of 1971 and 1974.

Keywords: Opus Dei – Josemaría Escrivá – Australia – Warrane College – 1966-1974

Abstract: Questo articolo tratta una serie di eventi, avvenuti a Sydney tra il 1966 e il 1974, riguardanti la fondazione di Warrane College, una residenza universitaria affidata alla cura spirituale dell’Opus Dei e affiliata all’Università del Nuovo Galles del Sud. Lo studio si basa principalmente su fonti giornalistiche ed è diviso in tre parti: la descrizione del processo fondativo della residenza, l’analisi degli obiettivi formativi della stessa, e l’opposizione al progetto sorta in alcuni ambienti dell’università suddetta, con le proteste che ne derivarono nel 1971 e nel 1974.

Keywords: Opus Dei – Josemaría Escrivá – Australia – Warrane College – 1966-1974


*I am very grateful to David Bolton, William West and Fr Joseph Martins for the comments and suggestions regarding this article. The following piece will offer no more than a reading of the events, which emerges mainly from journalistic accounts reporting the incidents of 1971 and 1974, thus inviting further—and more contextual—work, based on state and ecclesiastical records. The title relates to the 1970 song by Simon and Garfunkel.

Warrane College is a residential college for university students affiliated with the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei. Its prehistory can be traced to the 1950s, when the Catholic archbishop of Sydney, Norman Cardinal Gilroy, first came into contact with members of Opus Dei and a sample of their educational initiatives in Europe. The most senior figure of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal Gilroy attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), when he is likely to have met Saint Josemaría Escrivá. Thomas Muldoon, auxiliary bishop of Sydney, recalls that after an audience with the Founder of Opus Dei, Pope Pius XII famously said to Gilroy that Escrivá “is a true saint, a man sent by God for our times”[1].

As it turned out, Gilroy’s visit to Rome was to prove a crucial moment in the early history of Opus Dei in Australia. The cardinal was then entertaining the idea of setting up a residential college at a university campus in Sydney and the University of New South Wales—then the New South Wales University of Technology—was very short of places for student accommodation. Opus Dei must have loomed large in the mind of the Australian cardinal, not only because of the words of Pius XII about its saintly Founder, but also because Gilroy had taken note of the experience of its members in the administration of university halls in Spain, Italy, Ireland and the United States[2].

The prelude to the project and the Foundation

In 1963, Father Salvador Ferigle, a member of Opus Dei and lecturer at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, had been to Sydney on his way from Tokyo to Rome, and had met Cardinal Gilroy and visited the university campus. Four months later, and under the impulse of Saint Josemaría, two priests and two laymen of Opus Dei went to Australia to settle for the first time. They lived on Silver Street, in the suburb of Randwick, near the university. Several other laymen from Spain and the United States came to support the apostolic work of Opus Dei in Australia, and in 1965, they set up Nairana Cultural Centre on High Street in Randwick, also very close to the campus[3].

In the 1950s, there was a move to set up a Catholic university in Sydney but it was finally decided to build instead a residential hall and add to the long-standing presence and important function of St. John’s College at the University of Sydney[4]. The Kensington Tech (or New South Wales University of Technology) was founded in 1949 and in the face of increasing student demand for accommodation in the 1950s, it became the most suitable campus for new halls of residence[5]. At the Australian Universities Commission in 1959, the Vice-Chancellor of the university and representatives of the Church met to discuss the prospects of setting up a Catholic college on campus, and it was agreed that “depending upon a suitable site being obtained, and Commonwealth grants for the triennium 1961-63, the Church would match the available finance to provide a college for up to two hundred residents”[6].

The details of the negotiations between the Church and the university concerning the building were managed by Father John Burnheim of St. John’s College. It is worth citing a letter he sent to the Vice-Chancellor in June 1963 in which he reveals a great deal of enthusiasm for the project and the Church’s confidence in the suitability of Opus Dei for its management:

I am very happy to be able to tell you that a Catholic organisation called Opus Dei is very anxious to push ahead with the project for a College at the University of N.S.W., and that the Church authorities are giving them every encouragement and support. Two of their members, Father James W. Albrecht and Christopher Schmitt are in Sydney and are empowered to take immediate steps towards making a foundation […]. In the near future I shall no doubt be handing over any negotiations concerning a college at the University of N.S.W. I know that they will pursue the project with great vigour, and I hope that they will enjoy the same very cordial and understanding relationship with you and the University that I have enjoyed over the past few years[7].

Members of Opus Dei had spent only three years in Australia and they were now entrusted with a major task for which they received unreserved support from university and church authorities. Gilroy’s letter to Albrecht in March 1964 stamped the initiative with an official blessing:

As you know, for some years now, the Archdiocese has had the desire to establish a Residential College at the University of New South Wales under Catholic auspices. I am pleased that Opus Dei has come to Sydney and is providing an opportunity for this desire to become a reality […]. While I was in Rome, I had the opportunity to visit one of your international student residences there. I was very pleased with the spirit of the people in the residence and the work Opus Dei is accomplishing there. I am happy that you plan to establish a residential college in order to carry on this work here, and I wish you every success and assure you of my blessing[8].

Michael Steuart, then the secretary of a committee set up to materialise the project, received a letter in 1968 from the Chancellor of the university praising the efforts of such a group and stating that he was “also pleased that the direction of Warrane is to be entrusted to Opus Dei, an Association which has had wide experience in this field”[9]. The contract between the administration of the college and the university was arranged as a lease for ninety-nine years with an option for renewal and with a nominal rent. In addition, “the University will not require to extend its authority into each College but will leave the responsibility for the control and discipline of students therein to the Rector of the College”[10].

The members of Opus Dei and those collaborating with its educational initiatives were not only given support and encouragement, but their future college was to enjoy some autonomy and independence from university authorities. One of the clauses of the lease established “no express restrictions upon the fashion in which the College shall be administered or governed nor does it contain in specific terms, any normative rules of discipline or conduct which the College is required to observe”[11]. In consequence, the new college at the University of New South Wales was to be shaped by the same principles and characterised by the same spirit that impressed Cardinal Gilroy of the residences entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei in Europe and the Americas.

But how was an Opus Dei college different from other university residences? What was it exactly that impressed Cardinal Gilroy about the hall he visited in Rome? And now that everything was on course for the foundation of the college, how would a few members of this organisation in a foreign country proceed to imprint on this overwhelming project the Catholic spirit of Opus Dei shown to Saint Josemaría in 1928?

The college was named Warrane, and this was perhaps the very first manifestation of its affiliation with the principles promoted by the projects under the direction of Opus Dei members. Warrane is an anglicised version of Warrang which in one of the aboriginal languages of Australia means “Sydney Cove”, where the first European settlers established themselves in 1788. Some may have expected the new college at the University of New South Wales to have a “Catholic” name—after all, the Church had initiated and was significantly involved in the project.

Furthermore, an initiative of this nature could have followed the precedent of St. John’s College, set up in the nineteenth century as the Catholic college of what was then the only university in Sydney[12]. Josemaría Escrivá always practised and encouraged others to have a very intense veneration of the saints of the Church, but he had indicated that the corporate initiatives of Opus Dei would not have the name of saints, so none of these projects would be identified as officially Catholic[13].

Opus Dei had gone to Australia to serve the Church and, as we shall explain, the ethos of Warrane College was to be closely associated with the principles and values of Catholic doctrine. However, it was made clear from the beginning that the college was not run by the diocese, nor was it in any way dependent on directives suggested by the hierarchy more than any private initiative run by ordinary Australian Catholics. Cardinal Gilroy, who seems to have understood this aspect of the spirit of Opus Dei, celebrated the work of the Warrane College Development Committee in a letter sent to its secretary, Michael Steuart, in October 1968: “it is especially pleasing to know that you have the co-operation of men of different faiths who have the common desire to establish Warrane College in the knowledge that its benefits will be extended to students of all faiths”[14]. Residence in the college was open to non-Catholics just as much as membership of its management and administration. As Owen F. Hughes remarked in “Tharunka”, the newspaper of the Students’ Union, as with all residences of Opus Dei throughout the world, “Warrane will be open to students of all religions, races and nationalities. The College will, in fact, make every effort to have the greatest possible diversity among the residents and tutors”, and quoting the words of Saint Josemaría, he continues: “In Opus Dei pluralism is not simply tolerated. It is desired and loved, and in no way hindered”[15]. This was not mere university diplomacy. When the college was officially opened in 1971, The Sydney Morning Herald informed that “its resident population will include undergraduate and postgraduate students from every faculty at the university, and will represent more than twenty countries, mostly in the Pacific area. Open to students of all faiths, the college has residents of many denominations”[16]. In 1972, for example, 72 per cent of residents at Warrane were Australian; 24 per cent from Asia; and 4 per cent from other continents, and since its foundation, the college has hosted students from over forty different countries. This multicultural interaction was so prominent a feature in college life, that it was noted and celebrated in 1972 by the Minister for Immigration[17].

But if Warrane was not run by the Catholic Church, neither did Opus Dei own the college. In an interview with the Students’ Union’s newspaper, the Master of Warrane clarified that it is owned “by a non-profit company called Education Development Association, the constitution of which provides that should it ever be disbanded, its assets may not go to any of its directors but must go to charities”. In the same interview, when asked about the relationship between the college and the university, the Master explained that “the college is built on land leased from the University and is thus legally distinct from the campus. On the other hand since it is an affiliated College, there is obviously a great deal of co-operation between the College and the University, and so we feel very much a part of the campus and we are very proud of it”[18]. The relationship between Warrane and the university community was deemed so essential an aspect of its mission, that college facilities were open to non-resident members as well as lecturers affiliated as academic fellows or visiting tutors[19]. Warrane was then counted among the very few student halls entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei in the world which enjoyed official affiliation with a university, an important feature considering the apostolic objectives of such initiatives[20].

The lease of land which allowed the construction of Warrane was signed on 27th March 1967. One half of the building costs was provided by the Commonwealth Government, one quarter by the State Government of New South Wales, and the rest was obtained by the Warrane Development Committee by means of a bank loan, the payment of which was raised by contributions from individuals and local companies. Construction of the college began in January, 1969, and the building was ready to accommodate students for the third term of the academic year of 1970.

It was an imposing structure of dark brown bricks which dominated the skyline of Kensington with its tower of eight floors elevated over the south-east corner of the university campus on Anzac Parade with Barker Street. The building was equipped with single bedrooms and facilities to accommodate 204 students, resident tutors and other senior and domestic staff. The first two storeys included the chapel, a number of offices, a common room and snack bar, a library and music room, as well as a large dining room adjacent to the entrance hall and reception room. Next to the dining room were the premises reserved for the household administration, managed and directed by women of Opus Dei in collaboration with some others. For the standards of the 1960s, Warrane College was indeed a large-scale structure which impressed the neighbouring community and was the subject of an extraordinarily detailed description in the Sydney Morning Herald[21]. Opus Dei was barely starting its activities in Australia and its members would have surely preferred a much smaller building in order to offer a more personalised attention to residents in accordance with the principles that inspired this type of project in other parts of the world. The Work, however, had gone to that corner of the world to serve the Church, in the words of Saint Josemaría, “as she wants to be served”[22]. In this case, a particular model of residential education, so successfully tested in several countries, was naturally adapted to local circumstances, not without difficulties as we shall see. More in the traditional style of Opus Dei residences was Creston College, a university hall for women with capacity for thirty students just outside the northern bounds of the university campus, on High Street[23].

Joseph F. Martins was appointed Master, the highest authority in the residence. A member of Opus Dei, Martins had migrated from the United States after obtaining a doctorate in physical chemistry from Harvard University and having directed a small residential hall in Boston[24]. The dean of students was Owen F. Hughes, also from the United States, and then a lecturer in the School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of New South Wales. In the administrative and academic management of Warrane, they were assisted by a number of staff, among them twelve residential tutors, divided between the six residential floors, several lay members of Opus Dei, and two Catholic chaplains, also in residence[25].

Warrane was officially opened on Sunday 13th June, 1971, by Sir Roden Cutler, Governor of New South Wales. The ceremony was also attended by David Hughes, Minister for Public Works; Sir Kevin Ellis, Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and Deputy Chancellor of the University of New South Wales; Rupert Myers, Vice-Chancellor of the university; the members of the Warrane Development Committee, and more than two hundred guests, among them the college residents[26].

The distinctive aims and ethos of the College

Warrane College then became one of the seventy university residences in Australia and one of the six colleges affiliated with the University of New South Wales[27]. Four of these colleges were non-denominational halls managed by the university, being the three Kensington Colleges (Baxter, Basser and Goldstein colleges) on the upper campus, and International House on the lower campus. New College was the name of the residence also established on the lower campus under the auspices of the Anglican Church. Like Warrane, the Anglican college was located on Anzac Parade and was built in similar fashion. In the middle of 1968, representatives from the Jewish community in Sydney approached university authorities with a view to building the third denominational college on Barker Street, after their proposal was rejected by Sydney University[28].

As Warrane, all these institutions were affiliated university colleges which aimed to provide a communal environment nurtured with active participation in a variety of collegial activities ranging from social events to cultural initiatives, from sporting competitions to academic endeavours. Like all affiliated colleges in Australia, these were not simply halls of residence providing temporary accommodation during the university term in the manner of student hostels. Similarly to the first colleges established in Australia in the nineteenth century, the post-war residences aimed to maintain and cultivate at least the most fundamental traditions first espoused by Oxbridge colleges in the Middle Ages, “while expressing, in their architecture and style of life, new ideas and approaches to university student life”[29].

In varying degrees, an intense collegial life was common to all the student halls affiliated with the University of New South Wales from the late 1960s, and came to complement and enrich the university experience for thousands of students in Sydney. However, the principles upon which Warrane was established and the aims driving the efforts of its management towered above the objectives of all other residential colleges at the University of New South Wales, and indeed in Australia.

The particular ethos of Warrane is a most fundamental consideration in understanding the college’s short history, the spiritual aspects of its mission, and the educational vision that shaped its extraordinary make-up. A few months later the official opening of the college, the Master explained in an interview:

There are many types of colleges throughout Australia, each with its own environment and structure, and we welcome this diversity. At the same time, we have chosen a particular set of characteristics for Warrane, designed a building with these in mind, and are now guiding the initial stages of the College’s development in a way consistent with these principles. We are confident that the College will prove itself over the years[30].

In concordance with the aims of the Education Development Association, the college’s first and most fundamental purpose was “to promote education and the development of character in accordance with the principles and ideals of Christianity”[31]. Such an objective was common to all university residences established by members of Opus Dei throughout the world, but in 1970, it implied a most ambitious and daring novelty for a college in the increasingly secularised environment of campuses in Australia[32]. When asked whether Opus Dei was relevant to the Australian conditions, the college Master, Joseph Martins, vigorously answered that “there are two main points that Opus Dei emphasises: living one’s Christian commitment fully and sanctifying oneself through one’s work. It is obvious that both Christianity and work have a place in Australia. Opus Dei’s message is relevant here as in the some forty countries where the Association carries on its work”[33].

The college, however, had been erected in a country that, like many others in the developed world, was rapidly losing its Christian roots and renouncing much of its cultural heritage. In this context, the presence of Warrane and its contribution to campus life became all the more notorious and pertinent. Tony Shannon, a lecturer in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Technology in Sydney, had been in touch with members of Opus Dei and residents at Warrane long enough to grasp the essential mission of the college. In an article published in 1974 in the Canberra Times, he explained:

Warrane seeks to provide a stimulating environment in which the intellectual, moral and overall human development of the men who live there can flourish […]. Essentially the college tries to provide a framework within which these ideals can be realised, and it utilises the resources and services of men of good will who share these aims […]. More specifically, Warrane’s aims are: (1) to ensure good study conditions and further the intellectual development offered by the university; (2) to promote a spirit of friendship and understanding in an atmosphere of warmth and service to others; (3) to provide, for those students who wish it, the opportunity to know and practise the Christian faith more fully; (4) to encourage participation in all aspects of university life; (5) to foster an awareness of one’s social responsibility and of the opportunities to contribute to the needs of the society in which we live[34].

Employing these ideals and principles to shape the ethos of a large affiliated college in Australia of the 1970s was by no means a simple enterprise. To fully comprehend and appreciate what these ambitious goals entailed, it is necessary to analyse the methods and means used to achieve them. In other words, we should ask how were these aims materialised; how did they distinguish Warrane from the other colleges, and how was the model for similar residential halls around the world transported into Australia? In essence, what was, as already said, the particular recipe that had left Gilroy so impressed upon his visit to that residence run by members of Opus Dei in Rome?

In order to ensure good study conditions and further the intellectual development offered by the university, the college appointed several tutors every year. These tutors would be residents chosen on the basis of seniority and academic experience, and in 1971 they were expected to conduct tutorials, be available to students for consultation concerning their university courses, and be aware of their academic standing. Beside these academic obligations, these tutors were also asked to fulfill a number of mentoring and leadership tasks. In 1973, these roles were separated and two groups of tutors were established: those designated academic tutors were exclusively concerned with the academic welfare of the students in the college, while a second group known as resident tutors, were appointed for each floor to look after their personal wellbeing and were entrusted with some authority over the residents[35].

The sanctification of work is at the very centre of the message of Opus Dei, and since studying was the principal occupation of university students, it was naturally afforded a central place in the college experience. “An hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of prayer”, once wrote Saint Josemaría[36]. A large number of tutors, a comprehensive tutorial program, an encouraging environment of academic achievement, and ideal study conditions were the ingredients of the Warrane recipe. An excellent ratio between tutors and residents ensured personalised attention and regular academic counselling. In addition to the assistance offered by the permanent staff, the academic environment at the college was substantially aided by 22 visiting and resident academic tutors, who offered assistance on a wide range of subjects. “The Visiting Tutors are generally members of the University staff, ranging from Teaching Fellows to Senior Lecturers. There are 44 tutorials given each week in 29 different subjects, and all of these numbers are expected to increase as the college develops”, explained Joseph Martins. Furthermore, “tutorial groups are kept small—usually no more than six students—in order to make them be of greater benefit to the student”[37].

Although attendance at these tutorials was voluntary, as with all other activities organised for the residents, the fruits of such an intense and elaborated scheme were soon to earn for the college some academic success. In the early 1970s, the percentage of residents who passed all their subjects at Warrane was the highest among all colleges affiliated with the University of New South Wales. At the end of 1973, for example, 98.7 per cent of the residents at Warrane were allowed to proceed with their university courses, while nearly 82 per cent passed all subjects that year, a figure that was significantly higher than at the Kensington colleges and New College[38].

Academic achievement was encouraged and rewarded at Warrane from its earliest history. A college scholar award was given each year to students who on average obtained a distinction level or higher in all subjects. In 1974, the State Minister for Education presented the award for the first time to eleven students at a dinner in the college[39].

These numbers speak for themselves, but they are not only, not even primarily, the product of the tutorial system. There was something particular of the environment at Warrane which encouraged academic achievement. The Master of the college observed in 1971:

The other aspect is that of providing good study conditions. This, of course, should be a feature of all colleges, but good study conditions do not just happen—they require the cooperative efforts of all, and some system of operation whereby all of the various activities within the College will not detract from these conditions. In order to achieve this, the policy at Warrane is that the residential floors are for the residents, and are not meant for visitors, for large group activities or for anything noisy. For any of these, the common room areas should be used, and the College provides very extensive common facilities to make this possible […]; this arrangement also provides a reasonable measure of privacy for the residents[40].

Further contribution to this environment was made by weekly guest speakers to broaden the professional and cultural horizons of the residents, and study weekends designed for those who wanted or needed to intensify their study towards preparing exams or completing assignments.

The Warrane model, however, was not entirely geared towards the academic performance of its residents, nor was this successful system what characterised the college most. The staff was also greatly concerned with promoting a spirit of friendship and understanding in an atmosphere of warmth and service to others.

Residential tutors were appointed for this purpose. According to an outline of proposals for 1971, the staff indicated that two tutors were to be allocated to each floor and they would be expected to help establish gettogethers or social gatherings on the floors in a way which creates a homelike environment among the residents; be vigilant about study conditions, apply the rules and deal with the students on these matters; visit the residents with frequency for counselling and mentoring; and finally, help the House Committee member on each floor in promoting floor-based activities and contributing to the social interaction and cohesion of the group[41].

While the elected members of the House Committee, later known as the Activities Committee, were entrusted with organising activities for all residents at Warrane, the residential tutors were appointed to take a leading role on each floor and thus organise activities for the residents of their floors. Among these undertakings, perhaps the most significant were the floor gatherings on each night, which came to be popularly identified as coffee club. These were informal meetings which gathered the members of each floor, who voluntarily participated in a variety of conversations concerning daily occurrences, college news and activities. For the residents, they were an opportunity to relax, take a break from study, celebrate birthdays and keep informed of the events organised by the House Committee. Above all, the main purpose of these floor gatherings was to offer a unique opportunity for the residents to know each other, thus creating a home-like environment of friendship and trust. In this context, there was hardly any need for locks on doors, a feature that is special to Warrane, where the interaction of residents was similar to that of a family[42].

In order to nurture this special environment, the tutors constantly encouraged the residents to consider the needs of others and developed an ongoing attitude of service. They are also urged to practice the virtues required for mutual understanding, for accommodating differences, and thus facilitate common living.

Owen Hughes, then Vice-Master at Warrane, lived in a residence entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei in the United States just like the Master, Joseph Martins. He writes:

Characteristic of the residences of Opus Dei is an especially active college life. At Warrane students will be encouraged to exercise their initiative and to join together in organising activities of all types: music, drama, sports, seminars […]. This active participation gives rise to a spirit of belonging in which the resident feels himself part of the college, and not just a lodger. Testimony of the involvement of the residents in the life of the college is their frequent continuing interests in the affairs of the college even after they have left university[43].

The residents at Warrane were not only introduced to an intense college life, but the internal environment also encouraged them to become actively involved in all aspects of university life. Shannon revealed that the college “impresses one not only as a well-run educational project but also a centre which has much to contribute to the university and the community at large”[44].

Douglas Logan, the Principal of the University of London, wrote in 1964 with reference to a residence entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei in London: “I have been deeply impressed by the excellent results you have achieved in the present Netherhall House and by the real university atmosphere you have created there”[45]. As an affiliated college, Warrane was even more involved in university affairs and senior residents were elected to the House Committee every year to strengthen the presence of the college at the university and ensure an active participation of its residents on campus.

The composition of the committee was: a president, secretary, treasurer, activities director, editor of the newsletter, sports chairman, amenities chairman, one of the tutors, six floor members, and one nonresident member of the college. They met regularly to discuss and decide on matters concerning internal and external activities, and were advised by senior staff members. This group organised the college ball, a highlight in the social calendar of the year and a much publicised event on campus, as well as promoting outings and weekend trips. They were to coordinate the participation of Warrane in the Inter-college Sports Shield, an annual sporting competition among the affiliated halls. The name of Warrane was inscribed in this shield several times in the 1970s, and the teams that represented the college demonstrated a great deal of sporting prowess, particularly in rugby[46]. And just as the college promoted and rewarded academic achievement, the sportsman of the week was presented with the Willie Wong Best and Fairest Award, a cup named after a resident from Malaysia who represented Warrane with distinction in a number of sporting contests. The presentation of this award became a tradition in college and has continued to honour the efforts and skills of many residents. Sporting success was a fundamental element of cohesion and has fed college spirit for decades in a country where sport awakens unparalleled fervour.

The committee of students collaborated with the staff in promoting the participation of residents in general university activities and membership of student clubs and societies. Several residents were also active in student politics and some became members of the Students’ Union Council[47]. A number of public lectures were organised at Warrane every year and added to the talks given every week by guest speakers from the professional and academic world. In 1972, for instance, the residents were exposed to the knowledge and experience of Walter Bunning, one of the best architects in Sydney; Victor Couch, Vice-Rector of the Sydney Teachers College; Elwyn Lynn, director of the Power Gallery of Contemporary Art; Douglas Miller, renown neurosurgeon; Emmet McDermott, former mayor of Sydney; Vincent McGovern, pathologist; Edward St. John, lawyer, and Sir Philip Baxter, from the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is but a sample of those who were invited to speak at the college in 1972. These weekly lectures served to widen perspectives among the residents while facilitating privileged contact with a range of professional undertakings.

These sessions also fostered an ever present awareness of the student’s social responsibility and of the opportunities to contribute to the needs of society, another of the aims procured by the staff and tutors at Warrane, and unmistakably inspired by the mission preached by the Founder of Opus Dei of “contributing to resolve in a Christian way the problems which affect the community of each country”[48].

The corporate undertakings of Opus Dei around the world were social initiatives, and all its educational enterprises, such as a Warrane, promoted social awareness among the students. Typical of the social initiatives of Opus Dei were Strathmore College in Nairobi, the first interracial school in East Africa; Centro Internazionale della Gioventù Lavoratrice in Rome, a residence and school for industrial workers entrusted to Opus Dei by Pope John XXIII and inaugurated by Pope Paul VI; the Radio School ERPA, offering lessons by radio to indigenous people in the highlands of Peru, to mention a few[49].

Residents at Warrane were encouraged to participate in community service and devote some of their time to visiting nursing homes and families in poorer areas of Sydney, feed and accompany the homeless, and assist the elderly with some gardening. These activities have greatly enriched the college experience for generations of university students, and have been an integral part of the education for life which is offered at Warrane. If an intense social and sporting calendar was a feature of most colleges affiliated to the University of New South Wales, Warrane also engaged its residents in a great deal of community service and social work[50]. In the words of Saint Josemaría, a residence entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei provided “not only a place to stay but numerous activities to complete the student’s human, spiritual and cultural training”[51].

These particular features were characteristic of a college committed to the education of its residents in Catholic morals and ethics. The final and most important of all objectives established with the foundation of Warrane College in 1970 was to provide, for those students who would like it, the opportunity to know and practise the Christian faith more fully. This purpose inspired all the other aims we have cited and, in various ways, it informed every single project designed for the college. Not only was this a distinctive feature of Warrane in comparison to the objectives of the other colleges, but the concept of offering personal formation in human values and virtues went far beyond the Oxbridge standards of collegial education.

On offer to Catholic residents and the faithful at large, as well as those interested in Catholicism, was a rich variety of spiritual and doctrinal activities: ongoing courses on Christian principles, ethics and history, a weekly chaplain’s talk, and personalised spiritual guidance and training were made available to all who would like to start or improve a relationship with God. The chaplains were also available for confessions, and Holy Mass was celebrated in the college chapel every morning[52].

Like the chaplains, some of the resident tutors also assumed a pastoral role whenever requested by the residents entrusted to their care. But in explaining the role of the chaplains in Warrane, the college Vice-Master insisted that “functions of a religious character will of course be organised, but the residents will be under no obligation to attend them. In fact, respect for the freedom of the individual to participate or not in any activity is basic to the spirit of Opus Dei”[53]. In consequence, “no obligation whatsoever of a religious nature will be imposed on the residents”, who could gain acceptance into the college regardless of their religious beliefs or personal convictions[54].

Over the years, the experience of many at Warrane has been one of real conversion: many Catholics have learnt to live their faith more fully and love the Church more intensely, a few have discovered their call to join Opus Dei. For many non-Catholics, on the other hand, the years at Warrane have served to become acquainted with Catholic doctrine, and several of them have been received into the Church.

Catholic or not, the residents have always been encouraged to lead a life of virtue and principle. Those willing to reap the benefits of a wholesome collegial experience have learnt to establish order in their life by keeping a room tidy or following a daily timetable; they have also learnt about the commitment of fatherhood and marriage by taking care of other residents and assuming leadership roles; they have learnt a great deal about Christian decency and modesty by observing the basic norms of personal hygiene, behaviour and dress. They have acquired social skills later necessary for developing lasting friendships and for the crafting of successful professional careers. Finally, and most importantly, many residents have naturally turned the practise of these virtues and the assimilation of moral and ethical principles into a lively relationship with God.

There can be no doubt as to the radical change that years in Warrane have prompted in the life of many young men. Staying at the college was therefore a challenging experience for those willing to assume the demands of an education for life. The resident was no mere lodger because the college was much more than a hotel.

But in spite, or perhaps because, of such a demanding environment, Tony Shannon wrote in 1974 that “full to capacity, the college has an everincreasing number of applications and a long waiting list. The immense majority of present residents indicated Warrane as their first choice when applying to the colleges on campus”[55]. At the end of 1971, for example, more than 70 per cent of the students applied to be admitted back the following year, showing that many were at least satisfied with their experience at Warrane[56].

Opposition to Opus Dei, student protests and the enquiry

However, the same Warrane ethos responsible for its success and attractiveness to so many also encountered hostility from a noisy minority, particularly among student activists on campus. The validity of such ambitious and transcendental goals was not understood or tolerated by everyone, for they embodied a staunch resistance to many of the trends and ideologies emerging at university campuses from the mid-1960s.

All over the world, the traditional university experience was challenged by radical minorities who opposed all forms of authority and morality. In the words of Patrick O’Farrell, these trends responded to “emergent student mores, marked by anti-authoritarianism, anti-religion, and aggressive personal laxity”[57]. In the English-speaking world, much of this activism and protest in the 1960s was fuelled by a combination of Marxist ideas and the new commandments of the sexual revolution, and found an inspiration in the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement, among other student uprisings[58]. In Australia, the university environment quickly became politicised and rebellious from 1965, after the commitment of Australian troops in support of the United States military involvement in the Vietnam conflict, which was seen as cooperating with authoritarian and capitalist forces[59].

Under the banner and façade of personal freedom, all this spontaneous idealism on campuses hides intended implications: a minority of radical students wanted to assert control over university administration and thus transform the nature of tertiary education by changing the focus from teaching and learning to urging political, moral and social change. In this there seemed to have been a measure of contradiction, for the student movement pretended to seize and employ the very authority they detested.

Although a rejection of traditional morality and any form or shape of authoritarianism were the major causes that united student movements across the world, the radicals at different universities were constantly in search of a local cause célèbre to initiate and justify action, mostly by a typical sequence of propaganda, march and occupation[60]. In Australia, for example, any measure taken by university authorities which contradicted the emerging ideology was turned into a cause for protest. In consequence, from 1967 to 1974 there were violent student uprisings at the universities of Monash, Queensland, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, La Trobe, Flinders, and Macquarie[61].

The student population at the University of New South Wales in Sydney was moderate compared to the others, perhaps because it had originally been a technological institute and was therefore attended by a larger proportion of science and engineering students[62]. The Students’ Union, however, was controlled by people who had been influenced by the Freethought Society, the Libertarians, and the Sydney Push in addition to influence exercised by international trends, all of which advocated the defiant ideas typically associated with the movements of the 1960’s[63]. In 1971, then, student activism at this university found a most convenient cause for protest, a real gold mine to keep radicals occupied on campus. The presence of Opus Dei in Warrane College was suitably turned into a local Vietnam and the Catholic organisation became the target of violent opposition in the early 1970’s. The historian Patrick O’Farrell explains that “some were genuine radicals frustrated in their larger ambitions and seeing in Warrane a specifically local issue which they might champion with some hope of drawing on immediate and individual discontent”[64].

Opus Dei was seen by the radicals as a formidable opponent because its mission was in direct collision with the moral relaxation they intended for university students. While the members of Opus Dei tried to promote high standards of decency and hard work among the residents at Warrane, many student activists were preaching, at the very same time, the gospel of liberation from any moral constraints and the chains of a virtuous life. Several decades before, Saint Josemaría’s words in The Way had inspired a Christian reaction to such trend: “There is need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and undo the savage work of those who think that man is a beast […].”[65]. This was indeed a head-on clash of principles, and in the agitated circumstances of 1970’s, conflict was perhaps inevitable. Also in reference to the Anglican foundation of New College, Ian Walker observes that the situation “was as if the colleges had arrived at the wrong party!”[66].

Although the opposition to Opus Dei should not be exaggerated, the reaction against the administration of Warrane College in the 1970’s is a rather complex phenomenon that goes beyond the outcry of a few rebels on campus. Perhaps confused by some of the reforming resolutions of the Second Vatican Council, some members of the Newman Society, an association of Catholic students at the University of Sydney, branded Opus Dei a conservative, right-wing and authoritarian organisation, “hostile to the spirit of renewal within the Roman Catholic Church […] informed by the more traditionally Spanish Catholic vices of arrogance and suspicion of the secular world”, to be feared and opposed in Australia[67]. In spite of Gilroy’s convictions, the university council’s approval, and the overwhelming evidence which showed Opus Dei’s aims to be exclusively spiritual, some Catholics -also outside the Newman Societyechoed in Australia the same misconceptions that others have fabricated overseas. Opus Dei was accordingly linked to the Franco regime in Spain, “it was held to be un-Australian, fascist, was allegedly secretive and the enemy of freedom”[68]. In addition, they warned, Opus Dei’s proposal to look after the spiritual administration of colleges at the universities of Oxford and Fribourg had been reasonably rejected[69].

Most of the opposition to Opus Dei from 1966 to 1975 did no more than to repeat these views and was primarily channelled through “Tharunka”, the publication of the Students’ Union at the University of New South Wales[70]. It could not have been otherwise since, as we have pointed out, the first step in the sequence of student protest was propaganda, and most student organisations were filled with radicals in this period. Interestingly, however, the Students’ Union—largely dominated by atheists and agnostics—and some Catholics in Sydney, became odd allies in confronting Opus Dei, too authoritarian a group for the former and too orthodox a movement for the latter. Unfortunately, such an awkward confabulation has been a recurrent phenomenon in history.

Many of the written accusations in “Tharunka” were so misinformed, slanderous, and obscene, so charged with belligerence and intolerance, that to cite the authors would only do great disservice to their honour and obliterate their cause. They could be summarised using the synthesis offered by William West: “Stripped of their rhetoric, the objections in Tharunka to Warrane College policy boil down to (a) they are Catholic; (b) they don’t let students visit maids or girls in rooms; (c) they expel students for breaking rules or promoting pornographic movies; (d) they hang crucifixes on walls”[71].

The editors of the student paper would certainly add a few more objections, such as that Opus Dei members exert pressure on the residents to join it, and that residents were constantly being observed and obliged to conform to strict moral codes. All these accusations were vividly illustrated with letters of anger and dramatic testimonies of former residents, carefully selected quotes from Saint Josemaría’s book The Way, and with opinion pieces of informed and devout Catholics so as to demonstrate that opposition to Opus Dei was not prompted by anti-Catholicism[72].

The attacks on Opus Dei had in the 1960s been confined to pen and paper, but the theft of a sex manual published by “Tharunka” in 1971 gave the radicals a local excuse to test their strength against the university authorities and further their cause against Opus Dei. About six thousand copies of the manual, announced on campus as the family issue, were stolen the night before distribution, and without much investigation it was alleged by the editor of “Tharunka” that they had been taken by residents of Warrane, assuming that Opus Dei would have naturally opposed the distribution[73].

A meeting was called, not only to condemn the theft but also to show public opposition to the rules at Warrane College and the spirituality of Opus Dei. All of the literary ammunition directed at Opus Dei since 1966 was collected and used again to replenish the pages of “Tharunka” in 1971 and 1972. On campus, the small but loud opposition to the administration of Warrane had commenced a fierce campaign with the cry “Joe must go”, directed at the college Master, Joseph Martins[74].

Only two months after the official opening of the college, the staff and residents at Warrane were confronted with dramatic scenes on that famous Monday 9th August. What followed the meeting of students held at the university roundhouse was broadcasted by most radio stations and attracted the attention of newspapers all over Australia, one of which reported the following:

The incidents occurred after a meeting of about 2,000 students in the university roundhouse passed a resolution demanding that the university end the lease of Warrane College […] shortly after 2 pm, after a number of students had left, the meeting narrowly voted that students should ‘adjourn to Warrane College’. Several hundred walked to the front of the college in Anzac Parade, and about 10 ran inside. A group of college employees and residents blocked the doorway, and pushed back others who were trying to force their way in […]; the crowd then moved to the side of the college, and a number of students climbed in through a window. Police kept arriving throughout the afternoon until by 3.15, 21 police cars were parked beside the median strip in Anzac Parade. About 40 police were moving through the crowd. Soon after 3 pm, police entered the college to remove the students who had run inside […]. The arrested students will appear in Waverly Court this morning[75].

The radicals had resorted to occupation, the third stage in the sequence of protest. Violence had finally come to the Kensington campus and seven students were arrested as a result. The diary of the college records that “an estimated 600-strong crowd mostly curious onlookers was watching the siege”[76]. The residents at Warrane had not only opposed the meeting and its resolutions, but they defended the college during the attempted invasion by throwing all sorts of missiles, rubbish and water bombs from the windows[77]. Some must have felt like triumphant soldiers after a battle for they had driven away the invaders, others were simply pleased at being the centre of attention. The college diary keeps the recollection of an extraordinary day for everyone at Warrane:

Most of the radio stations broadcast[ed] the incident at the college. Reporters from various media came to interview the master and many did it by phone. In the evening after tea, the main common room became the TV room as everybody went to watch the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) telecast of the “siege”. Other channels also reported on the same events. From this day on Warrane or Opus Dei shall have been heard by the whole of Australia[78].

It had been a difficult day for those running the college, but it was almost as if the rebels had done Opus Dei a great favour: shortly after its opening, Warrane had made the news all over Australia. In any case, Joseph Martins publicly declared that Opus Dei had nothing to do with the disappearance of the manuals and the director of students’ publications quickly wrote a disclaimer to one of the newspapers stating that the controversial family issue was not an official publication of the Students’ Union and that there was no official support for the occupation of the college[79]. In addition, an avalanche of letters came in support of Opus Dei and its project for Warrane College. One published in the Sunday Australian touches the essence of the conflict by observing in reference to the stolen manuals that “mere theft is not normally enough to bring out the demonstrators. I suspect it wasn’t the reason. The real crime of Opus Dei is that it teaches obedience, chastity and self-denial—matters as foreign to militant students as truth and justice”[80].

On 10 August, the day after the siege, another meeting was convened at the Roundhouse by the editors of “Tharunka”. This time the meeting was attended by the Vice-Chancellor, who stated that he was aware of no breach of the terms of the lease with Opus Dei concerning Warrane, that there were no grounds for protesting, and that changes to the rules should be made by the college administration. Also at the meeting were some residents, staff and members of Opus Dei, one of whom stood up in front of the unruly crowd of students and delivered a speech in defence of the aims of the college[81].

The meetings and the violent tactics employed by some radicals within the Students’ Union to politicise debate and impose their ideology on campus was denounced in “Kundu”, a publication of the university’s Democratic Club, in an issue published shortly after the siege, urging

moderate students to involve themselves in the affairs of the Students’ Union to ensure that the pro-violence minority is not allowed to dictate policy […] otherwise it will be necessary for the Administration to take action to safeguard the rights of the Students’ Union Council and of all students to hold and express their own views without fear of intimidation[82].

It was increasingly clear to all that action against the administration of the college was being inspired and conducted by a small minority of radicals without general consent from student representatives.

As the campaign continued, however, two university lecturers, who had been branded by the rebels as members of Opus Dei, declared two weeks after the protests:

None of us are members of Opus Dei and, for that matter, only one of us is nominally, a Catholic […]. We are however active supporters of Warrane College and the efforts that members of Opus Dei are making in an honest attempt towards broadening the intellectual development of the residents […]. During the periods of our association it has never been suggested to any of us by members of Opus Dei that we should support any other activity of that organisation assuming that there are others, apart from those directly related to the development of Warrane as a university college […][83].

A minority of students persisted on their attacks over the next year. In June 1972, about half of the college residents broke the rules concerning visitors, but three were singled out as particularly defiant, and were expelled. Although they were reinstated two days later and the visitors rule was revised after peaceful dialogue and mutual compromise, the incident was reported in several newspapers and television news, and the editors of “Tharunka” took this opportunity to reactivate their discourse on Opus Dei[84]. As this had also been the case in 1971, the Master of the college urged the residents to deal with this as an internal matter, and “deplore the introduction of external pressures”[85].

Animosities cooled down in 1973 as “Tharunka” was slowly cleared of some radical trends, but the magazine continued to lead the opposition to the presence of Opus Dei on campus, and the violent scenes of 1971 were repeated in 1974. On Wednesday, 5 June, some 2.000 students met at the Roundhouse convened by an Anti-Opus Dei Committee, and a number of expelled residents spoke against the rules, particularly that which forbade residents taking women to their bedrooms, and opposed what they called “petty restrictions and puritanical attitudes”[86]. Then points of The Way were recited out of context and in public to reveal once again the undemocratic nature of Opus Dei. Once the crowd had been excited, entertainment was promised by the radicals and the circus began. The events were proudly recounted and made a glorious feat of student power in “Tharunka”:

The meeting was followed by the Opus Dei Passion Play with a Black Coffin (Opus Dei R.I.P. inscribed); borne by four hooded pall bearers. The “Devil” led a “funeral procession” to Warrane College where 1,500 students “exorcised” the “Holy Mafia” with cries of “Opus out now”. An effigy of Joe Martins “jumped” from the 14th floor window to his death below. Students felt it only fitting that he be placed in the coffin (There was a solemn silence during the ritual burning of the same). “To the Admin” came the cry when it was apparent the real Joe wasn’t going to address the crowd. After a noisy march through the campus the Chancellery was shaken by the might of student power for the first time since the late 60’s. The confrontation in the Council Chambers began with John Green (S.U. President) being appointed Chair-person[87].

The headquarters of university administration were thus the third and final stage in the sequence of student protest because Warrane had been defended by its residents, supporters and staff, and most evidently, because the main target of the radicals was not Opus Dei, but the university authorities. A letter to “Tharunka” a week after the occupation makes it clear. A student representative writes with frustration:

The demonstration last week that resulted in the occupation of the University Council Chambers by 500 students showed that students can be a force within this University […] [but] as long as the University is controlled by conservative forces of administrators, business interest and senior staff, students will never have real power within the University […] we the students should have the power to make this and other decisions within the University[88].

Although there was no consensus as to the measures that students could take concerning the administration of the university, violent means of protest had been employed by student organisations at other campuses in Australia and the radicals at New South Wales would not be counted as the exception.

The Students’ Union and a handful of activists had incited a large crowd to join them in testing strengths with university authorities, and this time they took advantage of the absence of the Vice-Chancellor, who was then overseas, to bully the acting authority and exploit the fragile situation. There was less violence in this protest than in 1971, but the activists achieved a lot more. While they failed to have Opus Dei ousted from the campus, they managed nevertheless to push the university into a compromise: a committee would be established “to inquire into the recent public criticism and protests over the management of Warrane College and to investigate whether […] is contrary to the interests of the University generally”[89].

Although the rebels had gathered support at the Roundhouse by passing the microphone to expelled students, obviously disgruntled with their experience at Warrane, the Activities Committee of the college wrote to “Tharunka” only two days before the march and in representation of the residents, to complain that many residents had been intimidated on campus, and to clarify that “there seems to be almost universal agreement opposing the present campaign against Warrane and Opus Dei”[90]. To explain the intimidation that Warrane residents suffered on the university campus as a result of this campaign, we need to borrow the words of a letter published in “Tharunka”, shortly before the protests: “the rhetoric and cartoons make rather obvious the real reason behind this campaign”, points out the student, “the far left-wingers and sexual freedom supporters cannot tolerate a bit of the campus which dares to reject their standards”[91].

A week after the march, a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald praising the efforts of Opus Dei members in the administration of Warrane and questioning the cause of the protesters. It is here cited almost in its entirety because it offers an interesting analysis by a non-Christian of the inevitable clash between the educational aims of the college and the radical ideas espoused by a minority of student activists from the mid-1960s. In addition, his testimony is important because it summarises much of what has been said of the particular mission of the college and the real agenda of the radicals. Ben Haneman, Warden of Clinical Studies at St. George Hospital and member of the board of Warrane College, wrote in June 1974:

At the outset I want to make it clear that I am a Jew and not a Catholic, that I am a socialist and that I have tremendous sympathy and affection for students.

I became a member of the college board because I have tremendous admiration for the work this college is doing. It has been my passionate belief that not only is there room for Warrane at the University of NSW, but also that the university has a need of Warrane. I believe that this college can make a significant contribution to the life and work of the university.

I believe that Warrane’s opponents have singled it out because it takes a spiritual rather than a materialistic position. Not everyone will accept this explanation. The explanation that will be offered in its place will be student unrest because women are not allowed in the residents bedrooms.

When I was young—and I’ve now turned 50—the rule Warrane has now regarding women visitors was accepted as utterly reasonable. I know very well this is no longer acceptable to many students, and I accept that it is not acceptable. But if a student has a need to live in a mixed college, he can go to any of the other six colleges on campus, which are all mixed, and live there.

Surely a college can make its own rules, as everyone can make rules in his own house. I accept that promiscuity is now permissible. The “Tharunka” youngsters seem to want to make it compulsory.

It is evident on the campus that it is the editors of the student newspaper “Tharunka” who have taken the lead in the present opposition to Warrane.

[…] the more ideas that get into the university the better. That is what universities are all about. Minds can meet, ideas can be thrashed out and discussed, and often discarded if necessary. But what the opponents of Warrane want to do is to silence one point of view altogether. No thinking student could possibly go along with them, whatever he thinks of Opus Dei[92].

Testimonies such as these were submitted to the committee of enquiry in defence of the college and Opus Dei. The investigation began on July 22nd and concluded on November 11th. The six members of the committee, which included the president of the Students’ Union and no one from Warrane, assembled on eleven occasions, received 149 written submissions and interviewed 18 of those who sent written testimonies[93]. After much consideration of documents, interviews, and a thorough inspection of the college, the committee resolved in a 22-page report, the following:

There is no evidence before us capable of supporting the suggestion that Opus Dei has employed its position on the campus as a means of bringing its corporate influence to bear upon any institution of the University […] [or] is an organization which designs by secrecy and stealth to overthrow existing institutions, or to infiltrate, for its own purposes, positions of power and responsibility. The material before us does no more than establish that, in this country at least, it is the lay apostolate which it purports to be […]. We have no reason to question the good faith of those members of Opus Dei associated with the management of Warrane […] the College possesses special aims and special character [and] the University, which invited Opus Dei to establish this College, cannot now contend that its aims, as set out in E.D.A’s memorandum and articles, are other than proper and deserving of support […]. We are of the opinion that a University has a duty to tolerate intellectual pluralism, and the expression of disparate views[94].

The exoneration was publicised in several newspapers in November 1974 and the attacks against the administration of Warrane College practically came to an end thereafter[95], “yet the matter was not trivial or irrelevant”, observes Patrick O’Farrell in his historical account of the university. “It raised again the question of how a tiny minority of students in Tharunka could sustain an agenda well past its use-by date: the era of student power had long ended and it was rationally and politically obvious that the anti-Warrane agitation could go nowhere, whatever the motions gone through”[96].

Although the magnitude and relevance of the protests of 1971 and 1974 should not be exaggerated, there are a number of reasons for considering these incidents as an important section in the early history of Warrane College. In the first place, these were public events and as such, they are undoubtedly the best documented episodes in the history of the college and, accordingly, a more accessible subject of enquiry for the historian. In studying these events, therefore, we attempt to set the record straight because, unfortunately, little else is known about Warrane apart from the protests, the details of which have too often been prey to distortion.

Secondly, these attacks had been, as it were, Warrane’s baptism of fire. This violent assault on the aims of the college and the public nature of the campaign against its management did much to advertise the spirituality and apostolic mission of Opus Dei in Australia. In fact, some current Australian members encountered Opus Dei precisely because they were somehow involved—on both sides of the fence—with the protests of 1971 and 1974[97]. In consequence, one of the unexpected—and surely unwanted—effects of the fierce campaign against Opus Dei on the Kensington campus was that the newly arrived organisation of lay Catholics jumped from total anonymity to a focus of public knowledge and discussion. The events which prompted such a phenomenon are therefore worthy of historical attention.

Finally, just as the circumstances forced the residents and many students on campus to take sides, the members of Opus Dei were strengthened in their convictions. In the face of vicious antagonism and slanderous attacks, those running the college avoided polemics and reacted with the serenity and patience that had also characterised Saint Josemaría’s response to unceasing campaigns against Opus Dei and his person in Europe. “We have to understand,” he used to repeat to the members of Opus Dei, “that we are not understood”[98].

A note from the Regional Commission of Opus Dei in Australia to the staff of the college reminds them that the Founder is praying for the Residence and has asked everybody in Opus Dei to keep Warrane in mind. Saint Josemaría transmitted peace and strength to the members of Opus Dei in Sydney, and encouraged them to protect the family environment at the college[99]. Forgive, forget and continue to work towards fulfilling the aims established for the college was the attitude adopted.

The first college chaplain, the late Msgr. John Masso, once recalled that “the great motivating idea behind Warrane is expressed in a wall hanging in the college’s library—the great commandment: ‘That you love one another’”[100]. This principle of Christian charity inspired the ethos of the college, the reaction against the protests, and very recently moved a former member of parliament to describe Warrane as a powerhouse of grace that had changed the life of so many students for the better[101]. This must have been the perception impressed upon Cardinal Gilroy in his visit to that residence entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei in Rome.

In the early 1970s, the college was as a bridge over troubled waters. The Warrane College Crest includes a ship on top of some waves. These waters have brought many new challenges!

José Manuel Cerda. Born in Santiago de Chile, has a BA (Hons) and a doctorate in history from the University of New South Wales (2007). He was visiting research student at the universities of Oxford and St. Andrews (UK), and has published a number of articles on the institutional history of medieval Spain and England. He is an associate member of the Centre for Medieval Studies (University of Sydney), the Network of Early European Research (University of Western Australia) and ad tempus researcher of the Instituto de Metodología e Historia de la Ciencia Jurídica (University of Madrid). He was Director of Studies and Assistant Dean at Warrane College, where he lived from 2001 to 2006. He is currently teaching and researching at the University of Chile, in Santiago.



[1] Artículos del Postulador, Postulación de la Causa de Beatificación y Canonización del Siervo de Dios Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Sacerdote, Fundador del Opus Dei, Roma, 1979, p. 395, and n. 1249. According to Bishop Muldoon, the Pope remarked: «È un vero santo, un uomo mandato da Dio per i nostri tempi».

[2] Cf. Ian Walker, Church, College and Campus: The Sacred and the Secular in the Foundation of Denominational Colleges in Australian Universities, with particular reference to certain colleges in universities established in the period 1945 to 1975, unpublished doctoral thesis, Sydney, The University of New South Wales, 2001, p. 427. Members of Opus Dei had set up Netherhall House in 1952 and Greygarth Hall in 1958 as residences for university students in London and Manchester respectively. The Founder encouraged the newly settled members of Opus Dei to establish a residence for university students as soon as it was possible (cf. Andrés Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador del Opus Dei. Vida de Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, vol. 3, Madrid, Rialp, 2003, p. 320. The foundation of university residences entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei around the world is summarised in ibid., pp. 341, 504; Owen F. Hughes, Disorganised Organisation?, Opus Dei Replies, “Arena”, 30 September 1968, p. 4. Owen Hughes, member of Opus Dei and lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, indicated in the student newspaper that “Warrane College […] comes as one of more than two hundred university residences and hostels established by Opus Dei throughout the world”. “Tharunka”, 29 October, 1968. “Tharunka” is the student magazine at the University of New South Wales, and past issues are stored and catalogued at the university library. For more details on this publication, cf. “Tharunka”, n. 69.

[3] Nairana offered “diversified educational and cultural activities for high school and university students” (cf. Hughes, Disorganised Organisation?, p. 4). Refer also to “Tharunka”, 7 June, 1966; Peter Kelly, Opus Dei Moves into Sydney?, “The Bulletin”, 2 March, 1963, p. 7.

[4] Cf. Walker, Church, College, p. 427; “Tharunka”, 7 June, 1966.

[5] In a letter to Michael Steuart, secretary of the development committee for the future college, Justice Clancy, the Chancellor of the university, wrote in 1968: “I am particularly pleased to see the efforts of private initiative, as exemplified by your committee, in the establishment of affiliated colleges, which are so sorely needed” (25 November, 1968, extract cited in Walker, Church, College, pp. 436-437). The Federal Government became particularly concerned with student accommodation at university campuses in the 1950s and launched a scheme to promote residential colleges in 1955. There were some fifteen thousand students enrolled at the University of New South Wales in 1970, about eight hundred of whom lived in the five residential colleges on campus. Warrane contributed to this number with another two hundred places (The Sydney Morning Herald [hereafter SMH], 10 June, 1971, p. 14).

[6] Walker, Church, College, p. 432. According to the student newspaper “Tharunka”, “this followed an approach by the University to His Eminence [Cardinal Gilroy] which in turn followed a change in the A.U.C. (Australian Universities Commission) policy which became favourable to the building of denominational Colleges at the newer Universities which were up until then only supplied with non-denominational Halls of Residence” (“Tharunka”, 11 April, 1967).

[7] These excerpts are taken from the UNSW Archives (FN. 29367 CN.461/1), and included in Walker, Church, College, p. 433.

[8] Cited in Walker, Church, College, pp. 434-435 (from the UNSW Archives, see above). Contrary to what the historian Patrick O’Farrell asserts, the members of Opus Dei wanted to cooperate with rather than supplant the apostolic work of the Catholic chaplaincy at the university—at that time run by the Missionary Fathers of the Sacred Heart—, regardless of the perceptions or predictions of the resident chaplain. Cf. Patrick O’Farrel, UNSW: A Portrait, Sydney, UNSW Press, 1999, p. 165; Interview with David Bolton and Joseph Martins, Sydney, July, 2006.

[9] Cited in Walker, Church, College, p. 437. The committee was primarily devoted to planning and to raising one quarter of the funds necessary for the construction as well as providing assistance and guidance in the establishment of the college. Its patron was Sir Kevin Ellis, Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and Deputy Chancellor of the University of New South Wales. The committee was affiliated to the Education Development Association (E.D.A.), set up on 4 November, 1964, as a company to represent Warrane College and future initiatives of similar nature and promoted by members of Opus Dei in Australia. Its chairman was Michael Steuart and it was to E.D.A. that the land lease of 99 years was granted by the university authorities in March 1967 (Committee of Enquiry into Warrane College, The University of New South Wales Council, November, 1974, p. 2).

[10] From the UNSW Archives, and cited in Walker, Church, College, p. 435.

[11] Committee of Enquiry, p. 3.

[12] A brief history of this college can be found in (6 November 2008).

[13] Cf. Josemaría Escríva, Conversations with Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer, Sydney, Little Hills Press, 1993, n. 81; cf. also n. 47. This aspect of the spirit of Opus Dei is succinctly explained in Scott Hahn, Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei, New York, Doubleday, 2006, p. 89. Warrane College was to be a private initiative, certainly inspired by Christian values, but not a project depending on the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

[14] Cited in Walker, Church, College, p. 436.

[15] “Tharunka”, 29 October, 1968. In 1974, for example, 37 per cent of the residents at Warrane College were not Catholic (Committee of Enquiry, p. 9).

[16] SMH, 10 June, 1971, p. 14.

[17] The Minister for Immigration was Albert J. Grassby. Another manifestation of the international character of Warrane was The Asian Cultural Festival, organised by college residents, attended by more than three hundred people, and opened by Robert Webster, Chancellor of the University of New South Wales. There were about a thousand overseas students enrolled at the university in 1970 (O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 120). Saint Josemaría insisted that all the residences entrusted to the spiritual care of Opus Dei were to be open to students of all races and faiths, precisely because none of them were to be established as denominational colleges. Perhaps the most appropriate example is Strathmore College, the very first inter-racial college in Africa (Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, pp. 382-384, 452-453). Opus Dei’s ecumenical spirit is treated in Hahn, Ordinary Work, p. 4.

[18] This was published as a separate pamphlet entitled Warrane College-Opus Dei, in response to a questionnaire sent by Jeffrey Cohen, director of Student’s Publication of the Students’ Union on 3 September, 1971, following the issue of “Tharunka” of 31 August 1971, which was devoted to Opus Dei.

[19] Cf. Warrane College-Opus Dei, and “Minutes of the College Council”, ref. 8/72, pp. 3-4.

[20] An article in “Tharunka” noted this when reporting the signature of the lease in March, 1967. An appropriate distinction is there made between running halls of residence near universities, and managing colleges affiliated with a university (cf. “Tharunka”, 11 April, 1967).

[21] Cf. Governor to open university college, SMH, 10 June, 1971, p. 14; Jon Powis, Opus Dei on the campus, “The National Times”, August, 1970; and “Tharunka”, 2 October, 1968. The architectural layout of the building is described with surprising detail in the piece cited above. In the same page where the article is printed, a number of companies in the building construction market proudly publicise their involvement in the construction and equipment of the college. Cf. also “Tharunka”, 25 February and 4 November, 1969.

[22] Cited in Hahn, Ordinary Work, p. 46. A report printed in “Tharunka” indicates that, in fact, “during the first year of operation the number accommodated will be somewhat smaller, in order to allow the college to develop more gradually” (“Tharunka”, 4 November, 1969).

[23] Cf. “Tharunka”, 1 September, 1971. Creston was run by women of Opus Dei and was originally not an affiliated college of UNSW. Unlike Warrane’s, its layout was typical of university residences managed by people of Opus Dei in other countries.

[24] Joseph Martins was native of East Providence, Rhode Island. He studied and lived in Boston since 1957, and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. at Harvard University. For two years, he was Master at Trimount House, a residential hall promoted by Opus Dei members for students in Boston (cf. “Tharunka”, 4 November, 1969). On Trimount House, see John A. Gueguen, The Early Days of Opus Dei in Boston As Recalled by the First Generation (1945-1956), SetD 1 (2007), pp. 78-81.

[25] Cf. Governor, p. 14.

[26] Sir Roden Cutler had also attended the foundation ceremony in February, 1969, which gave official commencement to the construction of the college (“Tharunka”, 25 February, 1969).

[27] Cf. Governor, p. 14. There were approximately seventy colleges in Australia which accommodated one fifth of a total of 120,000 students enrolled at universities.

[28] More information on the foundation of these colleges is provided in “Tharunka”, 4 June, 1968; O’Farrel, UNSW, pp. 120, 164, 167. A brief history of New College and The Kensington Colleges may be gathered from the following websites: http://www.newcollege.unsw.; (6 November 2008).

[29] Governor, p. 14.

[30] Warrane College-Opus Dei.

[31] Committee of Enquiry, p. 11. This was cited from the Memorandum of E.D.A. in relation to the objectives of Warrane College, its affiliated institution.

[32] Cf. Donald Horne, The Lucky Country: Australia in the Sixties, Ringwood, Penguin Books, 1964, pp. 52-58; O’Farrel, UNSW, pp. 162, 167.

[33] Warrane College-Opus Dei.

[34] Tony Shannon, In defence of Warrane and Opus Dei, “Canberra Times”, June, 1974.

[35] This organisation was collected from various proposals made in 1971 and 1973 concerning the role of tutors at Warrane and approved by those running the college. The original tutorial system is still in place after minor modifications over years of experience.

[36] Josemaría Escríva, The Way, London, Scepter, 2001, n. 335. Cf. Id., Furrow, Sydney, Little Hills Press, 1987, n. 428; Hahn, Ordinary Work, p. 5.

[37] Warrane College-Opus Dei, p. 3.

[38] In 1973, the Kensington colleges were home to 423 students, 312 of whom passed all their subjects (73.8 per cent). New College hosted 185 students, 137 of whom passed all their subjects (74 per cent). 124 of the 152 residents at Warrane passed all their subjects (81.6 per cent). This data is gathered in Committee of Enquiry, pp. 14-15. The figures for International House and Shalom College are not provided.

[39] Cf. Shannon, In defence.

[40] Warrane College-Opus Dei, p. 3. The common facilities referred to by Joseph Martins were main common room, reception room, snack bar, library, chapel, music room, and six tutorial rooms.

[41] Cf. Outline proposals for the college in 1971, “Minutes”, ref. 1/71, p. 2.

[42] Those applying to live in Warrane are still surprised when finding that the doors of rooms have no locks. They quickly embrace this particularity when experiencing the home-like environment and realise that Warrane is not a hotel. This environment replicated the ambience of familiarity felt at the centres of Opus Dei (cf. Hahn, Ordinary Work, p. 5).

[43] “Tharunka”, 29 October, 1968.

[44] Shannon, In defence.

[45] Hughes, Disorganised Organisation?, p. 4.

[46] Cf. Shannon, In defence.The Inter-college Sports Shield engaged the affiliated colleges at the University of New South Wales in a number of sporting competitions such as rugby, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, swimming, cricket, squash, baseball and several others. The name of the college which accumulated the highest score at the end of the year was inscribed in a large wooden crest kept by the winner until the next year. The competition officially began in 1971, it has earned a lot of prestige and tradition, and is still a much appreciated trophy among the colleges.

[47] Interviews with David Bolton and Joseph Martins. Cf. also Outline proposals, p. 2.

[48] Escríva, Conversations, n. 19, and Id., ns. 56, 57, 119.

[49] Cf. Hughes, Disorganised Organisation?; cf. also footnote 2.

[50] Community service trips to overseas locations have involved dozens of Warrane residents since the 1980s to commit some of the holiday time to voluntary building and social work for disadvantaged communities mainly in the Pacific region and south-east Asia. The initiative has recently been adopted by other affiliated colleges at the University of New South Wales.

[51] Escríva, Conversations, n. 56.

[52] Interview with Joseph Martins. Cf. Escríva, Conversations, n. 29; Id., Christ is passing by, Manila, Sinag-Tala, 2001, n. 81.

[53] “Tharunka”, 29 October, 1968.

[54] Cf. Hughes, Disorganised Organisation?, p. 4.

[55] Shannon, In defence.

[56] These numbers were collected in May 1972 at a meeting of the college staff to discuss matters concerning admissions and recruitment (cf. Admissions, “Minutes”, ref. 8/72).

[57] O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 162.

[58] According to Keniston and Lerner, this radicalism was not widespread at American universities nor was it usually manifested with violence. It was rather a phenomenon linked to “protest-prone” and perfectly identifiable minorities within few campuses. According to Clarke, Egan and Lefkowitz, these minorities were largely made up of students with no religious beliefs. The 1970s, however, seemed a peaceful decade only in comparison to student unrest in the 1960s. In addition, it must be said that the Vietnam War attracted dissent and protest in the United States and the western world beyond the minority of naturally rebellious students (cf. Kenneth Keniston – Michael Lerner, Campus Characteristics and Campus Unrest, “Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science”, 395 [May, 1971], pp. 39-53, and particularly pp. 50-52; Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, The 1960s and the Transformation of Campus Cultures, “History of Education Quarterly”, 26 [Spring, 1986], pp. 1-38; James W. Clarke – Joseph Egan, Social and Political Dimensions of Campus Protest Activity, “The Journal of Politics”, 34 [May, 1972], pp. 500-523). The situation in Australia with very few universities in the 1960s, seems to have been different because student activism started later and continued well into the 1970s (cf. The radicalisation of the campuses, 1967-1974, based on Mick Armstrong, One, Two, Three, What are we fighting for?, Melbourne, Socialist Alternative, 2001, www.anu. interventions). Cf. also James Franklin, Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia, Sydney, Macleay Press, 2003, pp. 289-295.

[59] Cf. William J. West, Opus Dei: Exploding a Myth, Sydney, Little Hills Press, 1987, p. 156; Walker, Church, College, pp. 451-453; O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 162. Cf. also references in footnote 61.

[60] Cf. Armstrong, The radicalisation; Walker, Church, College, p. 442.

[61] Cf. Armstrong, The radicalisation; Franklin, Corrupting the Youth, pp. 281-294, 309; O’Farrel, UNSW, pp. 162-163.

[62] Cf. Armstrong, The radicalisation.

[63] Detailed explanation of the ideas espoused by members of these groups and the relation between them is offered in Franklin, Corrupting the Youth, pp. 158-161; Walker, Church, College, pp. 439-442.

[64] O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 163. The foundation of a Jewish college was also turned into a controversial matter by the editors of “Tharunka”, who claimed that the mode of management of the residence would oppose the liberal and orthodox Jewish communities in Sydney (“Tharunka”, 4 June, 1968).

[65] Escríva, The Way, n. 121.

[66] Walker, Church, College, p. 452. Ian Walker’s doctoral thesis spends an entire chapter on Warrane College. His approach is sensible and his description is detailed and useful, but has important weaknesses. Firstly, he fails to understand the spiritual nature of Opus Dei and therefore its mission in Warrane, mainly because much of his analysis rests upon the views of Mark Lyons and Michael Walsh, as if they were experts on Catholicism and Opus Dei (refer specially to Walker, Church, College, pp. 428-431). He seems to overlook that both authors contributed to the international and Australian campaign against Opus Dei. Secondly, although Walker recounts the story of the conflict considering both sides by citing letters and interviewing university authorities, not a single oral testimony from the staff or residents of Warrane is included in his analysis. Considering that most of the protagonists are still alive and in Australia, it is not a minor issue that none of them was interviewed. His thesis is otherwise informative and insightful.

[67] Cf. O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 163. These views are expressed in a piece published in “Tharunka” as soon as the lease between Opus Dei and the university was signed in 1967 (“Tharunka”, 11 April, 1967). It is likely, however, that such views on Opus Dei were not shared by everyone, not even most, at the Newman Society, and that the editors of “Tharunka” used the opinion of Catholic critics to hide behind (this is, in fact, clarified in a letter to the editors of “Tharunka”, published on 1 July, 1966). Ian Walker refers to a Newman Society dinner in June 1966 when guest speakers questioned the suitability of members of Opus Dei for the administration of the Catholic college at Kensington. A history student, described as a “prominent member of the Newman Society”, wrote several articles against Opus Dei from 1966 to 1971. Cf. Walker, Church, College, pp. 437-440. On the participation of members of Opus Dei in the Second Vatican Council see Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, pp. 473-496.

[68] O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 162. Among several others, the Italian journalist, Vittorio Messori, dispelled the black legend fabricated about the aims of Opus Dei. Cf. Vittorio Messori, Opus Dei. Un’indagine, Milano, Mondadori, 1994. Particularly relevant are pp. 21-48 and 253-281; Federico M. R$()$3! – Javier S$:, Fuentes para la Historia del Opus Dei, Barcelona, Ariel, 2002, pp. 114-116; Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, pp. 520-533.

[69] Cf. “Tharunka”, 7 June, 1966; 1 July, 1966. These are among the several references made to the episodes. Joseph Martins explained in an interview that after the Paulian fathers had resolved not to set up an affiliated college at Fribourg in 1964, “Opus Dei was invited to help out by establishing a college. The Association considered the position and proposed a private non-affiliated men’s residence. This proposal was accepted by the relevant authorities but met with some promise of opposition. After further discussion with the Fribourg authorities the proposal was abandoned. In Oxford, a few years earlier, Opus Dei submitted proposals for a college (which had been approved by the Colonial Office, the British Council and the Commonwealth Relations Office). In the 1960s Oxford’s Delegacy of Lodgings declined the proposals as not conforming with Oxford traditions. It should be remembered that at Oxford the colleges are much more integrated with the University as teaching colleges. A residential college would be something quite different. Opus Dei has been entrusted with the spiritual care of a residence at Oxford called Grandpont House” (Warrane College-Opus Dei).

[70] Members of these groups, referenced in n. 62, assisted the edition of this newspaper in the early 1970s (Cf. Franklin, Corrupting the Youth, p. 175). According to the Master of the college “Tharunka has a mixed standing among students, many of whom hold it in low regard and consider its contents in many cases morally debasing and unworthy of a university publication. On at least one occasion the regular weekly publication of Tharunka was suspended and another publication appeared with a different name containing material so liable to prosecution that no identifiable students would take responsibility for its publication” (Joseph Martins, Information of the events of the last few days related to Warrane College, Kensington, 13 August, 1971, p. 2).

[71] West, Opus Dei: Exploding, p. 157.

[72] Articles in “Tharunka” claim that the presence of Opus Dei on campus has made the work of the university chaplain increasingly difficult and that prominent members of the Newman Society as well as other “respectable” Catholics do also oppose Opus Dei (cf. also footnotes 8, 69, and 70).

[73] Cf. Student sex manual theft alleged, “The Australian”, 5 August, 1971; Letters, “The Australian”, 6 August, 1971; Brian McKinlay, Uproar over sex book follows pattern, “Sunday Review”, 20 August, 1971.

[74] New College was also the object of attacks from radicals on campus, and in 1975 a group of dissidents within the college attempted to start a campaign against the college management with the help of “Tharunka”. According to David Bolton, the editors declined for “they had already got their fingers burnt with Warrane” (Interview with David Bolton; cf. Walker, Church, College, p. 442; O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 164). Stuart Babbage of New College sent a submission to the committee suggesting that the university has “an inescapable responsibility to maintain inviolate the freedom and independence of the colleges and to protect them from partisan regimentation and repression” (cited in Walker, Church, College, p. 448).

[75] Students besiege uni college, SMH, 10 August, 1971. The Vice-Chancellor of the time, Rupert Myers, said he was called on to address the crowd of angry students at the Roundhouse, and his “knees were knocking; it was a terrifying experience” (Interview included in Walker, Church, College, p. 421).

[76] Warrane College Diary, 8 August 1971, AGP (General Archive of the Prelature), serie M-2.2, D-23-3.

[77] Police at Uni. Clash, “Courier Mail”, 10 August, 1971. A member of the staff registered the events of that day in the college diary.

[78] Warrane College Diary, 9 August, 1971, AGP, serie M-2.2, D-23-3. News of the incidents were reported in all major newspapers in Australia: College stormed in students’ riot, “Daily Telegraph” (Sydney), 10 August, 1971; Student riot under review, “Daily Telegraph”, 11 August, 1971; “Sunday Review” (Melbourne), 20 August, 1971; Police rush to stop Uni. Brawl, “Sun” (Melbourne), 10 August, 1971; Letters, “The Australian”, 6 August, 1971; The “Spanish Mafia” comes under attack, “The Australian”, 10 August, 1971; “Sunday Australian”, 12 August, 1971; Police at Uni. Clash, “Courier Mail” (Brisbane), 10 August, 1971; Students besiege Uni college, SMH (Sydney), 10 August and 16 October, 1971.

[79] Cf. Letters, SMH, 16 August, 1971; Letter from Joseph Martins to “The Australian”, 5 August, 1971. In another letter sent by the Master to the same newspaper, on 11 August, 1971, it is clarified that “although several students were dismissed from Warrane College this year, none left for disagreeing with Opus Dei philosophy, but because their behaviour was not in keeping with the standard expected of them”.

[80] Nothing left to read, “The Sunday Australian”, 15 August 1971.

[81] Cf. Warrane College Diary, 10 August, 1971, AGP, serie M-2.2, D-23-3; Interview with David Bolton. Bolton was the speaker at this meeting.

[82] “Kundu: A Publication of the U.N.S.W. Democratic Club”, 10 August, 1971, p. 2.

[83] This letter was published in “Tharunka”, 26 October, 1971.

[84] Cf. “Tharunka”, 4 May, 1972; O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 163; Row at Uni. Over rules, “Daily Telegraph”, 5 June, 1972; Uni. Students reinstated, “Daily Telegraph”, 6 June, 1972; Uni rule relaxed, “Daily Telegraph”, 8 August, 1972; Students criticise expulsions, SMH, 5 June, 1972; letter from the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Josep Martins, 7 July, 1972, and Statement given by the college Master to Channel Ten by telephone, 21 April, 1972.

[85] This was part of a notice posted on the official College notice board on 5 June, 1971, two days after the incident and once the students had been reinstated.

[86] “Tharunka”, 12 June, 1974; West, Opus Dei: Exploding, p. 156.

[87] “Tharunka”, 12 June, 1974.

[88] “Tharunka”, 12 June, 1974.

[89] Committee of Enquiry, p. 1. David Bolton recalls that the siege of 1971 had been a more serious affair (Interview with David Bolton). For another enquiry into Opus Dei, conducted by the Italian Parliament in 1986, see West, Opus Dei: Exploding, p. 158; Messori, Opus Dei. Un’indagine, pp. 37-44.

[90] “Tharunka”, 3 June, 1974.

[91] “Tharunka”, 3 June, 1974.

[92] Letters, SMH, 14 June, 1974.

[93] Committee of Enquiry, pp. 1-2. A detailed analysis of the committee and its conclusions in Walker, Church, College, pp. 445-450.

[94] Committee of Enquiry, pp. 7, 20-21. The verdict becomes all the more remarkable considering the arguable observations of Patrick O’Farrell: “at the time, within the university hierarchy, attitudes towards religion were hardly favourable […] the University of New South Wales and religion did not mix” (O’Farrel, UNSW, pp. 166-167).

[95] Opus Dei college is not subversive, says council, “The Australian”, 12 November, 1974; Sex adjudged reason for college ban on women, SMH, 12 November, 1974.

[96] O’Farrel, UNSW, p. 163.

[97] Interviews with Joseph Martins and David Bolton. The seed of the spirit of Opus Dei has been spread all around—once remarked the Founder—because the Work of God has been hit very hard by all sorts of obstacles (cf. Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, pp. 352-353).

[98]Comprender que no nos comprendan” (cited in Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, p. 520). The staff at Warrane faithfully continued to pursue the goals for the college in spite of the difficult circumstances, and were not shaken by the attacks. A clear manifestation of this attitude is revealed in a register of matters discussed in 1974 by the administration of the college, in which the “Tharunka” campaign appears as a modest entry among many items for discussion. “Callar, rezar, trabajar y sonreír” (remain silent, pray, work and smile), was the advice given by Saint Josemaría in the face of accusations and campaigns against Opus Dei (cited in Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, p. 533). “Caritas mea cum omnibus vobis in Christo Iesu!”, were the affectionate words of encouragement from the Founder to those suffering persecution in Spain and The Netherlands in the 1960s (cf. Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, pp. 520, 530; Hahn, Ordinary Work, p. 5).

[99] Note from the Regional Commission of Opus Dei in Australia to the Residence (1974). “¡Cuánta compañía os hago, desde aquí!”, wrote the Founder to the members of Opus Dei in Australia (cf. Vásquez de Prada, El Fundador, p. 325).

[100] West, Opus Dei: Exploding, p. 159.

[101] These were the words employed in 2005 by John R. Johnson, former member of the State Parliament of New South Wales, at a dinner with the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney in Warrane College.