Australia’s Catholic University has established a new scholarship to honour the memory of a 19th century Aboriginal student Francis Xavier Conaci.
university is working in partnership with the Australian embassy to the
Holy See, the Benedictine community of New Norcia in Western Australia
and the New Norcia Aboriginal Corporation.
initiative was launched on Saturday September 24th at the Vatican
Museums, where guests were welcomed by the recently appointed, first
female director Barbara Jatta.
Beginning in 2017, the $3,000 scholarship
will be awarded to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander student,
allowing them to study at the ACU Rome campus during either the summer
or winter break.
At the launch the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Australian
Catholic University, Professor Greg Craven, said “The story of Francis
Xavier Conaci provides perspective and inspiration” that can encourage
everyone “to overcome fear and seek to challenge ourselves.”
Francis Xavier Conaci was encouraged by a local Spanish Benedictine
abbot, Rosendo Salvado, to become a trailblazer for Christianity in
Fr Salvado spent over 50 years working alongside
Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and wished to transform the
Benedictine community there.
In January 1849 he left Perth with Conaci
and another Aboriginal student, John Baptist Dirimera, bound for Rome,
where they were to train as monks and later return to work within their
Prior to their arrival in the Papal States, the two students began
their training at a monastery in La Cava, located in the Campania region
east of Naples.
Unfortunately, their health suffered an abrupt decline,
despite attention from the best doctors, including the Pope’s personal
physician. Conaci spent two months in a Naples hospital before being
relocated to the Rome abbey of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.
recuperating there but tragically died on October 10th 1853 and was
buried in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.
At the launch event, which included an Aboriginal thanksgiving
prayer, a first-hand account of Conaci’s life was read by Abbot Edmund
Power, former head of the monastery of St.Paul’s Outside the Walls.