2024-06-23 AUSTRALIA

100 years young: Celebrating the incredible life of centenarian Marist Brother Vincent Shekleton

Br. Vincent Shekleton, the oldest Brother in the Province of Star of the Sea, celebrated his 100th birthday on June 19. Born in 1924, Br Vincent has dedicated over 81 years to the Brotherhood, and he has brought the Marist charism from Australia to the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and China. Br Vincent grew up in Sydney, but it was in Bexley where he first encountered the Marist Brothers and their distinctive educational philosophy at the local Marist School. And by the end of 1939, at just 15 years old, he joined the Juniorate in Mittagong to begin his initiation as Marist brother.

After professing his vows in 1943, at the age of 20, Br Vincent’s first assignment was in Lismore, Australia, where he embarked on a lifelong commitment to the Marists’ educational mission, and that would take him to other places outside Australia.

Solomon Islands

“In 1951, our Provincial sent out a notice asking if any Brothers wanted to work in the Solomon Islands. I said Yes!”, says Br Vincent, who Br Vincent initially spent three years in the Solomon Islands till 1953, then returned in 1974–78, and later in 1996–97. “The school was on land purchased by the bishop, surrounded by huts and overgrown vegetation. The Brothers taught the students in the mornings and in the afternoons, together we would clean, organize workshops, operate tractors – which we taught the children how to use – and do other maintenance work.”

Papua New Guinea

After his time in the Solomon Islands, Br Vincent was assigned to Rabaul, in Papua New Guinea, where the Marist Brothers taught at a school established by the local Chinese community.

It was this Chinese community in Rabaul that built the school where the Marist Brothers, including Br Vincent, taught. “The school consisted of simple hut-like structures with thatched roofs, reflecting the humble origins of the Chinese settlers,” he says.


Br Vincent has always embodied the Marian spirit of saying “Yes” – no adventure or place has been off limits for him. Thus, when a teaching opportunity in the refugee camps of Thailand opened up, he jumped at it. And so, in 1987, Br Vincent joined a small school in the Phanat Nikhom Refugee Camp, in Thailand, where he taught English and educated the refugees about “life in Australia”.  This transit camp housed refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, who had been transferred from other temporary shelters throughout Thailand, and who had been cleared for resettlement to other places, like Europe, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. Br Vincent spent three years teaching in the camp, and it was one of the more meaningful but emotionally painful postings for Br Vincent.

Chinese Connection

If there is a country that holds a special place in Br Vincent’s heart after the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, it must be China. He was in China from 1989 to 1990 and then again from 1992 to 1993. “China was a beautiful experience,” he says. “A local contact had given me the name Shi Le Tein – taken from my surname Shekleton”.

100 years

“This has been my life, and I have loved it since I have known it. This is the path I chose to walk. I was fortunate to travel to so many countries, meet different people, and experience diverse cultures. What can be more beautiful than this?” said Br Vincent.

Br. Ernesto Sánchez, Superior General, in a message to Br. Vincent said: “We thank God for the gift of your live and your vocation”. He continues: “Thanks for being a very friendly, outgoing and faithful Brother. Thanks for your fraternity and marist spirituality”.

Extract from an articles published on the website of Star of the Sea


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