2020-03-09 AUSTRALIA

Aidan Smith

Aidan SmithBr. Aidan was born Gerald Patrick Smith on 7 January 1932 at Werribee to John and Rose (nee Cooper) the youngest of nine children, all of whom have predeceased him, including his brother Walter, himself a Marist Brother.

After finishing his primary schooling, he was enrolled as a boarder at Assumption College Kilmore where he was noted as a rugged footballer, a good student and a young man with a whimsical sense of humour. It was here that he was inspired by the brothers. Aidan was impressed by the brothers’ solidarity and sense of community and he said of them, “they were great men and good teachers; they were caring and considerate and I was keen to become one of them.” This resulted in him heading off to the Juniorate at Macedon and then on to Mittagong as a postulant, followed by his receiving the habit on 2 July 1951 where he was named Brother Aidan.

His first appointment was at Marcellin College Camberwell and apart from teaching and preparing his daily lessons, Aidan undertook professional development in Agricultural Science and Farm Management by correspondence at Sydney TAFE, this achievement giving him the foundation for teaching those subjects over many years; his Grade 12 students at Forbes often topped the NSW State results.

Aidan taught for twenty-five years and during that time was the Director or Principal of three schools. He was appreciated for his thoroughness, gentle approachability and firm hand at the helm. After two years as the Headmaster of Leeton, a significant change in direction in his life occurred when he was invited to be a founding member of a new venture in 1977, the Aboriginal ministry in Alice Springs. He conducted what was essentially a ‘drop-in centre’ in The Gap in Alice Springs using a church hall built by the St Vincent De Paul Society. This provided sport and recreation for local kids, mostly Aboriginal, and many parties noted for their healthy, nourishing food. In addition to this, he took on the role of Religious Education Co-ordinator at the local Catholic primary school run by the OLSH sisters. This was the beginning of a long history of ministry and relationship with indigenous people and people of other cultures.

The time at The Gap centre was a highlight of Aidan’s life where he was deeply touched by the acceptance of the Aboriginal people, who had been previously unknown to him. No doubt his commitment and support of the young Aboriginal children won the hearts of all and forged a lasting relationship. He remembers that the turning point in this relationship came when he accompanied a young Aboriginal boy to court. The boy had been involved in a skirmish resulting in a garden fork being stuck through his mother’s de facto. Aidan supported the boy and spoke on his behalf. The parents of the local kids could see that the brothers were on their side and the numbers attending the centre increased from that point on. This was the first of many trips to the local courts!

This experience of indigenous ministry had an impact on Aidan as a person. He learned a different approach to ministry where he had to genuinely listen and respond to the needs and desires of those with whom he worked. This too was reflected in his own prayer life as he began to listen more and he expressed this in simple terms when he said, “we took more time over our prayers and it became an important aspect of our lives as brothers.” The prayer days with the local nuns in Alice were enhanced by the beauty of the natural environment, which lent itself to quiet time and reflection.

‘Connection to the land’ has been a theme running through Aidan’s life: life in Werribee, Macedon and Mittagong, creating the levees at Red Bend in the 1950s, teaching of Agricultural Science, the beauty of the red centre and his time at Kilmore in the 80’s and in later years at Forbes. He made a significant impact on the physical look of the College at Kilmore through his endless gardening work, which beautified the place considerably. Indeed, the same was true in Forbes where he proudly looked after roses at the front of the College. His positioning at the front of the College also afforded him the opportunity to have a chat with those parents, students and anybody else who wanted to go to the College office. Most enrolment interviews were preceded with a ten-minute chat with Aidan near the rose garden. He became well known and loved for his simple presence, friendliness and good humour.

Aidan’s availability to go wherever he was required and his preparedness to try new things is reflected in his various stints overseas working in formation and community support in the Lomeri Novitiate in Fiji, Trichy in India and Tudella in Sri Lanka.

Aidan’s simple life of service to young people, especially to those most in need, has had its impact on a broad range of people over many years. May he now rest in peace.


Neftali Calvo Ortega (H. David)...


Valero Martín Martín...