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We remember Br Chris Gorringe

Posted on 4 May 2021
We remember Br Chris Gorringe

Recently, a Mass of Remembrance and thanksgiving was held at Oakhill College, Castle Hill, to honor Br Chris Gorringe, who passed away on 13 April 2020.

"Good Morning. My name is John Gorringe and I am Christopher's eldest brother. On behalf of the Gorringe Family, I would like to thank you all for attending this Mass of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for Chris. I would also like to thank Br David for giving me the opportunity to say a few words about Chris on behalf of his family.

Christopher Francis Gorringe was born on 10 September 1945 at Dunedoo, being the fourth of six children to our parents Alan William Gorringe and Mary Margaret Gorringe (nee Womersley).

Chris had a happy and normal upbringing and as you could imagine growing up with three older and two younger siblings, life was rather hectic. Chris completed his primary and junior secondary education at St Michael's Catholic School, Dunedoo and in 1960 he became a boarder here at Oakhill, following me and preceding his younger brothers Joe and Gerard. Chris was a very diligent student and he had a great flair for languages, doing honours in Latin and French in his final year at Oakhill. As an aside, Chris went onto study Italian, German and Spanish during his teaching and administrative career. Whilst at Oakhill, Chris was a member of the Senior Debating, Rugby and Athletics teams and he was a Senior Prefect. On completion of his secondary education, Chris moved across the Oakhill driveway to the Training College where he joined the De La Salle Brothers in January 1963 as a Postulant. 

On joining the De La Salle Brothers, Chris took the religious name of Laurence. Some years later, after Vatican II, he reverted to his given name of Christopher.

I believe that Chris was the first Oakhill Old Boy to join the De La Salle Brothers. In 1968 on completing his Religious and University studies, Chris began his teaching career at De La Salle College Armidale. In 1974 Chris moved to St Michael's' College Henley Beach in Adelaide and in 1979 he was on the staff (part time) at Boys Town, Beaudesert, Queensland.

It was whilst he was at Beaudesert that Chris commenced studying for his PhD at the University of Queensland and it was during this period that my family saw a great deal of Chris. He was a regular visitor on a Saturday evening for a baked dinner, or a BBQ or his favourite, would you believe, pizza, with of course the obligatory bottle or two of Red. It was on one of these evenings in December 1984 that Chris arrived with a bottle of Red wrapped in photocopy paper. I was about to bin the paper when Chris stopped me and asked me to look at the piece of paper. In typical Chris fashion, it was a photocopy of his PhD which had been presented to him at a graduation ceremony that no one knew had taken place.

Following another teaching appointment in 1985 at St Michael's Henley Beach, Chris in1991 was appointed Principal at Frawley College, Scarborough, Brisbane. In 1995, Chris spent two and a half years working for the Brisbane Catholic education Office.

In September 1998, Chris was appointed Principal of Oakhill College, being the first former student to become Principal of the College. Chris enjoyed his time at Oakhill even though it was an entirely different place to the one that he had spent here as a boarder. Not only had the boarding part of the College closed and Oakhill no longer had a Primary Department, Oakhill now had female students in Years eleven and twelve and of course the student numbers had increased significantly. During his time at Oakhill, Chris was fully immersed in College life, being involved in teaching, building programs, extracurricular activities and supporting the College sporting teams, including driving teams in the College bus to Saturday sport. One of Chris' bus duties was to drive the senior Netball team to other schools for competition and part of the ritual was to stop at McDonalds on the way back to the College (yes, he liked McDonalds too). On one occasion Chris had another appointment and was unable to take the girls to netball and Brother Alf filled in for Chris.  After the game was finished, Brother Alf drove straight back to the College much to the protests from the girls, saying that Brother Chris always took them to McDonalds on the way back, however their cries fell on deaf ears. Brother Alf wouldn't budge. When they arrived at Oakhill the girls refused to get off the bus. Chris had just arrived back from where he had been and heard the remonstrations and went to see what was happening. Of course, Chris succumbed to the girls' demands and drove them to McDonalds and back to the College where they got off the bus and everyone was happy, except Brother Alf.  He was furious with Chris that he gave into the girls' demands. If the truth be known, Chris was probably feeling like McDonalds himself.

Chris also had a unique way of getting to know the new Year Seven students when they first arrived at Oakhill. He was very conscious of the fact that they were at a new and much larger school which could have been quite daunting for them and particularly if they didn't know any other students. Chris used to invite them to his Office where he provided lunch, yes, the good old pizza. I am sure the students wondered what they had struck in a Principal but it had the desired effect in getting to know the students and for them to settle into their new environment. Chris also used our younger brother, Gerard, as an example to the students who were misbehaving in that they could be expelled if they didn't behave themselves. Gerard sailed close to the wind a few times when he was at Oakhill and although he managed not to be expelled, Chris' opinion was that if his brother had been threatened with expulsion, it could happen to anyone. Gerard was at Oakhill when Chris was in the Training College and if Gerard was in trouble, I think Chris disowned him.

In 2007 Chris returned to Scarborough as Acting Principal and to manage the amalgamation of a number of Catholic Schools to form Southern Cross Catholic College. It was a daunting task, however Chris managed to achieve the end result, after much heartache.

In 2008 Chris joined the Staff at the Provincial Office, Bankstown. His roles included District Bursar, Auxiliary Visitor, Acting Brother Visitor and being a member of the District Council. Chris was also a Board Member of De La Salle Schools in Melbourne and Adelaide and also here at Oakhill, including being Board Chairman. Chris also held various positions within De La Salle Ministries in Australia and Overseas and made frequent trips to Pakistan, The Philippines, Italy, Papua New Guinea and Countries throughout Asia.  It was no wonder that Chris seemed to be forever on a plane going to some meeting or other. Chris continued to carry out his various commitments in a no fuss manner, right up until the time he died.

Chris loved his sport. He enjoyed running, something that he did for most of his life. He had to give running away a couple of years ago due to leg problems, so he took up walking instead. He endeavoured to run or walk most days during his life, when time permitted. He also enjoyed playing golf and managed to sneak in the odd game or two, mostly I understand, at Oatlands. He obviously had very important meetings entered in his diary on those occasions. Chris followed the Parramatta Eels in Rugby League and the Sydney Swans in the AFL. He regularly attended Swans games at the SCG.

Chris became ill approximately two years before he died. My wife, Janice and I happened to arrive in Sydney, ironically, on the day Chris found out that he had been diagnosed with Cancer of the Bile Duct. The prognosis at the time was not good, although the Doctors at St Vincent's' Hospital were able to treat Chris by inserting a stent in his Bile Duct, which prolonged his life for longer than expected. Chris was due to have further treatment for his illness, however towards the end, his condition deteriorated rapidly and the cancer had spread to other parts of his body.  Chris being Chris, didn't want his illness known, except to a very select few and as a result his death would have come as a shock to many.

It deeply saddens our family that none of us were able to be with Chris during the final weeks of his life due to the restrictions placed upon the community by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are unfortunately spread throughout NSW and Queensland and were unable to travel, as were many other families in similar circumstances.

I would like to publicly express the family's gratitude and thanks to the Doctors and Medical Staff at St Vincent's Hospital for the magnificent treatment Chris received to help him through his illness and to make him as comfortable as possible.

I would also like to express the family's thanks and gratitude to Brother David Hawke for his compassion and kindness and for being with Chris up until the time he died.

I would also like to thank on behalf of our family, Sister Antoinette Baldwin for her friendship with Chris and for being with him and caring for him whilst he was in Palliative Care at the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst. We appreciate all Sister Antionette did for Chris during his final days.                      

And I would also like to thank on the family's behalf, Peter and Thao Cartwright for their great friendship with Chris and for all they did for Chris during the last weeks of his life. Peter and Chris had a very close working relationship over many years and I know Peter was a great comfort to Chris during his final weeks and we are eternally grateful for all the kindness and support Peter gave to Chris. Peter will be forever in our debt.

I had numerous conversations with Brother David during Chris' illness and also after he died and a couple of things about Chris came to light.

Our family was unaware of Chris' reputation with the RED biro, which I gather created a great deal of mirth with those who were unfortunately on the receiving end of a corrected document or report. The red biro must be a gene in the Gorringe family which somehow was passed onto Chris. It bypassed the rest of us; however, it seems that Chris perfected its use. When I was at boarder at Oakhill, Sunday evening was set aside to write home to our parents. My Mother wrote to me every week and included with her letter was my previous letter home correcting my spelling mistakes and punctuation which my father had done, yes, in RED biro. I obviously wasn't a particularly good student (certainly as far as English was concerned) and this went on for the whole time I was a boarder.

The RED biro only happened to me. I think Dad must have gotten writers' cramp by the time I had left school, but the gene lived on in Chris.

The other thing I found out about Chris was his love of PEPPERJACK red wine which was well known to those who knew him. I feel that I may have been responsible for tweaking his taste buds for this particular wine. On regular visits to Sydney, my wife and I would take Chris to the races at Randwick and afterwards to the Doncaster Hotel at Kensington for a meal. I had come across PEPPERJACK not long after it had come on the market and on one of these occasions at the Doncaster it was on the wine list and having purchased a bottle, Chris was hooked. It was the wine of choice every time we went out with Chris and from what I have heard since he died, it was also well known to his friends that PEPPERJACK was his preferred drop.

Chris was a highly intelligent individual with a great capacity for work and to deal with complex issues in a calm and considered manner. While Chris was quite a reserved person, (I think Chris took the term, "being a private person," to another level) he had a great sense of humour and appreciated a good joke. As a family we always had a good laugh with one another. We would get together for significant birthdays which were great times. On one occasion we were celebrating our youngest brother Gerard's birthday at Darling Harbour and at the same venue there was a hen's party. As part of their goings on, the bride to be had to kiss the oldest person in the room, which as luck, or otherwise, would have it, was me. Chris thought this was hilarious. I can tell you that it would have been a lot more hilarious had it been him who had to pucker up. On another occasion we conned Chris into organizing his own birthday party without him actually knowing it. We used a pretext to get him to arrange a get together and when he found out on the night that he had arranged his own party he was none too happy. He got over it though and we had a great night.

My wife and I were fortunate to have met up with Chris a couple of times when our paths crossed whilst we were travelling overseas. On one occasion we met up in Lucerne, Switzerland, whilst on a bus tour. Chris was invited by our tour Director to join us for a planned evening out. We were seated for dinner when a young lady who was on her honeymoon and sitting opposite Chris said to him, "I know you, your Brother Chris". A very surprised Chris said that he was. It turned out the young lady was one of his former students at Frawley College, Scarborough. After dinner we went out again, as you do, and Chris was able to reminisce on times past whilst they were both at Frawley. It was at the same dinner that a more mature lady tried to crack onto Chris not knowing who he was, apart from being my brother, without success I might add, which was a shame. The interaction provided much laughter afterwards and still does at Chris' expense.

Chris' mind was sharp to the end and knowing that he did not have too long to live, he chose the hymns and readings for his funeral Mass and due to Covid restrictions, he left a list of people who he would like to attend his funeral.

I came across a couple of quotations that meant a lot to Chris, that I was particularly taken by and are something that we should reflect upon.

The first was a message Chris left to his De La Salle Brothers and I quote Chris "I have tried to be "a good Brother" rather than a professional religious". End quote.  That was something he certainly achieved.

And the second was a quotation attributed to St John Baptist De La Salle that Chris selected for his memorial card and I quote:

"Be satisfied with what you can do because God is satisfied but be assured that with the help of God's grace you can accomplish more than you can possibly imagine". 

Those two phrases say more about Chris than anything I could possibly say about him and I think these quotations, sum Chris up perfectly.

Chris was a loving son to our parents, Alan and May (as Mother was known), a loving brother to his brothers and sister and a loving uncle to his nephews and nieces.

He was a loyal friend and colleague to many and was a loving and respected member of the De La Salle Brothers. I would like to thank all the De La Salle Brothers who have been friends of Chris over the fifty-seven years he was a Brother, for supporting him and for all the kindness and respect shown to him.

It was quite extraordinary the number of condolence messages that were received from within Australia and Overseas when Chris died. He was well respected and held in high regard by many people.

Chris is missed by all who knew him and our world is all the poorer for his not being here. He has been reunited with our parents and is probably looking down on this gathering, wondering what all the fuss is about and in typical Chris fashion, would not be impressed.

Rest in Peace our Dear and Loving Brother. We all miss you."


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