Being on the Right Side of Things: An Interview with Kieran O’Connell ’10, Guest Coordinator at The Gathering Place

What are some of your memories of St. Bon’s:

Everybody had a lot of fun, everyday no matter what.  I started in grade 9, stayed until grade 12, and I would just say academically it was phenomenal.  You have a better chance to do artistic endeavours, being part of the band.  Overall a lot of fun and a lot of laughter.

What are some of your takeaways from St. Bon’s?

I took away more respect for theology and philosophy, and just more for academics generally.  I was never great at Math or Science, so I just figured I wasn’t good at school, which is what you’re brought up to believe in our culture, to equate those disciplines with ‘success.’ But what I learned at St. Bon’s about Plato, about the idea of the Forms, about Descartes, about Literature and the Renaissance (learning about what people believed as part of learning about the Literature of a period), helped me understand that I was an academic, that while I didn’t enjoy some disciplines, the financially lucrative studies let’s say (laughter), I did enjoy and want to learn.

Tell me what you’ve been up to since leaving St. Bon’s.

Since leaving I completed a double major in Communications and English at Memorial University.  A position came open at The Gathering Place.  I think they needed someone right away, it wasn’t a lengthy application process, it felt like, “If you can, come to work tomorrow,” kind of thing. They needed someone for five weeks, so it wasn’t supposed to be permanent or anything.  And by that point I had already found another job, and even though I felt like I couldn’t turn down a fulltime job for five weeks of work, I did.  And The Gathering Place kept me on.  And to this day I work as an advocate for underserviced and marginalized people.  And that’s where I am today.

In that way, do you see St. Bon’s as “forming Men and Women for Others?”

Oh yeah.  I mean, in sending students over to prepare breakfast on Wednesdays one thing that they are doing for the community is ensuring that people get to eat.  I’m not overstating this – on Wednesdays because of that breakfast program, people get to eat twice that day – that’s massive in the lives of people who become accustomed to eating once a day.   I don’t know if it’s ever been framed that way to the students, but what they are doing is literally enabling people to eat, to come together and trust that there is an opportunity for them to have a place that will support their lives, their living.  This is so important. In many schools nobody ever tells you that, much less create an opportunity for you to experience yourself actually doing something for and with someone else, someone outside of the world you would normally circulate within.  You know, at St. Bon’s it’s always a part of the conversation, social justice is on the tip of the tongue, whether you call it that or not; improving the community is always a part of what it means to ‘be there.’