Father John Bland returned to the United Kingdom after Easter 2009. He also visited Sydney, Cape Town and Nairobi as there is an International House of Studies and a Mission Station just outside Nairobi. Father Bland was born in Harrow on the 4th March, 1935 where he attended two Rosminian schools: Grace Dieu Manor (a prep school) and Ratcliffe College. He joined the Rosminians in 1953 at the age of 18. Father Bland was ordained on 25 October 1969 and came to New Zealand in October 1970. When Father Bland joined the staff in 1970, Rosmini College had a role of 520 students. He says, “I taught junior Science in Form 1, Christian Living in Form 2 and Mathematics in Form 3. I taught at Rosmini for three years. I also taught Christian Living in Form 6.” Mr Tom Gerrard says, “John was always a school man – he worked with the kids” and he was “tolerant of other people’s views.”
Father Bland went to St Peter’s College in 1974 as Deputy Principal and Hostel Master where he taught Mathematics, Physics, Creative Design, Form 1 Metalwork and Woodwork and Christian Living. He was there for seven years but he returned to Rosmini in 1981 where he taught Mathematics, Religious Education and Computing. Father Bland says, “I started the first computer room with Commodore 64’s and then setup the first computer room to have IBM compatibles. We had just heard that you could get hard disks rather than two disk drives so we had 20mg hard drives.” He adds, “I developed a great interest in computers and started the admin computer with Terry Perreau. We had all the students details on one five and quarter floppy disk.” Mr Gerrard describes Father Bland as, “really the trail blazer for computers/I.T.” In the 1988 Rosminian Father Bland is affectionally described as “our swept-up computer and video afficianado. What he doesn’t know about the equipment is not on the market yet. His ‘little notebook’ is always at the ready for Mass dates, boys’ names and Maths problems (his other ‘hobby’). He has been a tremendous motivating force in the advent of the Foster Cooke and the new classroom extension.”
Father Bland became the chaplain of the college from about 1983 onwards. He says, rather ruefully, “Alas, I gave up teaching before I really wanted to, mainly because of hearing problems. It never dawned on me to get a hearing aid at the time. I now have one and wonder why I did not get it fifteen years ago!” He adds, “I thoroughly enjoyed my years at the college. I always felt we had a very happy staffroom where I still feel welcome even though I do not know many of the staff now. I think this is something rather special about the Rosmini Staff.”
In 1989 he joined the Auckland Diocesan Retreat Team for four years where, “We gave over 500 school retreats to most of the secondary schools in the Auckland Diocese.” Father Bland then returned to Rosmini where, as well as looking after the computers, he was the chaplain again and he says “I made a point of visiting parents of the boys in their homes. Needless to say I could only get to some but it was a worthwhile ministry.” He regards a major achievement, “Keeping the Sacramental side of our faith as an important part of Rosmini life. We had Mass every week and in the early days we had class Masses as well. We also had the opportunity for the boys to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation which I think is terribly important. I feel the boys always appreciated the opportunity to go to the Sacrament at school.” He concludes “I am sure the Principal and staff will continue the great work of bringing the message of the gospel to the boys of Rosmini College.
The college has changed considerably over the last forty years. We came to educate Catholic boys in their faith. Today the teachers often have to bring the message of the gospel to boys for the first time. The whole purpose of the church (and therefore of schools) is to evangelise. If we don’t then we fail in our mission. I am sure Rosmini will continue for many more years bring Christ to those who know him and those that don’t.”
Father Bland became the Parish Priest of Glenfield’s St Thomas More Catholic Church in 1998. Mr Gerrard said Father Bland’s, “Great ability was to turn his hand to many pursuits – he was a teacher, a preacher, an administrator, a Board of Trustees Representative, a Parish Priest, a Retreat Master – you name it – John did it. He was a great advocate for the under dog. I personally benefited from his kindness. He also put himself out very much to care for the sick and dying.” Mr Gerrard goes on to say that he knew “a number of people who were fortunate enough to have Father Bland care for them in their last days. Father was able to ensure that their ‘passing’ was a peaceful one.” This included his colleague and close friend, Father Ernie Milne who died on the 27th October 2007. Consequently, it was with some sadness, Rosmini College wished Father Bland all the very best for his future. He will certainly be missed by all the students and staff of Rosmini College.