Comboni Missionaries – How I Became a ‘Bad Boy’

Conduct Marks

Twice a year we were all assembled into the Junior Form room to be given our Conduct Marks out of ten. I remember two of the marks which were for Diligence and Obedience. The other one might have been for Good Manners.

I think an organisation can be judged on how they mark and judge others. They give rewards or marks for what they think is important. So, these were the three things that they considered most important in a boy going on to the priesthood.

I’ll let readers judge themselves whether they think these are the three attributes most needed in a successful missionary priest.

Marks in First Year

Everyone wants to do well. Everyone wants high marks. My first ever marks were 6, 5, and 6, which was not too bad but were a little on the low side. I remember the ‘good boys’ got a lot more. They tended to get 8’s and 9’s and David Glenday, who went on to become the first ever British leader of the Verona Fathers got 10, 9 and 10.

I don’t remember my second set of marks in first year but I do remember that I did get at least one 7. It might have been 7, 6 and 7.

The first set of marks in 2nd year had been similar. I now waited for my second and final set of marks for the year.

No one was ever given a failure.

The marks were read out by Father Rector but had been prepared by Pinkie.

Second Year Marks

I settled to down to hear then when my turn came. Most of the marks were in the 6-8 range with the Good Boys getting in the 8s and 9s.

My turn now.

“Five” said Fr. Rector. There was an audible communal gasp in the room as the mark was announced. This was low.

“Four” said Fr. Rector for the next mark. All eyes in the room were on me now.

“Five” said Fr. Rector for the last mark.

What Happened?

I couldn’t understand why. What had I done? Wasn’t I 2nd top of the class? Wasn’t I Fr Cerea’s favourite pupil with some calling me his pet?

When the marks ended, people came over to commiserate with me. They were as surprised as I was. “What did you do?” was the favourite question. “Nothing” I said bemusedly. They thought I must have done something as they couldn’t see anything that could cause those low marks.

One of the older boys then told me that this was probably the lowest set of conduct marks ever in the history of the school. He had been talking to some of the other older boys and none could remember anyone ever getting such a low set of Conduct Marks before.

If I didn’t feel bad enough already I really felt as low as the Dead Sea after that.

Worst Boy Ever

Was I really the worst boy who had ever walked up the driveway at St. Peter Claver’s College, wanting to do his bit for Africa and to become a priest?

I couldn’t believe it? How could I have got this bad? How could they think I was this bad? Was I this bad?

I couldn’t work it out at all. After all, I was processing the data through a twelve-year-old’s brain.

Looking at it again through the eyes of a 53-year-old I think I can now.

I got the worst conduct marks ever in the school’s history.

I was devastated at the time. I wear it as a badge of honour now.

Soon, however, Pinie was going to reveal a plan for my redemption.

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