By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook, March 2017
Alessandro Cowley finished his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney in November 2016. He is a parishioner at St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie, and the 2011 Dux of Parramatta Marist High School.
Alessandro has the opportunity for great material achievement but he longs for higher things. When asked what his future dreams are, his reply is: “A more compassionate world, more saints like Mother Teresa!”
The star student credits God, his parents, relatives, teachers and friends for his success.
Alessandro has left his mark on the university, having served as President of the Catholic Society and Vice President of the Conservative Club of the University of Sydney. He was also Vice President of the Australian Catholic Students Association.
“I found my home at the Catholic Society,” he said. “We grew together in our faith and in friendship over our university years.
“I found it quite helpful to the development of my faith to be surrounded by young Catholics my age, who were devout and believed in the same things I did.”
Alessandro’s heroes are BA Santamaria and Archbishop Mannix, “both great Catholic activists who had the zeal of 17th Century Jesuit priests.” Their impact on Australian society marked a Catholic Revival for Alessandro.
“My intellectual hero is St Thomas Aquinas. I remember the first time being introduced to Aquinas – it was in a medieval history class, where the lecturer (who had been taught by Pope Benedict XVI many years ago), started exploring the life and times of Aquinas,” he said.
“I remember learning about the Five Ways with the chaplaincy staff at Sydney University, and as we delved deeply into his arguments for God’s existence, for the first time felt I was equipped to deal with the questions of those who challenged my beliefs.”
Alessandro’s confidence in the intellectual firepower of the Catholic Faith was on display in 2015 when thousands packed Sydney Town Hall for a debate between Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Prof Peter Singer on physician-assisted suicide, “Should voluntary euthanasia be legalised?”
The event sold out within hours and received wide media attention.
Alessandro came up with the idea in a Practical Ethics course. On a whim, he emailed Prof Singer and wrote to the Archbishop of Sydney, inviting them to debate.
“I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but they both replied!” he said. “It was very satisfying … seeing the packed Sydney Town Hall from the stage is etched in my memory.”
Alessandro’s example can inspire others to make the most of the HSC, university and adulthood.
“The HSC is a pathway towards the most exciting experience of your life – university. The Church needs foot soldiers and well-educated Catholics are necessary for the future of the Church in this country. Aim high, and strive,” he said.
Alessandro shared an interesting insight about the connection between prayer and true friendship – which wishes the best for the other person.
“Pray for the gift of friendship. Be friends with those who hold you accountable to the faith, and those who you can grow with together in the faith. A good friend is the most precious gift. Treasure them,” he said.
Ultimately, living the Faith on campus with the chaplaincy is an adventure that strengthens the university experience and lays a foundation for life.
“University is a time to challenge the norm, be exposed to fresh ideas, concepts and be intrigued intellectually,” Alessandro said. “Delve into the beauty of the Church and her teachings, forge lifelong friendships and grow as a person and soldier servant for Christ – join the Catholic Society on campus!”
The Diocese of Parramatta is developing an app to help you keep in touch with what is happening in the Catholic Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. You will be able to find the latest news, events and Mass times for parishes and migrant communities. To sign up to be the first to know when the app is released, click here.
Posted on 15 March 2017.