Tarxien

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Prior to the building of the convent and church that we see today, there was a place where young people received a useful education. This was the brainchild of Dun Gwann Mamo, a hard-working priest from Cospicua who laboured hard to achieve this aim.  Dun Gwann spent all his wealth to build an institute where young people in the area could learn a trade while still attending to their religious duties. Thus in 1910, he built a small semi-public chapel dedicated to Saint Aloysius, protector of young people.  For some reason after an unceasing dedicated work lasting 23 years, the authorities felt that the institute was no longer suitable for the purpose for which it had originally been founded and in 1933 Dun Gwann’s mission was terminated. From 1935, after the closing of the local school, it was agreed with Dun Gwann to transfer the institute to the Maltese Government in order to be used as an elementary school.

A few days before he died Dun Gwann expressed his wish to the Provincial Father Lawrenz Agius OSA to pass on the institute to the Augustinian Province in the hope that it would continue the mission he had begun. This request was accepted. Between September 1939 and 1945, during the Second World War, the St. Aloysius Oratory started serving as a centre for Air Raid Precaution, and when the war ended, it was converted into a girls’ government secondary school by the name of St. Theresa Secondary School. Part of this school was converted into a public chapel and a few rooms were temporarily assigned for the monks. On the 1st February 1948, a new chapel was blessed. This was dedicated to St. Nicholas of Tolentino. In October 1953, the Government consigned the keys of the school to the Augustinians.

The Valletta convent was being felt to be too small for the needs of St. Augustine’s College that was housed in it. The Provincial, Father Paul M. Spiteri, started thinking of transferring the college to Tarxien. The very same Provincial commenced work on the building of anew convent to house the monks teaching at the college and those looking after the chapel. In the beginning of October 1954, the students of the college were transferred from Valletta to Tarxien. In the span of 12 years, from 1954 to 1966, the student population had grown so much that the need was once again felt to find a bigger space. In fact on the 18th April 1966 St. Augustine’s college was transferred to Pieta’.

Two years following the transfer of the college from Valletta to Tarxien, Father Gulju Bonnici OSA wanted to gather the young people roaming around in the streets of Paola and Tarxien and wished to provide them with a new programme built on three pillars-religious, educational and recreational.  A special motto inspired by Father Guze Delia SJ was chosen. This was Pie ac Laete-goodness and joy. In these words it gathered the entire programme for which the Oratory had been set up. The official start took place in the chapel of St. Nicholas on the 8th July 1956. Over the years, the Oratory continued to serve the purpose for which it had been set up, while the number of young people kept growing. With time more space was required so much so that the Augustinian community gave more rooms as needed.

The chapel of St. Nicholas, although small, continued to serve the spiritual needs of the people in the neighbourhood for many years. On the 23rd April 1967, the foundation stone of a new church was laid by the Provincial, Father Ugolin Gatt OSA, while on the 18th April 1970, the new church was blessed. The Archbishop Mons. Michael Gonzi consecrated the church on the 10th May 1975. The church was again renovated in 2005 on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of St. Nicholas of Tolentino.

For a time the vacant building of the college was converted into a youth hostel with around 50 beds. In 1983, a part of the hostel was given up to become the home of two youths who had been released from a correctional facility and had nowhere to go. This work was intended to be managed by the Legion of Mary but due to various factors the project did not succeed. According to a decision of the Council of the Province, on the 12th July 1983, it was decided that the youth hostel be given to the Ursuline sisters of St. Angela Merici for use as a house for children by the name of commodatum. From that day till the present, the nuns are still conducting their holy mission among small children with great Christian love.

 The Augustinian monks in this community help in the pastoral work and the spiritual needs of the church. They also work in other fields such as the University and schools.


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