Peter Bohrsmann on what would Jesus do at St Ignatius College Riverview

The video reminds me of my Year 10 religion exam question, which was something like what would Jesus say and do if he came to our school. I at the time resented that school. For me it was filled with hypocrisy. It was a private and very expensive school and I came from a not so wealthy family, who strangely enough with a father who disliked a lot about the school himself as a boy attending, thought it a valuable place for me to go.

I wrote something like Jesus would come to the school angry at all the hypocrisy done in his name, that he wouldn’t set up a place that only likes kids who could kick a football well or get good marks on stupid and useless exams like this one I was doing. He wouldn’t be spending bucket loads of money on making the outside of buildings look good and making videos for parents that show a fake view of the school, while feeding the kids who lived there as boarders crappy food. I remember writing a lot of superlatives like fuck and bullshit throughout the essay. I knew I was leaving that school in a week or so, so only under those conditions did I have the courage to write what I really thought.

I was generally a quiet kid who kept to himself. My religion teacher at the time called me to his office. He threatened me with sending my exam to the principal of the school I was going to attend the following year because I don’t think I appeared too concerned when he mentioned he’d show the headmaster, Father Greg O’Kelly. I basically told him that I disliked the school and didn’t fit in and that’s why I wrote what I wrote. I remember him being somewhat understanding and kind after that.

My religion teacher’s name was Mr Peter Bohrsmann he was also the Boarding Master and he lived at the school. In 1997 he committed suicide after an alleged child abuse involving him while working at the school. I have no idea whether or not he did what he was accused of but whatever the case, I saw his humanity and an extension of his understanding displayed then. He bascially let my rant at his sacred cow be. He could have disciplined me with the strap, which was common in those days at Riverview, but he left it alone after a short talk. In my opinion, whatever happened it was clear he felt tied to the public façade of the school, it was as much his own identity as it was the school’s and perhaps he read what I wrote as something he fe;t to some extent, but could never say himself. That was the impression I got that day as a 15 year old anyway.

More on Peter Bohrsmann:

13 thoughts on “Peter Bohrsmann on what would Jesus do at St Ignatius College Riverview

  1. Anonymous

    Peter Bohrsmann spoke movingly and eloquently. You could see his speech as a modern repetition of the condemnation by Jesus of much of the formal religion of his time and people.
    Antony Ruhan

    1. David Wall Post author

      I don’t know though if he’d be able to openly question the formal religion we were in, the Jesuit order, Catholicism, the school etc. in the manner Christ did in his time. You’d be booted out Riverview’s door at the drop of a hat if you did. When I heard about his death / suicide and the background around it, it was a big surprise as it for me didn’t make sense because of the person I thought he was, of course I have no clue to the truth about it, but I’d suspect his suicide helped to sweep things under the carpet, things that likely had much more to it.

  2. Pingback: Peter Bohrsmann and the phone call from his friend « Disorderly Happiness

  3. Michael


    I don’t remember you but I was a boarder in the class of 1997 at Riverview. I was a good friend of Peter and was devastated when I heard of his death. I have thought about it many times since those days. I too was a very quiet kid who found his fellow students difficult to deal with. Strangely enough I found greater friendship with some of the teachers than most of the students.

    Concerning the lack of true Catholic ethos at the school I could not agree more, however I think out reasons for our disgust at the school are different. When I started university the next year I had the blessing to befriend two very good people who showed me what a lousy religious education Riverview produces. For all it’s talk of being a great noble Catholic educator it is actually a hotbed of modernist heresy the Jesuits are now famous for. After 7 years at that school I was ignorant of fundamental concepts such as the state of grace, the Mass being a sacrifice and not a meal, mortal sin and many other fundamentals of the faith. They are supposed to be forming youths into deeply spiritual men like Saint Ignatius himself, instead they served complete garbage in their pathetic excuses for liturgy. At least men like Peter Bohrsman tried to bring some dignity into the Mass with some better hymns and even some chant. I have since discovered the Latin Mass which is the most beautiful and reverent liturgy I have had the privilege to be part of. This is the spiritul heritage we were both robbed of my the happy clappy hippy bunch in the Church, especially thanks to the Jesuits. If I had the consolation of this liturgy during my time at Riverview, things would have been much more bearable.

    If Saint Ignatius were to visit the school I’m sure he would decry the corporatism that have enveloped it, not to mention what Our Blessed Lord would say.



    1. David Wall Post author

      Hi there Michael, yeah probably we wouldn’t have crossed paths, I would have been class ’93 (20 years passed!), but left in year 10. Was a border for a couple of years too. Thanks for your comment 🙂 And the Jesuits, well its controversial but they’ve got a very dark history if you take the opinion of people like Frank O’Collins, who actually was Jesuit educated like us – an old boy of Xavier in Melbourne.

    2. Jonny

      Michael, I hope you study theology and make a difference to the Lord’s teachings by enacting a new state of grade every day. The cloth needs people like you.

  4. Dave

    I have been looking for pictures of inspirational people in my life and in searching for a picture of Ollie Bohrsman I have stumbled across these incredible articles of a man who I also connected with whilst at Riverview when I was also a bit of a loner. Get rid of all the rhetoric, the prestige and the privilege of the school and at the heart of it, Ollie was truly “a man for others.” I have avoided going to school reunions for the last 20 years but now am starting to look back and be thankful to the “school” because of the principles I learnt from Ollie.

    1. David Post author

      Yeah I didn’t do the 10 or 20 yr reunions, could do the 30 yr one when it comes. Glad these posts has got some truth on Ollie and what he meant for others.


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