Friday 30 October 2015

A Jesuit Cosmology of Service

Service is part of the Jesuit world-view – part of the impulse that enables young people to see the world through different eyes and experience the inimitable growth that can occur for the participant, and, the enormous benefit that accrues for those who are the object of service. The College Assembly during the week focused on the role of the faith in service program: serving to learn and learning to serve. This comes in the aftermath of the Year 11 Religious Education program and it is also synonymous with the Immersion Reflection Evenings which were held during the week, the latter of which profiled the experience of the boys who travelled to Micronesia and Kokoda over the September break. Each and every boy is expected to complete 70 hours of service by the time they land in their HSC year, and in all manner of capacities be they assisting refugees, actively promoting the cause of reconciliation, supporting the disabled, the incapacitated, the homeless, the aged, the destitute or the marginalised. It is not an added extra, it is inextricably linked to the Jesuit DNA – the way that those in Jesuit schools, agencies and institutions interpret and respond to their world. Following the assembly, the boys gathered in Mentor groups to reflect more deeply across the age spectrum about their own service activities and how these may be broadened over the coming years, be they in senior secondary or in the years beyond school. As we move towards the latter stages of the term, the boys and the staff involved in immersions to the Philippines, India and Nepal over the summer break are making their final preparations for what will be a life changing experience as they forge international links between Jesuit organisations across the world that support those who live in some of the most impoverished and dire circumstances. Should there be opportunity for a discussion with the boys at the dinner table or while in the car over the coming week it would be wonderful if parents could reinforce this key tenet of the educational program with the boys for it speaks to the heartland of the Gospel and to the essence of civic duty and global citizenship.

Reflection Evenings for the boys involved in the immersions over the break were particularly instructive for those who attended. I suspect the parents received an education as much as the boys, who spoke with passion and insight about their experiences in foreign countries and the challenges they encountered. Very different in orientation, the boys in Kokoda and Micronesia, respectively, bonded to respond to each and every element by adapting to local customs, weather conditions, cultures and conventions. Perhaps one of the stark realisations of both experiences was the hardship that were encountered, be they the terrain of Kokoda or the lack of roads and services as a result of the recent typhoon in Micronesia. So aptly summarised in one of the formal reports submitted about the immersion: The boys look forward to continuing their formed friendships and using the skills that they have acquired on this trip to complete further service into the future.

On a magnificent Saturday in spring the full swing of the co-curricular program came into effect with over 1,500 boys participating in numerous activities including Rowing, Baseball, Cricket, Basketball, Sailing, Futsal, Tennis, Water Polo, Athletics and Mountain Bike Riding. So expansive is the program that there are over 50 Basketball teams, dozens of Tennis and Cricket teams, and over 200 boys involved in Rowing in one form or another. And while the GPS Summer Season is yet to officially begin, there were some sterling performances across all codes of sport, from those who demonstrated high level proficiency and elite performance, through to our new boys from Clongowes in Ireland, who have just enlisted in Baseball because it is a sport that they would never otherwise have access to!! Moving around the grounds and the courts, it was instructive and encouraging to see the boys engaged and committed to their sporting code and their team, the latter of which is such a healthy by-product of the co-curricular program in its many manifestations. Sincere thanks are extended to all who contribute so generously to ensure that the boys experience the many healthy and life giving benefits of the program – fitness, skill development, teamwork, discipline and dedication.

Year 9 students head off for their Challenge next week, one that they have been intensively preparing for over recent weeks. The aim of the program is to provide some challenging and at times demanding activities that will take the boys out of their comfort zones to accomplish goals and objectives, and, to support each other in the process. Two of the more demanding activities include the 120 km canoe paddle and the 120 km bike ride, which requires commitment, fitness, resolve and teamwork that will see each and every young man, despite hardship, get across the line. There will also be those personal development activities undertaken including cooking, life skills such as ironing, lessons on etiquette and broader educational experiences that foster independence, responsibility and citizenship. There will be much to report over the weeks ahead.

The final Drama presentation for 2015 will be held this evening in the O’Kelly Theatre, involving some of the finest vignettes of the year. Drawing on mime, mask work, monologues, musical theatre and Shakespeare, I look forward to reporting on this in the next Viewpoint.


Dr Paul Hine