Friday 3 August 2018

A Momentous Week

Left, clockwise from top left: Fr Jack McLain SJ, Matthew Dutaillis, Fr Tom Renshaw SJ and Fr Brian McCoy SJ, Provincial and Dr Paul Hine

Over the weekend another chapter was written into the unfolding history of the College with the Official Blessing and Opening of the Therry Building. Four years in the making, between the Master Planning process and the building phase, this project is the consummation of an enormous collaborative enterprise between the architects, the builder, project manager, and a committed group of staff who have given shape and direction to a building that was decommissioned in late 2016 and is now a state of the art educational facility. The Provincial of the Society of Jesus, Fr Brian McCoy SJ, presided at the Official Opening, joined by Fr Tom Renshaw SJ (OR1990) and Fr Jack McLain SJ, who among other things unveiled the plaque that commemorates this significant addition to contemporary teaching and learning. Indicative of the importance of this project is that the last time a major capital investment on classrooms was made was in 1972; the better part of half a century ago when the Therry and the Vaughan buildings were originally constructed. It is a moment to savour and to be thankful for, one not to be ignored among the busyness of life that can let such moments pass. My sincere thanks are extended to all who have given life and energy to this project, which heralds the very best in innovative practice, classroom pedagogy and collaborative learning.

On Tuesday the College went inward and outward to celebrate St Ignatius Day. The day began with a School Mass concelebrated by five Jesuits, with Fr Tom Renshaw SJ presiding. Fr Tom holds a special place of significance, not only as the current Chair of Jesuit Education Australia (JEA), but also as one of Riverview’s own – a graduate of the class of 1990. And, Jesuit schools and universities across the nation and throughout the world – nearly 4,000 of them – gathered in their own place and time to enter into similar liturgical rites to commemorate the work of the Founder and the international mission of the Society of Jesus. As has become custom over recent years, the boys then went outward to their service activities from aged care facilities to hospitals, from refuge centres for the homeless to special schools. I was personally fortunate to accompany Chisholm House to the Vern Barnett School. The boys were magnificent in their unconditional response to the acute needs of the young children with autism. They embraced all manner of tasks including gardening, cleaning buses, painting and most importantly, working alongside and with the children who have such acute needs. Each House had its own very worthwhile cause and took up the challenge and the associated rewards of service; something that is part of the DNA of a Jesuit school, something that St Ignatius entrusted to all who commit to the principle of embracing Pedro Arrupe’s SJ mantra of being ‘a man for others’.

To add to the richness of the week, the Chapel Concert was held in magnificent surrounds of the Dalton Chapel on Wednesday evening. It profiled the very best of musicianship in the College, from the dulcet tones of string quartets and ensembles through to voice, jazz, keyboards and the full suite of instrumentation and orchestration. For many who have spent the relentless hours in practice over the years, this was the showcase of their performance schedule and all who attended were impressed with the breadth and proficiency of the boys, not to mention their stagecraft. Special thanks are extended to the new Director of Music, Mr Peter Watters, the teaching staff and tutors in the Music Program, and of course commendation to the boys on their arresting musical talent and musicality.

The Chapel Concert held on Wednesday was a credit to the Music Faculty and students who performed.

Fr Jack and I spent the early part of the weekend at a Boarding function in Moree, a region that has been a strong supporter of the educational program at the College for generations. The very first young man to leave the farm and undertake up his education at what was then a fledgling Jesuit school in Sydney, Bill Scriven (OR1915), arrived in 1911; and since then over 50 boys from the Moree region have come to know and appreciate the very distinctive formation that is part of the educational program at the College. The Shelton family (Fergus OR1925), the Dillon family (Eric OR1931) and the Fitzgerald family (Joseph OR1932) form part of that illustrious story, and reach to the current day with Harry Dillon, who will graduate later this year. As usual, we were treated to the best of country hospitality and warmth, despite the hardship that country folk are experiencing at the present time.

Father Mac with boarders from Bathurst in the early 1900s | The current state of affairs in Moree

It is cause for pause that while interest rates are relatively low, government spending remains high and income streams in the city remain reasonably stable, the lack of rain in rural regions is causing immense hardship. As a boarding school with a very sizeable contingent of families from the bush, it is important to recognise the growing signs of distress that the drought brings, from diminished recurrent income and crops that lay bare in the paddocks, to stock that are on reserved ration feeding. While the weather in the city is nothing short of glorious on a daily basis – the glow of radiant dawns against magenta blue skies with promises of clear and dry days – such days can bring increasing hardship for those whose livelihoods depend upon farming and agriculture. Let us all be mindful of this, and spare both a prayer and thought for those who continue to look with hope upon some precious and much needed rain to soften the landscapes and bring relief to aridity and dryness of our rural regions. As we look toward the Intercol between Joeys and Riverview in a few weeks, preparations are currently underway to dedicate the match to drought relief in section support of our regional communities. More details will come next week.

While it was a momentous week with a number of events in the College, it was also a week that registered outstanding achievement for three of our senior boys. Bas Braham, among the very best orators in the country, won the Senior National Champion of the Rostrum Voice of Youth Final in Perth. The last time this occurred was over 30 years ago, when Andrew O’Keefe won the Junior Division. What an achievement. In Plovdiv in Bulgaria, Tom Hughes was ranked 1st in the C Final of the canoeing K1 1000 Junior World Championships, which placed him 19th in the world, while his team was placed 2nd of the B Final of the K4 500 event, which ranked their performance 11th in the world. And Christian Taylor competed in the Australian Swimming Championships in Hobart and was ranked 2nd fastest in the nation for the 50 metre backstroke. Congratulations are extended to these young men on their truly exceptional achievements.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine