Friday 29 January 2016

A New Year Beckons

Welcome back to another school year, one that holds so many opportunities for growth and development for each and every young man. We particularly welcome the 255 new boys and 175 new families, the majority of whom join the Regis campus in Year 5 and the Senior campus in Year 7. These are exciting times for the young men as they enter the College and settle into the culture at St Ignatius, one that will see them experience exponential growth over the coming years. It is not without significance that these boys and their contemporaries, will graduate in 2023 and 2021, respectively, and in the process traverse the great divide from boy to man. At the other end of the spectrum, the young men who are entering Year 12 will increasingly look back over recent years with the profound insights that are the corollary of life experience when viewed through an Ignatian lens of reflection and discernment. How quickly those years are passing for our seniors, as surely as those will be for the boys who take up their enrolment at Riverview in these seminal weeks. To all members of the College community, I extend my very best wishes for all that lies ahead in 2016.

I trust that the summer provided some time for rest and relaxation after the ardours of a busy year. Not unlike the extremes of the weather over the break, the school oscillated between quieter times over Christmas and frenetic activity. In the aftermath of Speech Day, the Ignatian Children’s Camp saw many of our graduates provide intensive respite care for 34 children with significant disabilities. To see these young men, along with girls from Loreto and Monte St Angelo, provide such gentle and compassionate care to children whose life experience has been so very difficult and demanding, was truly inspirational. If one of the goals of the educational program in an Ignatian school centres on service, then it was witnessed in abundance throughout the camp; one that drew on all of the reserves of these young people.

Five separate immersions headed off over the summer for different destinations in South East Asia. India, the Philippines, Cambodia and two separate immersions to Nepal hosted contingents of Riverview boys who gave generously of themselves to activities that produced appreciable gains for the local communities. The boys became involved in all manner of activities – building homes, working in orphanages and schools, visiting the sick, the indigent and the dying, and visiting prisoners in security division blocks in gaols. This is global citizenship at its zenith; a personal and faith-filled response to the exhortation in Matthew’s gospel (Ch 25) to minister to the needs of the most marginalised and disadvantaged. Tired but enriched, most of the ‘immersants’ returned to the north shore last week, very much wiser in the ways of the world through the broad and rich ‘education’ they received during their overseas service programs.

One of the other perennial service programs is the Cana Camp, where a combination of current students and Old Boys run a camp program forSydney’s homeless at the College. Thirty two men and women who live on the streets around the city move into the boarding house where they are treated to a bed, fresh linen, regular meals and some highlights such as a tour of Sydney harbour which begins from the Riverview wharf. Distinctive about this particular program is the intergenerational reach that sees boys in Year 11 and 12 working alongside Old Boys who graduated many years ago, both drawn together in common cause to assist some of Sydney’s most vulnerable and destitute.

Travel of a different kind was embraced by the boys who joined the girls from Loreto and Monte St Angelo on the language exchange to France. The aim of the program was to increase proficiency with the French language through immersion and it is clear that five weeks moving between billeted families in Toulouse and Paris produced quite dramatic improvement. Given the initial conjecture about the instability of France in the aftermath of the terrorist attack late last year, the students are to be commended for taking the measured risk that travel involves, and emerging with such a deep appreciation of French language and culture. A special note of thanks is extended to the staff who accompanied students on their immersions and adventures to different corners of the world over the summer.

Congratulations are extended to the students in the graduating class of 2015 on their exceptional results – some of the finest in recent years. In all, 82 students representing 37% of the cohort secured scores in the top 10% of the state and by implication, the nation. Eleven students secured Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) scores in the top 1% of the candidature, with Xavier Eales being awarded Dux of the College (99.85) and William Cronin and Samuel Smith tying for Proxime (99.80). It was pleasing to note some ongoing improvement in the results profile with an increased number of Band 6/E4 results (4.2% increase), all courses above state average (12% increase), percentage of students with ATARs in the 90th percentile (5% increase), and students at the most elite level of achievement above the 99thpercentile (45% increase). Congratulations are extended to our high achievers, but also to each and every boy who gave of his best across a demanding HSC year and who has the satisfaction of knowing that they honoured the terms of their enrolment to the full.

Thus, while the break certainly had some quieter moments, there was plenty happening both around the grounds and behind the scenes. As we come back to another year, we give thanks for the blessings that enable each and every boy, each and every family, to share in the gift of an Ignatian education. When St Ignatius began his enterprise in Messina in 1548, his aim was give opportunity and capacity to young people so that they could become agents of change in their world. Five centuries later and on the other side of the world, that has not changed. So, I urge each and every young man to embrace the many challenges and rewards that exist and in the process, commit fully to the educational program and aspire to become a ‘man for others’ (Arrupe, July, 1975).

Dr Paul Hine