From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
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Friday 7 September 2018 | Dr Paul Hine
Late last week, Bruce Turnbull (OR1995) visited the College to speak to the First Nations boys about the opportunities that accrue from an education at Riverview, despite the challenges that are part of leaving home at a young age to board and being immersed in a demanding educational program. Bruce, who is one of the earliest graduates of the Indigenous Bursary Program (as it was then called), is currently the Aboriginal Education Officer at Bourke High School. His second daughter is enrolled at Loreto Normanhurst, forming part of a family and generational change that is aimed to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, one that the College has been committed to over the last 20 plus years.
This week has been about the power of dignity and reconciliation. At the Reconciliation Day Assembly, the men of the First Nations members of our community reminded us that history can have a sad and bitter edge, but despite that, there can be joy in remembering who we are and where we come from. The best thing about the day for me, personally, was how much of it was run by students, for students.
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” (Pablo Picasso)
Last week we learned that a painting was sold at auction by Christie’s in New York, believed to be the last-known of only twenty paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. It was purchased by an anonymous bidder for US$450.3 million, making it the most expensive painting ever acquired, either at auction or (it is believed) through private sales.
I was once at a talk given by my predecessor here, Fr Andy Bullen SJ, where he posed the question, “What do you think is the most beautiful human creation or artefact?” An interesting question, and we all pondered. I think he replied that for him it was the painting Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock, now escalating in value in the National Gallery. For me, it is the remaining façade of the Church of St Paul’s Jesuit College in Macau.
The Irish, who are always adept at coining curious phrases, speak of “thin places”. Not surprisingly, it is a spiritual term, because the Irish are a very spiritual people. Thin places are moments in time when boundaries break down and we are aware of something greater – ‘the all’, or a harmony, or something quite ‘Other’. Where spirit and matter meet, perhaps. Those transcendent or transporting moments in time.
The Parents’ and Friends’ held their annual Easter reflection. We began with an outdoor Stations of the Cross in the College grounds bursting with green. Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation followed. The feast is celebrated nine months to the day of Christmas – those liturgists in Rome assuming, of course, that Mary went full-term.
Although only in the early stages of the term, much by way of planning has been entered into for 2016, all consistent with the second year of the Strategic Directions 2015-2016 Document that was released early in the year after considerable discernment and consultation. Taking the form of School Goals for the coming year, these are designed to build upon the restructure of the pastoral care system, strengthen teaching and learning via the use of measurement data, increase accountabilities through asset management and risk management, while at the same time, maintain and develop the distinctive Ignatian charism that lies at the heartland of the educational program. Some new initiatives are also being introduced, including:
In the world of ancient Rome, there were only two temples to have theatres – those dedicated to the gods Venus and Bacchus. The early Christian community, naturally, saw these gods as patrons of lust and drunkenness. Not a good starting point for any Christians assessing the value of theatre in human culture! Indeed, the Council of Carthage in 398 AD decreed that those who attended a theatrical performance instead of Mass would be excommunicated and actors would be forbidden receiving the sacraments.
However attitudes softened a little over the centuries and the richness of Catholic liturgies fostered the evolution of pious performances and morality plays. By the time Jesuit schools were emerging in Renaissance times, drama and the stage were included as central pedagogical experiences. Naturally, this raised some eyebrows. The Jesuits in the schools had already been the subjects of some suspicion in that they enthusiastically taught “pagan” authors in the curriculum, alongside the scriptures and more catholic texts. But, it was argued in this Renaissance era, the Greek and Roman classics firstly taught the classical languages well, and then cultivated an eloquentia perfecta (flawless eloquence). At the same time, these classics of literature, poetry, plays and histories explored the great ideas of virtue, the triumph of good over evil, wrestling with moral choices, extolling heroic and generous lives. Reflections, if you like, of the great themes and values presented in the scriptures. So we embraced drama.
One of the more extraordinary assemblies was held at the College last week that profiled the cause of mental health and depression. Taking an enormous leap of courage and faith, School Captain – Xavier Eales, spoke of his personal battle with depression during his adolescent years and his need to seek professional help to deal with it. Surrounded by a loving family and friends, Xavier has come through a very difficult time with resolve, resilience, and with exceptional courage. Xavier encouraged the boys to be mindful of their own mental health and well-being, by not living in denial but instead seeking the necessary assistance where and when they needed it. And, he exhorted the boys to keep a watchful eye on their friends, to be interventionist if necessary when someone is down and troubled especially if they are not seeking help themselves. Rarely is there a spontaneous standing ovation in the Ramsay Hall, but such was the impact of Xavier’s address to the student body, along with his desire to ensure the psychological health of each and every boy in the school. As a sign of solidarity and diversity, each boy concluded the assembly by donning a favourite shirt, the rich striation of colour producing a tangible sign of the diversity and the solidarity in the school community. House Mentors are following up further as part of a program to raise the importance of mental health and responses to this important aspect of care in the College.