From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
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Friday 30 November 2018 | Dr Paul Hine
Last Friday, six of our Old Boys had the courage and strength to appear in court to describe the impact, harm and suffering caused by child abuse which occurred while they were at Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview. On the day, they were providing impact statements to the court, detailing in graphic form the sequelae and the consequences of child abuse on their lives. They were stories of great sadness, of loss and suffering, of psycho-social difficulties that have impacted in all areas of their lives, none the least of which is the damage to their mental and psychological health over the intervening decades.
This week has been one that has confronted me with the dark history of my Jesuit family. As you would be aware, a former Jesuit brother was convicted of abusing students while he worked here in boarding many years ago. Personally, I find the history troubling because of the lack of acknowledgment of the past and it fills me with shame that a member of my ‘family’ has used us and the people he was supposed to serve to harm them. But as troubling as this near-past history is, looking away from it, refusing to acknowledge it as a part of our history would be worse.
This week has been about the beginning of the end. We’re approaching the end of the liturgical, the calendar and the school year all at once, so the rituals associated with this have begun. Last Sunday we had a whole pack of boarders who renewed their resolve to keep living the Christian life as they received the sacrament of confirmation.
This week we formally and finally bid goodbye to the Class of 2018 as they finish their HSC exams and gather to celebrate at the Blue & White Ball. It is an event that is a long awaited and eagerly anticipated culmination for many of these young men. But we also had a reminder this week that the most important things that are learned here don’t stop when you leave Tambourine Bay and also aren’t the most important things you learn here
Life is often this strange mix of joy and sadness; beauty and struggle. Our life at the College doesn’t make us exempt from the struggle of life. The terrible injury of one of our Year 10 boys draws us together to hold him and his family and friends close to our hearts and makes all of us struggle to find where God is present in this terrible reality.
As a nation, we were stunned in one sense, and yet not in another, by the events in the national parliament last week. The numbers had changed, Turnbull was out, and in the form of Scott Morrison, the 30th Prime Minister in Australian history and the 6th in the last 10 years was elected to lead a new government. It was theatrical stuff involving the skulduggery of party politics, the partitioning of numbers, the consummation of alliances forged through shadowed conversations and brittle allegiances, producing a media frenzy that eclipsed so many other issues of grave importance in the country.
This week I’m conscious of the contribution that First Nations men have made to our College community for many years. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a dinner honouring Bruce Turnbull (OR1995), the third First Nations man to graduate from the College. Bruce lives out his call to be a man for others by teaching in the First Nations community in Bourke, NSW. It’s these small changes that we choose to make each and every day that will build the Kingdom of God.
This week has been pretty bittersweet. Gathering with members of our Ignatian family out in Moree was a great experience, but the parching drought that is making life in the country so hard on our farming families is hard to imagine; it has to be seen. (We are mobilising some of our community to try to support those out on the land who are struggling in these tough times. Stay tuned for more details soon.) The return of Father Tom Renshaw, SJ (OR1990) to preach and preside at our patronal feast of Saint Ignatius’ Loyola, followed by a day of service in various locations by our community members is always a joy. But I had the unwanted task of presiding at the funeral of a young man I taught at Saint Aloysius’ College immediately following our own celebration.
Term 2 traditionally marks the beginning of the ‘subject selection’ season for students from Years 7 to 10 when each young man at Riverview begins or continues to form his learning journey by choosing the subjects with which he will engage in the following year.
Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview initiated the Friends Listen Assembly in 2015, in a call to be ‘men for others’. This senior school assembly speaks to cura personalis – where we show care for each and every student, at the deepest and most intimate of levels.
This week we shared in the annual Friends Listen Assembly, an opportunity for one member of our community to share their experiences of struggle and support. The name of the assembly is vitally important, reminding us of both our obligation and the opportunity to lift one another up when we’re dragging along. Friends do indeed listen.
So, on Monday after our staff prayer, I followed the buzzing crowd of boys as we began the first wave of students occupying the new Therry building. Walking along, watching classes getting started, watching young men lay claim to the title of ‘First!’ in using a brand new learning facility, seeing all the hard work of the planning and building come to fruition as students excitedly entered the building and classrooms was really energising to witness.
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.
This week has been framed by artwork and history for me. Early in the week I observed the installation of the artwork to commemorate an institutional and personal failure to protect the vulnerable in our community: students who were abused while members of our community.
In April 1918, the world entered its fourth consecutive year of the most hostile military conflagration in history, one that ultimately destroyed political empires, ravaged long standing social conventions, devastated economic systems and reduced the landscape of Europe to rubble.
Welcome to Term 2. As the break drew to a close, I was privileged to host some early previews of the new Therry Building, which was absolutely amazing. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen the progress of this project since, literally, the first spade of earth was turned.
I was out in Bathurst for our first visit to the country this year and I had a chance to hear from a (very) Old Boy about a saint – Mrs. York, of York’s Corner fame. He told me that during his day, the food in the refectory… left something to be desired. Namely, edibility. He said that in their desperation, the boarders would travel all the way to York’s Corner with their meagre monies in hand hoping for something that would fill their bellies.
During Easter week last year, Pope Francis appealed for a period of prayer and solidarity in support of global peace. This same sentiment was echoed during the week by Nicholas Kristof, a senior correspondent for the New York Times, whose sobering insight into the violence of war torn countries in Africa made compelling reading.
The theme of the Student Mass during the week was Staying True – something of a leitmotif in Jesuit education. It represents an amalgam of the spirit of Lent while embracing the practical implications of the student motto for 2018: Many Wolves, One Pack. Lent is a time to go inwards to develop the interior life; an opportunity to reflect deeply on those habits, foibles and frailties that hold us back from being who we need to be; of adopting attitudes and actions that promote generosity, inclusivity and service.
We are rapidly approaching the halfway mark of the term. As the term and the year gain momentum there is a common desire to reach a point of equilibrium that will produce a sense of balance to the schedules that can dictate and, at times burden, already busy lives. There is much on the go, for all of the right reasons, but sometimes the quest to develop a discerning sense of proportion about competing priorities can be elusive.
Tuesday 13th February was the 10th Anniversary of the National Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the mistakes, the crimes and the institutional disadvantage that has resulted for First Nations communities through colonisation and the dispossession of traditional lands and culture. The last 230 years has seen some very dark and regrettable chapters in Australian history, such as the Stolen Generation where children were taken from their families under forced re-settlement schemes as a result of government policies.
This week, the Church’s liturgical year finished with the Feast of Christ the King. Kings don’t have a great appeal and sometimes not a great track record these days. I think we are all slightly uneasy with kings — especially kings who are aloof or claim privilege, who lack the common touch and just ‘lead the good life’.
Our Australian Jesuit Province almost has its own ‘martyr of charity’. Twenty-years ago this week, Fr A T Thomas, a Jesuit of the Hazaribag mission of the Australian Province, had his life savagely taken from him in the service of the poor. This memorial day happened to coincide with one of our regular voluntary student Masses
A week ago, I was making a presentation to the Year 10 students at the completion of their project-based learning task on social ethics. For most of the period I fielded questions on all manner of issues, as best I could. A question came up about the morality of capital punishment.
A very ancient feast slipped by for many this week – the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. It commemorates the dedication of a church by that name in Jerusalem in the early fourth century. Sometimes it is associated with ‘the finding of the true cross’ by that extraordinary relic-collector, St Helena, the wife of the Emperor Constantine.
At the heart of the life-death-and-resurrection of Jesus, the cross is the core symbol of our faith.