From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
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Friday 17 November 2017 | Fr Ross Jones SJ
Companions in Conversation
This week we have been sponsoring the annual Advanced Ignatian Teacher Programme at the College, with almost thirty teachers from Jesuit schools across Asia in attendance. We explored with them something of best practice from our Ignatian tradition. Here at the College we have a Companions Programme, running a number of years now, which we shared with our overseas colleagues. The programme aims to partner a teacher with an experienced mentor, a Companion...
Over the past week there has been much activity around the Senior School as the boys who are taking up enrolment in 2018 began the formal process of transition. A mixture of excitement, apprehension and not a little bewilderment at the scale of what will be encountered over the coming years was clearly evident. Parents, a number of who are new and unfamiliar with the routines of school life ‘Riverview style’, experienced their own sense of awe
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.
On Tuesday evening, I had the (rather unusual) opportunity to watch the evening news service. There were two feature stories that attracted my attention: the ‘juvenile white pointer shark’ that washed up on Manly Beach during the week, and the ‘bearded lady lion’.
As this statement is being written, I am seated on an early morning flight out of Sydney bound for Brisbane... In the seat across the row is the Deputy of Teaching and Learning, Russell Newman, and we are on a fact finding mission to Brisbane Grammar to cross reference data management and analytic tools that are being utilised to determine educational efficacy through measuring student achievement and well-being.
Over the weekend, a delegation of students and teachers from Fordham Prep and Boston College arrived at the College as part of an international exchange program between Jesuit schools in the United States and Australia. Located in New York and Boston, respectively, these schools were visited by Riverview boys last year where bridges of understanding were built between Jesuit Colleges in opposite hemispheres of the world. Such a program enables the global reach of the Society of Jesus to be fully appreciated and the situational context of the schools to be appropriated and celebrated.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body of Christ. At many levels, it recalls the Body of Christ of the Passion, the Body of Christ given us in the Eucharist, and the mystical Body of Christ which is us, the Christian community, manifesting the presence of Christ in the world today. When celebrated formally, the Mass of the day has, before the Gospel, a long chant or hymn called a Sequence.
The Special Education Inclusion Program (SEIP) celebrated its 10th Birthday last week; its coming of age. Past and present members of the SEIP class, their parents and staff gathered for a mass of thanksgiving in the Dalton Chapel, in honour of the extraordinary achievement that has seen so many boys undertake their life skills education at the College and then move into gainful employment and independent living.
At the Year 11 Arrupe Academy this week, we were speaking about Ignatius and the range of extraordinary experiences which were his over a lifetime. I think we are very fortunate to have Ignatius as our patron. He is reflective, but very much a man of action. He has experienced a world of excesses and vanities, but also a world where a search for meaning and honest discernment could lead him to his true self.
It suggested that Ignatius preferred to settle in large cities, “leaving the valleys for St Bernard’s monks; the mountains for the Benedictines; and the towns for the Franciscan friars.” That was because Ignatius would only undertake to open colleges where abundant funds were forthcoming and when the sites chosen suited him in every way. Places that could achieve ‘the more’, the greater good.
The normal flurry of activity to round off a busy term of teaching and learning was exacerbated by some major events in the final week. A whole school liturgy was held in the Ramsay Hall on Monday in preparation for the Easter festival. Powerful theatrics brought the compelling story of the Passion, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection to life as students re-enacted those events that began at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday and concluded with the opening of Christ’s tomb on Easter Sunday.
During the week I was very fortunate to experience some different perspectives and gain new insights through the educational program, particularly seeing teaching and learning through the eyes of two Riverview students. On the same day, I was privileged to attend a breakfast in Cova Cottage coordinated by the LBW Trust, which supports the cause of marginalised children in disadvantaged countries.
Last week I was invited to speak to our keenest Year 9 Science classes on the topic of ‘Evolution, the Big Bang and Catholicism’. And they were not backward in popping the penetrating questions! It always interests me that the boys at first can think it strange that someone could have a background in science, yet still be a priest.
As we move to the latter stages of the term I am constantly reminded of the diversity of the educational program at the College and the opportunity the boys have to participate at so many different levels. If Riverview is something of a proverbial jewel, it comprises many facets with an integrated sense of both complementarity and aspiration, fully in accord with its foundation and its tradition.
Over recent weeks the boys in Year 10 have been pursuing a Project Based Learning (PBL) activity entitled Magis 5K. More than a standardised research assignment, it utilises problem-based learning that involves transdisciplinary skills of collaboration, systematic investigation, analysis and synthesis to arrive at reasoned and sustained conclusions. The proposition in itself has been challenging: How can we generate the greatest impact in response to the greatest need?Students were asked to look around the world at areas of desperate need and then research, assess and provide responses which would hold the best long term and sustainable futures, be they to the paucity of electricity in villages in the Himalayas, nutrition levels of diet in nutrient-poor regions of the world, disease in countries where it is endemic, or institutional oppression of the dispossessed and vulnerable. These are big questions that require macro-analysis and discernment, questions that demand different perspectives to be considered and evaluated. And, they need to be the object of rigorous interrogation in order to respond to the complexities that are inherent to each situation in its contextual setting. All projects were presented to a senior judging panel from Jesuit Mission who assessed the calibre of the work, and, they were mightily impressed with the boys’ work. In its own way, Magis 5K has become part of the lexicon at Year 10 and this spirit is permeating much of the educational program, be it in Religious Education, English or the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) that are the object of so much endeavour across the school.
June 1st signalled the first day of winter, after what has been an unprecedented period of the most stunning autumn weather in Sydney. As if on script, the rain arrived and brought with it some blustery but refreshing weather that has greened the landscape of the school and feathered the lawns to soften the pitches for the winter codes. In keeping with Ignatian spirituality it is easy to ‘find God in all things’, in the sheer beauty of the natural world, in the inherent goodness of our young men, in the richness of the school community and an educational system which is aspirational and forward moving.
In the early days of his pilgrim journey, Ignatius spent almost a year at Manresa in northern Spain, not far from Barcelona. It was both a time of spiritual enlightenment and also of great struggle. He was discerning his life direction. At such times, the best and the worst of spirits and voices are at work in the human soul and psyche.
In watching an episode of the BBC series, The Story of China, on SBS earlier in the week I was following the rise of the Ming Dynasty. As part of that story the presenter, Michael Wood, began to explore the impact of Italian Jesuit missionary and humanist, Fr Matteo Ricci, in that period of Chinese history. On arriving in Portuguese Macao, Ricci first spent fifteen years learning the language until he spoke it like a native. He devised what he called a “memory palace”, a sophisticated word-association technique in the mind to remember the thousands of Chinese characters.
The freshness of the holidays has already been folded into the routines of classes and study. There is a palpable sense of purpose about the school and this is obvious in the intensity with which the boys are approaching their assessment regimes, which loom large over the weeks ahead. While some of the exciting initiatives in STEM continue to evolve across the Regis campus, the boys in Year 12 are processing their End of Semester Examination results and what that means for future consolidation of core course principles and priorities. Term 2 is characterised by little down time and at the end of the second week it is clear there is much to be accomplished over the coming weeks in preparation for examinations and major assessments.
In my Jesuit training, we had to take two years of philosophy. Alas, much of it I have forgotten, but I do remember learning about a Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. He believed that everything changed – the world was in a continuous state of flux. Heraclitus used to say, "You can’t step into the same river twice." That is to say, the river may still be there, it’s still made of water, it’s still this geographical feature between two banks, but it’s never quite the same river it was an instant ago. And we can live with that understanding.
While the holidays provided time for some welcomed rest and relaxation, they also afforded an opportunity for the boys to review and calibrate goals and priorities over the term ahead. More than simply change uniform from summer to winter and adjust to the organisational transition to another term, it is important in an Ignatian school where the inner impulse for the magis – that which speaks to a depthed and highly reflective approach to life, can be pursued with insight and zeal. It is a challenge that is issued to each and every boy as they return to take responsibility for their own learning to ensure that they achieve on a level fully commensurate with their God given potential and abilities, and in so doing, contribute to a culture and a community where aspiration takes primacy of place.
A veritable flurry of activity has rounded off a busy but very rewarding term. The final fortnight was bisected by Riverview in Bowral, which provided the opportunity to re-connect with generations of Old Boys and their families who have had long term associations with the College, as well as spend time with a number of current families who have boys in boarding. One of the more interesting revelations on the weekend was that one young man – Charles de Lauret (OR 1882) from Goulburn in the Southern Highlands, was one of the original 26 students in the first class at St Ignatius’ in 1880, and that tragically, he was the first student who died while on holidays on his family property at Wynella in 1882. One senior statesman, Dr John Roche (OR 1944) attended with his wife as part of the Roche dynasty whose enrolment over many generations spanned 1891 to 1996. As is always the case on such occasions, the sense of community was palpable and it was memorable and enriching to spend time with the boarding community and their families in their own regional context. Special thanks are extended to Christine Zimbulis who coordinates these functions and to Cathy Hobbs, the College archivist, whose meticulous work enables Riverview to draw on its rich past.
St Ignatius maintained that one of the greatest sins is ingratitude. This is rather surprising in light of the litany of evils in the world but on both a theological level and in everyday life the followers of Ignatius were taught to value, appreciate and thank both God and those around them for the daily blessings, graces and endowments that are often taken for granted. On Tuesday evening I, along with a number of other teachers, accepted an invitation to attend a dinner that was held to thank those who assisted a graduate from Riverview in 2015 for the support that he was given over his two years of senior secondary school as a boarder. This young man came to the College as a high achieving student who wanted to excel in his HSC, a young man who challenged himself by being the first hybrid Advanced Pathways student who undertook an extra undergraduate course in Philosophy while completing Year 12 at a high level in 2015. And, he did both, securing a High Distinction for his undergraduate study and securing an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score in the top 1% of New South Wales, and by virtue of interstate conversion, the top 1% of the nation. As if that is not impressive enough, this young man has secured entry to the London School of Economics into one of the most competitive and acclaimed university programs in the world. This dinner was not about celebrating success but rather it was about expressing gratitude; sincere, genuine and heartfelt thanks to the teachers who supported this young adult in his personal quest for the magis – going deeper, more expansively into the opportunities that were before him to secure the best outcomes. As teachers and administrators we were humbled by the gesture, and, we were and remain humbled by a profession where we have the fortune to provide life opportunity for young people. We, like our young graduate, are deeply grateful.
One of the Gospel readings for Easter Sunday recalled the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-33). They were devastated and disheartened, maybe even depressed, after the crucifixion of their Lord and hoped-for-redeemer. Their dearest expectations had not come to pass. So they had turned their backs. They were walking away. Understandably. Then the risen Jesus joins their company, but they do not recognise him. This seems very strange indeed, for they had kept his company until only a few days past. And it flies in the face of the common experience of people longing to see (and oft-times mistakenly seeing) the face in the crowd of one they have recently lost.
A conversation begins which is a classic model of pastoral care and catechesis. “What is troubling you?” “Where are you now?” “What’s going on in your life?” The mode of the listener. The starting point, really, for all good teaching and parenting. Only then are the two lost disciples ready for a response and for enlightenment. As the story unfolds, they want this mysterious companion to stay, so they invite him to join their meal. And, as the scriptures tell us, when he begins to bless the meal, “they recognise him at the breaking of the bread”. But then he vanishes from their sight.
We are reminded in Ecclesiastes that ‘to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven’. Perhaps the relevance of that maxim is no more applicable than at the present time as we move into the Easter story; the theology of the passion, the crucifixion of Christ and the resurrection that signals new life beyond death. This will be symbolically celebrated on Sunday with the eggs that have become synonymous with this time of the year, those that have the potential to subjugate the Christian significance during this period of renewal and growth through the challenges and rewards that the Lenten period provides. And, there will be some days of respite and rest over the break prior to the latter stages of the term, which will no doubt be filled with its own intensity and momentum. May it be a time where families can share in the gift of each other, the joy and hope of the season and a spirit of optimism, as we move ahead into the final days of the term.
The week leading to Easter begins with the account of Palm Sunday where Jesus is caught up in that rather triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowd, first ecstatic with joy and hope, then has a mood swing. It is a story that has long fascinated me.
Those who are given to remark that the Gospels (or indeed the Bible) have little to say to us today – to these times and our issues – have most likely read or reflected little upon the texts. This Palm Sunday story paints an aspect of human nature that has changed little over the millennia.
As the week began, twenty or so of our boarders from Hong Kong, Singapore (and even Hokkaido) trekked up to Lane Cove to celebrate Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, with a banquet at the Lane Cove Chinese Kitchen – that familiar haunt of hungry boarders for many years.
As I looked around the tables, I had cause to reflect. Only four decades ago, the White Australia Policy was dismantled. Prior to that, Chinese-Australians more than likely traced their ancestry to indentured labourers, workers kidnapped from Chinese ports, or those who came for the gold diggings, and later as city merchants and market gardeners. Fears mounted concerning this imagined “menace”, discrimination flourished – even fears of an invasion. With legislation, migration then all but ceased. Anti-Chinese sentiment was fostered in many periodicals right through to the early twentieth century – offensively expressed in word and racist cartoons and posters. Now we look back and ask ourselves, “How did we get it so wrong?”
Last Friday, two signature events that promote both the cause and the effect of scholarship at the College took pride of place. The first was the Laureate Assembly, which presented the graduates of 2015 who secured Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores in the top 10% of New South Wales, and by implication through interstate conversion, the top 10% in the nation. While all boys who worked hard and achieved success are to be commended, there should be no apology for aspiring towards and achieving academic excellence. The range of tertiary courses, the number of scholarships and the success of the boys in gaining access to some of the most competitive courses in Australia’s finest universities (not excluding American Ivy League universities) are, in a word, impressive. In all, 83 boys representing 37% of the graduating cohort achieved scores in excess of 90, with 11 boys being included at the rarefied top end – in the highest 1% of the nation. Xavier Eales, College Captain and Dux with an ATAR of 99.85, encouraged the boys to aim high and work hard to accord fully with a scholarly tradition of Jesuit education that spans the better part of five centuries, and in the process, capitalise on the God given opportunities presented to them in one of the finest schools of the nation. Some very proud parents joined the Assembly with their Laureate sons, before sharing a memorable morning tea in the Memorial Hall, where major school celebrations have been hosted for over a century.
Each year the College Leaders undertake a period of discernment to produce a theme which acts as a touchstone and a reference point to guide the various activities and events that are listed on the school calendar. In welcoming the boys back to 2016 College Captain, Bennett Walsh, spoke of his vision for the school, encouraging them to apply their many diverse talents, abilities and gifts for the greater good of the community to accord with the theme Strength in Unity. This theme was developed at the School Mass by Fr Jack McLain, which was held in the Ramsay Hall last Friday and attended by all staff and students. Such an occasion recognises the faith tradition of Riverview and speaks very directly to the Catholic teaching and Ignatian spirituality that permeates all areas of College life. A formal mass to begin the year has been part of this school’s history since its very foundation back in 1880, so the boys engage in Eucharistic liturgy that transcends time and place. What was particularly noticeable about the gathering was the sense of reverence and engagement the boys brought to the occasion, one that spoke to their capacity to associate with and respond to school expectations, be they in the classroom, in worship, in service or more broadly in the public domain. It was a palpable sign that the message of both Strength and Unity had been embraced on this occasion, one which resides at the centre of school life.
The Rector’s Address to the 2015 HSC Awardees at the Laureate Assembly Today
The first handbook on how to administer a Jesuit school was begun not long after we opened our early colleges from the mid-1500s. It included details about awarding prizes for place-getters in different subjects at annual assemblies. Here was an early encouragement to recognise academic excellence. Jesuit schools have always pursued and encouraged excellence. In those days, excellence was also sought in communication. Eloquentia perfecta it was referred to – “flawless eloquence”. At that same time, there was an acknowledged and unparalleled excellence in drama and theatre.
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.
The events of 2015 came to a crescendo in the Ramsay Hall this morning with Speech Day formalities, which facilitated the perennial distribution of prizes and acknowledgement of those boys whose performance in a variety of fields has been particularly meritorious. Julian McMahon (OR 81), who among many local and international honours was recently awarded Victorian Australian of the Year for his work in human rights law, flew up from Melbourne specifically to deliver the Occasional Address. Always compelling and insightful, Julian encouraged the boys to reflect deeply and respond with integrity to the school motto – Qantum potes, tantum aude (Whatever you can do, so much dare to do). He encouraged them to pursue truth in their personal lives and in their studies, and, to respond to the great Ignatian ideal of making the world a better place. In the case of the latter, Julian encouraged the boys to seek out and support the lonely, this disadvantaged and the marginalised. If the riveting looks of the boys was any indication, Julian’s message and its impact was both immediate and profound. I extend a sincere statement of thanks to Julian for taking the time to be with the boys and give them the benefit of his wisdom and insights.
With our desire for novelty we can become tired of the Christmas story, year in and year out. But it should always come as a shock. A challenge to our sometimes all-too-comfortable ways of thinking and being.
Jesus’ beginning starts as a scandal. An unmarried and expectant mother, whose fiancé, Joseph, was at one time (as we are told) thinking of divorcing her. Best outcome, gossip and exclusion; at worst, a stoning. She and Joseph share the complexity of so many human relationships. As that pregnancy follows its course, we see a couple forced onto the road at the whim of a foreign occupier. Just another census statistic. Like so much of humankind today now living under the heel of an oppressor. And then no comfortable home birth, but a delivery room strewn with straw and animal dung. No warmth but the steaming sides of beasts. Nothing sterile here. No Mater Private. Nothing of the cuteness of Christmas cards. Simply sharing a universal human condition. Soon, as victims of one who lusted for power and every other vice, they will flee, to be dislocated as refugees, to spend lonely years in a foreign land. As so many millions do today. Can you see? This is how God comes among us. How God begins to share our life. With understanding and empathy. The common touch. A oneness with us. God knows us.
After the ardours, the rewards, the low points and the highlights of the last four weeks, the Year 9 Challenge comes to completion today. That it has had its ‘challenges’ is abundantly clear, from drenching rain in the early weeks to the highest November temperature in a decade in the latter stages (which among other things, forced the evacuation of the Mentors program!!), with all of the corollaries in between. But, it is over and the boys remain the beneficiaries of the experience, largely through the development of pietas – that forging of character that will enable these young men to see the difficulties and the diversity of their world and respond accordingly. At the middle stages of adolescence, they still have much to forge, but, the imprint of this experience is strong and will remain part of their reflection over the weeks ahead, and, decisive in their formation as they progress into the middle and senior secondary years. Special thanks are extended to the coordinator of the program, Mr Adrian Byrne, to the teachers, parents and the supporters who assisted (at times cajoled!!) the boys across the line, and of course to the boys who participated with open hearts and open minds; the comrades in arms who helped each other across some of the most difficult sections of the program.
After months of planning the Year 9 Challenge is well underway. Over the course of the week the boys engaged in all manner of activities, from the rigours of Bush Week to the more tailored events in and around the precincts of the city. There is no doubt that the 55 km paddle in canoes and the 55 km bike ride lie at the most demanding end of the continuum, but each and every boy, helped along by their peers, has thus far made it across the line. This is despite some very challenging weather that has involved drenching rain, high winds and temperatures that have varied dramatically over successive days. While there is ecstatic relief for those who reached the finish line, there is also the satisfaction that comes from working collaboratively in teams towards common goals and the reward associated with persistence and perseverance that triumphs over fatigue. Manly Beach has seen its own share of activity with the boys learning the basics of surfing and water safety, aided by some larger than normal swells that has seen boards and bodies tested on occasions. Indoor rock climbing, the Sydney Cricket Ground, NIDA, The Rocks and Luna Park hosted various activities, providing opportunities for growth, team work and skill building. While it is still early days there has been much by way of ‘education’ over the first part of this unique educational program and as always, the boys have responded with integrity and purpose to each activity.
Last year when we prepared the document to outline the College’s strategic plan, the style of the formation we offer was described as an “almost five-century Jesuit educational tradition, forming students in a spirit of Christian humanism”.
One reader of that description was at first a little unsettled by it. Would that sit well with the Church’s tradition? It was an understandable anxiety because the humanism we are often accustomed to hear of these days is “secular humanism” – a humanism that is grounded in irreligion or atheism, where the human person is the reference point and an end in itself. But this is a more recent evolution and shares little in common with the Christian humanism of our tradition.
The early Jesuit companions of Ignatius were swept along in the rising tide of Renaissance humanism after their formation at the University of Paris. This humanism began as a literary movement – a deepening appreciation of classical literature – which lead to what we now know as the studia humanitatis, the humanities of today. It was a cultural and educational programme. Eventually these practitioners, these umanisti, began to despise the dry, medieval way of scholasticism in education and theology.
Schools like Riverview have the rare yet distinctive capacity to present magic moments at unscripted times, one of which surfaced in the yard on Friday at lunch time and captivated hundreds of boys. It was through the agency of ‘gorilla busking’, musical entertainment provided by two senior students – Zac Roddy and George Goodfellow, which aimed to raise funds for Colegio Santo Inacio de Loiola in Kasait, a Jesuit school in Timor Leste. On a day when the sun shone brightly the boys gathered round in a carnival atmosphere, not only appreciating the musicianship, but expressing felicitous applause for the staff and students who approached the busker’s guitar case and threw in their dollars. It was a unique celebration of community, music, fun and philanthropy, which yielded some very appreciable gains: $565 in just 30 minutes!! These funds will be added to the thousands of dollars that are sent from five Jesuit schools across Australia each year to a project in one of the most impoverished nations in South East Asia, funds that have progressively built a school for over 300 children over the last three years who would otherwise not have access to education. And, the work goes on as construction begins on a teacher training institution contiguous to the school, which will take the best graduates and place them in undergraduate teaching degrees in order to redress the educational lacuna in East Timor. The importance of this project cannot be underestimated, but, it was the spirit of goodwill, the generous commitment and a vibrant sense of community that erupted in the grounds that combined to produce a poignant reminder of how wonderful it is to be in schools and to work with young people.
Not a School of Privilege, but a School of Obligation
At the last General Congregation of Jesuits held in Rome, Pope Benedict addressed the delegates. Benedict knew the universal, inclusive mind of Ignatius. He knew Ignatius’ particular concern for those on the margins, those who had no one to defend their rights or advance their cause. So the Holy Father affirmed the special mission of the Society of Jesus in the Church today to be “at the frontiers,” as he said. He charged us to reach “those geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach, or find it difficult to reach.”
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:
This edition of Viewpoint is penned from Asia. On Saturday, Fr Ross, Mr Masters and I left on a ten-day tour of the Riverview confraternity who live in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing. The aim of Riverview in Asia is the same as that of Riverview in Dubbo or Mudgee, where the opportunity to spend time with families who are part of the community is so very important and so very worthwhile. It is also a chance to speak to the many initiatives and priorities that are consonant with the educational program at the College; in effect, a way of keeping our families who live at great distances well informed about the day-to-day events in the school. In addition to the social gatherings, a number of prospective boarding families were interviewed, those who have heard of the profile of the College and are keen to join a community that prides itself on a unique set of Jesuit and Ignatian educational principles. At different points across South East Asia, we were reminded that the first destination of the Jesuit diaspora was in China, where Matteo Ricci and Francis Xavier took the knowledge, the learning and the spirituality of the western world to exotic new frontiers, those that still remain today in historical buildings and records. Many thanks are extended to our host families who provided the best of Ignatian hospitality and shared in the warmth of community.
Welcome back one and all!! I trust that the break provided some space to reinvigorate the spirits after the demands of Term 3 and that there is a sense of anticipation and expectation about the opportunities that lie in store over the coming nine weeks.
The final week of term was a significant one for the boys in the graduating class and their families. Each of the formalities of Valete and Graduation were undertaken in an atmosphere that dignified the boys and the exemplary contribution that they have made to the College across their schooling years. Not without expectation, there was a mixture of elation and sadness – the former being a response to the achievement that has been registered in all manner of endeavours and the frontiers that beckon beyond the HSC, and the latter, a consequence of the departure from a community that has been so very important in shaping young men of competence, conscience, compassion and commitment. And while those mixed emotions prevailed through the various graduation events, they are ultimately the moment that we prepare these young men for as they leave with gainful futures ready to take their place in, and make a meaningful contribution to, the society that they enter over the years ahead. Special thanks are extended to all who made these important rites of passage so enjoyable and so memorable.
I am glad to see that Greek is alive and well at the College. So much so that the student body has returned to the classical writings of Homer to find a theme for the coming year: Strength in Unity.
It is a motto that has been adopted by a number of nations over the years – mostly those that had forged themselves from a number of Provinces or States. That makes a great deal of sense and a good choice.
In a school like ours, especially a boys’ school, such a rallying cry would seem to have easy application in the various contests that pitch one class or team or school against another. I am sure most of our young men have almost “felt” it when a group welded together is competing at its best, or cheering forcefully in unison from a grandstand, or moving as one, focussed on the task to tackle. Strength in unity.
There has been considerable discussion this week about the interpretation made by Dr Christina Ho, from the University of Technology of Sydney, of the My School website data. In exploring the ethnic mix of schools, she last year suggested that there were Caucasian families refraining from sending their children to government selective high schools because of the high proportion of students there from non-Anglo students. This was a large claim to make from the data then.
This week Dr Ho comented on the low proportion of students with a language background other than English in schools on the lower North Shore compared with the State average. She lauds the benefits of a rich cultural mix in a school population. I agree with her entirely on this point. My time as Principal at Loyola College Mount Druitt underscored that particular value absolutely. But there seemed to be an implicit suggestion that a school like ours (which was named in her report) has either a deliberate policy of excluding the students of other backgrounds, or is not interested in responding to the challenge. Once again, she is drawing large conclusions from the data available.
July 31st commemorates the death of St Ignatius of Loyola in 1556, but it equally symbolises and celebrates the works of the Society of Jesus that was formally commissioned by Pope Paul lll in 1540. Since those foundational years the Jesuits have spread to every corner of the globe and undertaken ministries of service and leadership at all levels of society, most notably in education. As has been the custom over many years, staff and students gathered at the beginning of the day for a mass in Ramsay Hall, the liturgy being concelebrated by five Jesuits, which included Fr Ross, Fr Jack and Fr Gerald from the Riverview community, as well as visiting priests Fr Jeremy Clarke and Fr Myles Sheehan. Following mass the boys went off to engage in the Faith Through Service program, which was rendered with great spirit in homes for the aged, schools for the disabled, in the local community and service centres. One of central principles of Ignatian education is service and we were blessed with a glorious day to go out to the world and make a visible contribution to causes and organisations that need it most, and in the process, make a difference. Learning to serve, serving to learn is the motto of this honourable enterprise and I thank all who gave so willingly on this special day.
Holly Schapker is a graduate from Jesuit Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Recently, she completed a series of paintings on Ignatius’ life which she collectively called Adsum, (“I am here”).
Ignatius, as captured above, has many intriguing features. He is smiling (unusual for the rather serious man we imagine him to have been). He is garbed in blue (a change from the customary drab black). And, if you look closely, his soutane is actually a map. That last feature has many levels of interpretation. In his Autobiography, Ignatius styled himself as ‘the Pilgrim’. He was on the road, searching for a destination in both the literal and spiritual sense. Later on in his life, in describing the Jesuit mission, Ignatius told his companions, “the world is our home”. That is, there were no frontiers (again, in literal and other senses) to which we would not venture on mission. Finally, Ignatian spirituality is – by virtue of God’s stamp of ‘goodness’ on the world at the point of creation, and through the Incarnation, where God took flesh to embrace the world – at once and everywhere world-affirming. As Schapker depicts it, Ignatius is clothed in God’s world.
Sydney’s blast of artic weather has made the return to school for Term 3 both memorable and intense. So much rain fell in the latter part of last week that sport needed to be cancelled for most of the teams on Saturday, allowing only the competition games at Senior level to be played. Despite the ravages of the cold and the wet, the boys have settled quickly into their studies and I am pleased to report that the groove of teaching and learning has become firmly established and is apparent at every turn in the early weeks of the term.
This week the Chapel resonated with music and song with our young men displaying their wide-ranging talents in the Chapel Concert. For more than an hour we enjoyed a smörgåsbord of delights. From the earliest days of our Colleges and missions, music has always found such a place.
Welcome back!! It is my hope and prayer that families return to school with a healthy spirit of reflective discernment in the aftermath of the break, and are poised to confront the rigours of the term ahead. With the space that holidays have afforded it is worth appraising the way that the first half of the year has unfolded, and, what that means for the next ten weeks of teaching and learning. It is, by any standards, a busy schedule – between the timing of the Trial HSC Examinations in just 15 teaching days, an intense GPS sporting calendar, the Art and TAS Exhibitions in Week 6, all of which will culminate in the senior secondary with Valete and Graduation in just under nine weeks time. Rather than be pulled like centripetal force into the momentum of these events, it is prudent to approach the intensity of the schedule with measured purpose and system in order to emerge with optimum opportunity and efficacy.
When our Jesuit colleges began, there were no such things as uniforms, crests or mottos. But those first Jesuit educators, in the ambience of the emerging humanism of the day, were drawing upon the texts of “pagan” authors – prose literature, histories and verses in Latin and Greek – to employ in their classes. If one believed in “finding God in all things”, then there were truths and virtues to be discovered in the best of these traditions as well as any Scriptures. Cicero was a favourite, not only as a master of rhetorical style, but as a purveyor of virtues that would shape the lives of young people for the public good. One exhortation from Cicero’s treatise on civil office came as close as one could get to a school motto for those educators: Non nobis solum nati sumus (“we do not exist for ourselves alone”). In those early days of schooling, a sense of a life spent in the service of others was already taking root.
A busy term has been rounded off with a flurry of events over the final week. Intensive work has been undertaken behind the scenes to ensure that reporting schedules are being honoured, with the final touches being applied throughout the week. Year 7, 8 and 10 reports were distributed on Wednesday, Year 5 and 6 reports today and Year 9 reports will be forwarded on Monday. I encourage you to look closely at the progress that has been registered across the semester to ensure that optimum opportunity is being pursued and realised through the educational program, and that where weaknesses are identified, they will be the object of redress through strategic, systematic and intensive efforts over the coming term.
In the aftermath of examinations, the boys in Year 10 are pursuing a Project Based Learning (PBL) initiative – a concept that is being explored in contemporary learning environments in schools and universities across the world. Launched by Fr Jeremy Clarke SJ, who was involved in PBL learning when teaching at Boston University in Massachusetts, the project is asking the boys to select, research, analyse, interpret and synthesise information using a process of heuristic, collaborative, and exploratory learning.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the latter stages of Term 2 regress to an ordinariness of daily life between classwork, examinations, sport and other co-curricular activities. Not so: from the pageantry that was revealed at Joeys last Saturday that re-enacted a tradition reaching back into the 19th Century, to the panoply of events that cascaded in quick succession across a busy week inside and outside of the classroom, it is a time to appreciate the enormous depth and vitality of the educational program at Riverview.
Symbolism, gravity, respect and sincerity were salient features of the Indigenous Reconciliation Assembly that was held in the Gartlan Centre on Tuesday 26 May, the day that has been reserved for the national commemoration of Sorry Day. The richness of culture and a prevailing spirituality footnoted the ceremony with a fusion of traditional and contemporary dance and music. This was complemented by a compelling rendition of the stolen generation, captured with dramatic emotion and intuitive depth by Joseph Althouse. A personal statement by Ali Crawshaw-Tomlins profiled the life of his grandmother – Nanna Daisy Ruddick, who former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam described as ‘Australia’s royalty’; a life that was debased by the historical circumstances of her contemporary world but one that was a triumph of resilience and integrity. More than a school assembly, this was a statement of regret and lament for the grave mistakes of the past and the need for a fully reconciled Australia into the future.
Wednesday signified the ‘hump’ of the term so we are now on the other side of the home run with just nineteen schooling days remaining until the mid-year break. A term which is notoriously short and compressed by an intense examination and assessment schedule, it is timely for the boys to take stock of the revision schedules that will see them well placed to confront the rigours of what lies ahead over the coming weeks. Teachers are assisting the boys to undertake systematic revision of key concepts and course content over the weeks ahead; however, this needs to be augmented by structured and coherent study programs that are factored into homework schedules.
NAPLAN testing was conducted at the College throughout the week, with the boys in Year 5, 7 and 9 undertaking national assessments in literacy and numeracy, respectively. In all, approximately four hours of tests were conducted in Language Conventions, Writing, Reading and Numeracy across three successive days so the boys responded to an intense assessment framework. While the College believes that the testing regime is important to establish school profiles against state and national profiles, it does not specifically teach to, or focus on the testing, as a formal and dedicated emphasis in the educational program. It was obvious that the boys approached the assessments in a serious and measured manner, the results of which will be analysed to inform key areas of improvement into the future.
The groove of Term 2 is well established as we come so rapidly to the end of the third week. Year 12 reports were distributed during the week and Year 11 reports to conclude the semester will follow in the next fortnight. Other year levels will be processed following End of Semester examinations as we move more deeply into the term. Notoriously shorter than the others, Term 2 has its own defining character with the fewest interruptions, the most intense consolidation of the learning program and the consummation of it with the End of Semester assessment regime. It is in this context that the boys are asked to make their own individual and committed response to their studies over the immediate weeks ahead.
On the eve of the centenary of the ANZAC Day commemoration, students from St Aloysius College and Saint Ignatius’ College gathered in the pristine surrounds of the Rose Garden to formally and symbolically honour the significance of the occasion. In front of a genealogical descendant of the Lone Pine tree, led by the echoing theatrics of the Drum Line and the clipped military precision of the Cadet Unit, the ceremony attested to the gravity and the dignity of the event that has captured the imagination of Australian cultural history. It was a decidedly school event, with students taking centre stage in reciting poetry, placing wreaths and witnessing a ceremony that honoured the Old Boys from both schools who lost lives across the tumultuous events of the ANZAC campaign and in other theatres of conflict since.
In the aftermath of a very busy term it is timely for all who belong to the school community to enter into a period of reflection: discernment about those aspects of schooling and life that have gone well in conjunction with those that need to be object of concerted focus for improvement into the future. This is the Ignatian way – something that has been at the forefront of Ignatian spirituality for centuries. Experience, reflection and action – a tripartite compulsion that captures the essence of daily life and one that is particularly valuable in the aftermath of a sustained period of activity.
Today is the official ‘hump’ of the term; the half-way point of the first quarter of the academic year. That it has come around so very quickly is testament to the speed with which life moves at Riverview, the events of the week carrying their own momentum and impact.
One of the premier events of the year, the Laureate Assembly, was celebrated with the College community last Friday in honour of the 2014 students graduating class who secured Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores into the 90s. The sheer breadth and depth of achievement was something to behold, with 83 boys being acknowledged for their outstanding results.
One of the distinguishing features of Ignatian spirituality lies in the strength of community that is formed through a deep regard for hospitality and welcome. It is for this reason that one of the most enjoyable aspects of a new school year is meeting the boys and their families who join the College, the majority being in Year 5 and Year 7. As Principal, I have the pleasure of spending some time with the boys in selected year levels, learning about their hopes and dreams and how Riverview can assist in their realisation.
Last Sunday I moved off-campus to spend a few hours watching some of our boys compete at the NSW Junior and Youth Athletics Championships at Olympic Park. We had six boys (and two Old Ignatians) contending there. I knew of some of them training through the summer months, faithful to early rising, hot days, long jogs, gyms and drills. I remembered, too, the very telling title of that short story, written a half-century ago now, 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner', later made into a movie.
Despite the persistent rain, an air of excitement, anticipation and not a little apprehension pervaded the grounds on the first day of classes. Approximately 250 new boys arrived at the College, the majority beginning their journey at Saint Ignatius’ Riverview in Year 5 along with the boys who are entering secondary school in Year 7. All hands were on deck to ensure that the new boys were greeted by senior students and staff, in an effort to ensure that their uncertainties quickly dissipated as they were escorted to House areas and classrooms.
The year came to a climax in the Ramsay Hall on Wednesday with Speech Day and the presentation of awards for excellence across all year levels. The Assembly opened with a visual montage of the wonderful opportunities that have been presented to the boys throughout 2014 and the way that they have embraced them.
As the year reaches its crescendo, a range of events and activities are calendared that look back over all that has transpired across 2014, bringing a sense of closure to the educational program. Free To Be … More, was the theme of the Year 6 Reflection Day, which asked the boys to consider some important issues as part of their retrospection on a year that has provided so much by way of growth in preparation for the transition to secondary school. Freedominvited
With just seven teaching days remaining until Speech Day, the dusk of the year begins to loom large. Behind the scenes, teachers are finalising results and constructing reports in readiness for the distribution of end of semester reports early in December. There are generally few surprises in the end product, provided the boys have worked with care and purpose across the semester and have prepared well for the examinations.
Over the course of 2014, staff at the College have actively pursued peer observation programs and ‘instructional rounds’ in order to improve classroom practice via structured feedback. Part of a School Improvement Program, both of these activities have been pioneered in high performing educational jurisdictions throughout the world and are consistent with best practice in contemporary education.
In recent weeks I have been exploring with some of our staff one of the so-called ‘Ignatian Foundational Insights’. These insights, fundamental to the success of Ignatius’ ministries to others, are: Dreams and Desires (taking seriously one’s deepest imaginings, entertaining and exploring all those possibilities of ‘what might be’ and ‘who I might become’ so as to discern our truest and most authentic life choices), Service (the realization that the only life worth living is one spent in the service of others, especially those who have the greatest claim on our time, talents and treasure), Finding God in all things (cultivating a spirituality that, apart from prayer and liturgy, readily finds God’s traces in creation, in human history and in others), and Holy Conversations (those richest communications that are at once pastoral, formational and spiritual).