From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
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Friday 23 November 2018 | Dr Paul Hine
The Greatest Gift: Education
This year, 2018, is the 470th anniversary of the foundation of Jesuit schools. It was back in 1548, in Messina in southern Italy, that the very first Jesuit school was opened. While the Society of Jesus was formed with a mission to spread the Christian faith and to inculcate young men and women with the teachings of the gospel, they had a secular purpose of improving civil society (ad civitatis utilitatem) by educating boys to earn a gainful living and fill leadership positions.
I am tiring of media reports which constantly seek to malign young people viz ‘Teenage Boys Share Racist and Sexist Memes to Score Lad Points’. It seems, regrettably, that young people have received their untoward share of criticism for far too long. Hesiod, the father of didactic poetry and one of the wisdom figures in the Ancient World, commented all those years ago: “I see no hope for the future if (society) is dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly … youth are reckless beyond words (700 BC)”.
Cura personalis is an intriguing term. It’s part of the Jesuit vernacular, invoking the individualised care for, and response to, the needs of each individual. It is often applied exclusively to students in Jesuit organisations, but it draws upon a much wider constituency when extrapolated to a school such as Riverview. The latter comprises many individuals; in the case of Saint Ignatius’ College, not only the 1,584 students who are part of the enrolment profile, but also the 320 substantive staff, thousands of parents, nearly 10,000 Old Boys as well as countless members of extended families.
Last Friday, the boys from the Regis campus gathered eagerly for their perennial Leadership Assembly to discover who had been elected as Student Leaders for 2018. Mr Matt Smith, the Head of the Regis campus, reminded the boys that their democratic engagement in the process of nomination and selection was integral to the quality of leadership that would be exercised by those who were given the responsibility of office over the coming year.
During the week, I came across a distressing image of a little child being carried across a fast flowing stream as a group of baseless refugees moved across northern Greece into Macedonia, desperately looking for a home. It was a confronting and in many ways shocking image...
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.
Recently I was fortunate to attend an assembly on the Regis campus. The purpose of this particular assembly was to launch some new awards which align with the key values of Jesuit education: competence, conscience, compassion and commitment. In Jesuit parlance, they are referred to as the 4 C’s and they define key characteristics of what underpins the tradition of an educational program in an Ignatian tradition:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.