Friday 21 September 2018

Cultivating Community

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. One of the year’s highlights for the boys on the Regis campus is Grandparents’ Day. They experience much joy in the company of their grandparents, many of whom are quite aged and make a special effort to be with their grandsons for the occasion. Last Friday, the Regis Hall was packed with grandparents (and a few great grandparents!!), many of whom had travelled significant distances to be with the boys for this special day of celebration. By suspending the school calendar and devoting time to such an event, the broader community acknowledges the significant role that grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren, and in so doing, they recognise the wisdom, the life experience and the gift that grandparents are to the institution of family life. And in the best of the Ignatian tradition, such a day affords the opportunity to give thanks and offer gratitude for the love and the care that grandparents provide – their own distinctive form of cura personalis, to the many young men who have the fortune of a relationship that only grandparents can provide.

On a glorious spring day set amid pacific blue skies, the 67th Indian Bazaar exploded into life on the College grounds last weekend, drawing upon the energies of many Jesuit organisations across Sydney and South East Asia. Stalls and curios that have become custom over the years, from clothes and rides to animals and produce, found eager patrons waiting to snap up bargains, and in the process, support the works of Jesuit Mission across Asia. It too drew on the strength of community – parents who donated goods and services, Old Boys who coordinated stalls and the Rugby 7s competition, students who washed cars, attended parking stations and entertained through song and music. As always, it was a bonanza that galvanised so many different elements of the extended school community in common purpose; namely, to support those who suffer the adversity and deprivations of life and who do not have access to clean water and proper housing, let alone education and proper health care. While it is still early days and the tally is not complete, indications are that over $200,000 was taken on the day, all proceeds of which are devoted towards the works of Jesuit ministries in the Asian Assistancy. These funds will be gratefully received by those who have so little and who will be the beneficiaries of the generosity of those who give freely in support of those who need it most.

R U OK? This rather cryptic acronym has become a national slogan, one not without major import or significance in the field of adolescent mental health and well-being over recent years. As indicated in Viewpoint last week, the Senior Campus drew inward to profile the importance of mental health in a world where the early onset of anxiety and depression has become endemic. Many areas of concern have been identified by allied health professionals, from diminished sleep and compromised nutrition to unrealistic social expectations and the excessive demands of modern life in myriad forms. And over recent years, this has not simply been confined to schools and early onset of mental health issues. The importance of the simple things – of risking a conversation that comments on the changes that may have been noticed in a family member or a friend; this has the potential to unearth problems and issues that may otherwise be ignored or trivialised. Given the speed of daily life, we can become victims of the superficial and prisoners of the diary, sometimes to the detriment of those who need a sensitive and compassionate ear, and, some understanding. Amid the clamour and the impulse for ‘success’, that which is socially and often artificially conditioned and endorsed through media, a number of young people find themselves struggling if not lost amid a reified world of the unreachable. While R U OK? Week has passed, the sentiment has not for it implores communities that care about each other to make the effort to ask the question and hear the answer, and most importantly, to respond where the need is apparent.

Well outside of the sightline during the week, the senior boarders who turned 18 during September gathered in the home of Gerard and Melissa Carson. Each month the boys who, a long way from home come of age legally, join to celebrate the special festivities associated with this rite of passage. The normal treats apply: a large steak, a salad, some special dessert and the mandatory birthday cake that draws attention to the significance of this particular milestone. But the celebration is short-lived, for the second study period beckons in the boarding house so it is back to the books by 8.00 pm in preparation for a full night of intense revision, particularly as the HSC Examinations loom in the not too distant future. Special thanks are extended to Gerard and Melissa for the way they cultivate their own sense of community in the ranks of senior boarding. It is genuinely appreciated by all.

Best wishes as we face the final week of the term.

Dr Paul Hine