Friday 16 July 2021

Gratitude and Hope

“When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord.” (Jer 29:11-14a)

As Term 2 came to an end four weeks ago, none of us could have imagined the events of the last month. In the final week of Term 2, many students told me about the various family holidays they were looking forward to – some were hoping to go skiing, others to go north to warmer weather. Sadly, all these plans were frustrated with the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19 across our city and the three weeks of lockdown we have already experienced. Two challenging aspects of our current experience include working through the emotions of disappointment and uncertainty, as well as certain community fatigue associated with the ongoing pandemic.

One of the consoling aspects for me over the last two weeks has been to work with the College’s COVID Planning Team. The generosity of the members of the team over the holidays who came together, nearly daily, to plan and then re-plan how we can best respond as a College has been inspiring. We have been keen to learn from our experience of the initial six-week lockdown from last year, and consequently, we were better prepared as a community for the transition back to the virtual learning framework [pictured left]. I also want to acknowledge our teachers and the work of the College’s support staff for how they have switched back to virtual learning and remote working, as well as our students for their engagement. Thank you to our parents and guardians for your incredible support of your children as you juggle the complexity of home life, working from home, and parenting from home all at the same time.

As some of you know, last year I lived through the first two lockdowns in Melbourne, spending over 150 days in lockdown. It was difficult in many different respects – I very quickly became tired of multiple Zoom meetings a day, each day felt the same, and I wondered when the lockdown would end. Towards the end, one of the sources of hope for me was knowing that I was to move north back to Sydney, and in particular the College this year. One of the key learnings for me from that experience was the importance of cultivating an attitude of gratitude, rather than focusing on what I was missing out on. Each day, I tried to include an hour’s walk which gave me time to enjoy the fresh air and to step away from the virtual world and marvel at the beauty of the Melbourne streetscape, and spend some quiet moments with God. I hope you are managing to find similar moments for yourselves at this time.

Some of you may also find it helpful to pray the Examen, one of the prayers of Saint Ignatius, helping us to see more clearly the movements of the Spirit in our lives each day. There are four of us living in the Jesuit Community at the College at this time. We are conscious that we are in a very privileged position living in a place of great beauty and the fact that we are able to come together to celebrate the Eucharist together. Each day we gather in the small chapel in the Jesuit Community residence (pictured right) to celebrate mass and to pray for each of you and your families, our city, and our world. As we do this, we know that there are people in our community and our city who miss not being able to gather similarly and be nourished by the Eucharist. If you have any prayer intentions you would like us to remember at our daily Eucharist at this time, please email them through to me at [email protected].

As many of you know, the Jesuit parish of Our Lady of the Way in North Sydney streams mass each day of the year. These masses have been appreciated by people around the world and have been a wonderful source of spiritual nourishment for many over this last year, including my parents! In the coming weeks, I will celebrate mass in the College Chapel for the Feast of Saint Ignatius and the link for this mass will be made available to the Riverview Community on Friday 30 July.

Earlier this week, I led staff in some time of voluntary prayer and savoured the following words from the prophet Jeremiah which you may also find helpful:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord.
(Jer 29:11-14a)

In these coming weeks, may our God of life and healing bless us with wisdom, courage, strength and resilience to maintain our equilibrium and sense of hope during this time of lockdown.

Fr Tom Renshaw