Friday 1 June 2018

Looking Forward and Looking Back

The Riverview Cottage where classes took place in 1880 | The new Therry Building where classes took place this week

The occupancy of the Therry Building during the week, after 18 months of intensive building works, gave cause to reflect on the humble beginnings of the early years at St Ignatius’ College. On the eve of the College closing for its first decade, Fr Dalton addressed a gathering of the community in the following way:

On an occasion like this, the first thought is to compare the Riverview of 1880 with the Riverview of 1890. What a change! What a contrast! In 1880 we opened with a few pupils – about 10 – the old cottage… had to do … for all our requirements; chapel, refectory, dormitory and study-hall. It was truly the pursuit of knowledge under great difficulties. The next decade will open with… a grand, imposing building… with its bright and spacious classrooms … and its brilliant electric lights. Moreover, 1890 will open not with 10 but with 100 pupils. Well may many of my young friends of the early 80’s exclaim, Quantum mutatus ab illo (how changed it is from what it once was). It is a consoling thought… to remember that they were the pioneers who laid the foundations – deep and wide and strong – on which this Alma Mater stands so proudly today.

These words echoed over the years as the boys walked into a new building with enormous animation and curiosity on Monday, with its ‘bright and spacious classrooms’ and the very best of fittings and technology that is porously and seamlessly connected to the world beyond. There is an impulse here that defines the nature of Jesuit education, be it at Riverview or in any of the 3,000 institutes, schools and colleges that come under the works of the Society of Jesus across the world. It is part of the DNA of Jesuit endeavour: to adapt, to renew, to embrace the best in contemporary practice, to forge new frontiers. The world is in a state of profound change, as is the landscape of education. And, the new building with its asymmetries, capacity for multi-modal and collaborative learning, along with high level transparency to encourage visible thinking as visible learning, are part of that landscape. It has been a long time in the coming but the commitment of so many across a protracted period of time has come to fruition. I thank all who have given so much to the first stage of the Ignis Project, and it is with great confidence that we look forward to the appreciable gains that will accrue for the boys as they optimise use of the learning spaces and pastoral areas.

One particular element of the educational program that connects the past with the present is the service program. It is a feature of Jesuit education and it was very much in evidence last weekend when some of our younger boarders spent hours at the Loaves and Fishes Café helping 200 homeless and disadvantaged people who are often invisible in the gloss and glitter of cosmopolitan cities such as Sydney. The boys responded with remarkable ardour and cheerfulness, much to the delight of those who were the beneficiaries of their ministrations. Not expecting it at all, but clearly appreciative of the efforts of the boys, Reverend Bill Crews AM, a recognised academic, researcher and advocate of the least, the lost and the lonely – as well as one of Australia’s 100 Living Treasures, made a special effort to thanks the boys for the quality of service they rendered to those in need. One could well go back into the deepest archives of the Jesuits and the call to service was as profound and explicit in the foundational years of the Society of Jesus as it is today. Well done young men, and may you continue to experience the reward and the satisfaction that comes from the service learning program conducted at the College.

While the enrolment cycle for 2020 has been completed the process for enrolment for 2021 is already underway. On Tuesday, many young and prospective parents joined a tour of the College to be informed about the current emphases in the educational program, and to view the grounds and the facilities. Students in Year 9 acted as ambassadors, speaking openly and confidently with parents about their own views of the strengths and the growth points at Riverview. While the parents were impressed with the extraordinary facilities, they were even more impressed with the educational product: the young men who demonstrated such maturity and insight at such a young age.

Yet another vignette of the week, one that captures the theme of the future and the past, is leadership. Young men who are interested in senior leadership of their school as graduates, came together for the first of five formation evenings at the Arrupe Academy. Named after one of the central figures in the renaissance of the Jesuits in recent times, the Arrupe Academy aims to prepare young men for the challenges that leadership in the public domain demands. All boys who aspire to lead their school are required to undertake a program of formation so that they are able to take the step with integrity, with courage and always with a regard for, and a response to, the marginalised. Over the years the College has produced the voice of provocation and the voice of discernment through the leaders who have taken their voice to their lives beyond school, which these boys are approximating and appropriating at the present time.

 Very best wishes for the week ahead, as we are reminded of an exciting future, but cognisant of those who have given the privilege of where we have come from, of where we are at, and, where we need to be.

Dr Paul Hine