Friday 6 November 2020

Service

One of the central tenets of the educational program – one that is a formal expression of the faith life of the College through the call of the Gospel, is the ministry of service. It is deeply embedded in Jesuit DNA and is both a requirement and a manifestation of a further call to solidarity. From the moment the boys enter the gates they have an expectation placed before them: it is explicit, it can be demanding and at times confronting, but in all instances it will produce growth and reward for those who give freely of themselves and to those who are the recipients of their endeavours. It is only by seeing the world through the eyes of the other: through homelessness, disability, age, discrimination, or injustice, that one can truly gain an appreciation of the adversity that life presents for countless millions of people across the world. It brings with it a consciousness – an urge, an instinct and a desire, to make a genuine response based upon that experience. It is here that moments of grace and deep learning occur, where the sentiments of the Gospel are lived out amid the powerlessness and the gritty reality of those who battle against such enormous and at times overwhelming odds.

On Wednesday the annual Service Assembly was held in the Senior School. It was a chance to step back from the intensity of the teaching and learning program and acknowledge and promote the forms of social justice in which boys can be engaged. As has been abundantly clear for most of 2020, this is one aspect of the program which has been temporarily in abeyance due to the demanding restrictions imposed by the COVID environment. It has prevented visits to nursing homes, care for those with disabilities, outward bound support for the homeless and all manner of community interface due to the risk of infection in a pandemic world. That is why service is taking such a strong profile at the present time, particularly for the boys who are new to the College for whom it hasn’t had the same expression as it otherwise would have.

Each year since 2018, the Patrick Rodgers Memorial Award is presented to an Old Boy who has continued their service in a faithful and committed manner since graduation. I am pleased to report that in any given year there are a number of strong nominees for this award. Since leaving school, many graduates have taken further the cause of their faith through service in all manner of circumstances. Congratulations are extended to James Tracey, the Patrick Rodgers Recipient for Service in 2020, whose efforts since leaving school in 2013 are truly outstanding. While maintaining university studies, among other things, James has:

  • Spent eight months in Northern Thailand during 2014 teaching English and supporting local service works
  • Undertaken an exacting role as teacher, mentor and tutor in an orphanage in central Vietnam for four months during 2015
  • Spent a further four months in the mountains in Nepal teaching English during 2018

In between these major placements over extended periods of time, James has undertaken numerous trips to visit the communities, raised funds and worked on priority projects from afar. When reading through James’ nomination form, the following was listed by one who has seen his efforts at close range:

James’ consistent and repeated trips to each [country and community] … shows he holds and acts out a true belief in the power of education and the desire to pass on one’s individual knowledge to those less fortunate.

James is indeed a worthy winner of this award: an exemplar of the spirit of service that has enriched him personally but has also led to appreciable gains for those who are beneficiaries of his ministry. Pedro Arrupe, a former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, inspired a vision of an education program that would produce ‘men for others’. James is a fine product of that vision.

The namesake for the Service Award – Patrick Rodgers (OR2011) committed many years of his short, post-schooling life to serving the needs of poor communities in Pailin in northern Cambodia. Patrick travelled many times to this remote region of South East Asia teaching English while concurrently developing a proficiency in the local language and a deep appreciation of Cambodian culture. Patrick’s young life was cut short when he suffered a medical event on Christmas Day 2017, but his legacy lives on in the region and in the College through this annual award.

We are very thankful that the year, despite its COVID fluctuations, continues to allow the College to attend to its designated priorities. The HSC examinations are reaching the latter stages of their delivery, new boys and their families are being prepared for entry and preparations for 2021 are moving forward in a multiplicity of ways. This is an exciting time but one also of apprehension for those in transition. So much is being attended to, so much is being prepared in readiness for what lies ahead. In a year that has held so much by way of uncertainty it is difficult to know quite what that looks like. That accepted, if the core tenets of the educational program are the drivers – faith, service, scholarship, community and breadth, I am confident that we will land where we need to be.

We are also pleased to share the Strategic Directions 2020-2025 document, which will guide the intended futures of this College. Please click here to download and enjoy the video below:

May you enjoy the run towards the finish line as glimpses of the Advent season come into view, particularly with the stunning visage of the Jacarandas as they bloom with hope and confidence.

Dr Paul Hine