Friday 14 November 2014

Solemnity and Respect

The year moves more deeply into its latter stages with a number of year levels completing their final examinations over recent weeks. Students in the Middle School undertook their examinations in week five while the boys in Year 10 spent most of the week immersed in their final assessments for the year.  Assessments at Year 10 level are intimately linked to the HSC subjects that are being considered for 2015 so the families with boys in Year 10 have some real discernment ahead over the coming days. And, it is important that the boys keep gainfully engaged in all of their work requirements for the year to ensure that personal expectations are met and goals set earlier in the term are realised.

Boys involved in the Year 9 Challenge are engaging in a wide range of experiences, from the exertions of canoeing and trail bike riding 120km (for each activity!), to etiquette and independent living skills. Part of the formal education program, the range of activities is designed to develop the boys through the challenges that they encounter and to promote resilience, teamwork, dexterity, independence and pro-social living skills. While some of the aspects of the challenge are arduous they are designed to be achievable, with the right commitment and attitude. Such activities are good preparation for the tapestry of life, where difficulties that will inevitably be encountered will need to be overcome in the years ahead. I am pleased to report that the boys are responding with great endeavour and for the most part enjoying each stage, although predictably some activities have a more alluring appeal than others. We will track the progress of the boys as they head into the third week of this very distinctive element of the educational program.

An event that speaks perennially to the heartland of Ignatian education was held at the College last Thursday evening; namely, the Bursary Thank You Celebration. This particular event draws together the benefactors who contribute to the bursary fund that enables just under 100 boys to attend the College, who otherwise would be precluded through financial difficulty. With many Indigenous boys, refugee boys and other boys whose families confront financial hardship due to changed personal or family circumstances, the Riverview community rally to underwrite the costs of education. Three young men – Andrew MacAlpine, Zach Martin-Dennis and 2014 graduate Pat Mercer, spoke of their experiences at Riverview and the support that they received through the Bursary Program at different stages of their education. It was indeed instructive to hear the depth of gratitude that they have, so much so that at a very young age, these young men on modest incomes are already considering their commitment to the support of others – men for others, to quote the Jesuit vernacular. It is hoped that this program will continue to strengthen over the years ahead, such is the commitment and generosity of those who experience the inimitable satisfaction of seeing life opportunity given to those who otherwise would not have access to it. Two great elements of Ignatian spirituality come to the fore through this program – generosity and inclusion. Both are foundational stories in the works of the Society of Jesus and both are lived out with great integrity 450 years after Saint Ignatius and his companions began their enterprise. Sincere thanks are extended to all who contribute in such meaningful and significant ways.

Solemnity and respect were the order of the day at the Remembrance Day service held at the College on Tuesday. The boys entered the Gartlan in absolute silence – an auditory cadence that was maintained throughout proceedings and one that created a very moving atmosphere and a strong sense of engagement from the boys. School Chaplain, Fr Jack McLain, who served in the United States armed forces for 22 years, was joined by Captain Tim Butcher (OR2007), in reciting the Ode of Remembrance and commemorating the occasion with the Last Post and one minute of silence. As much as the ceremony honoured those who gave lives in the service of their country, it gave thanks for the peace that descended on the world at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, after four years of war and the destruction that accompanied it. The educative capacity of these moments in the life of the College cannot be underestimated, as the events of the past inform our understanding of the present and what that means for a world still in desperate need of reconciliation and peace – causes that compel both prayer and action.

On a magnificent day in early summer, the boys in Year 8 engaged in their Reflection Day on the theme of Being Courageous. Three sub-themes explored the concept of courage: showing courage in friendships, standing up to bullying and not being afraid of failure. Mr Strempel, a sports commentator who travelled to London for the Olympics and who has significant experience with the National Basketball League, shared some personal insights into failure, and what that can mean by way of deep learning. Mr Tom Reimer, Chaplain of the Middle School, gave the boys some valuable tools on discernment, particularly the Christian perspective of failure when in a personal relationship with a loving and forgiving God. Feedback from the boys was very positive and special thanks are extended to Ms Louwana Saba and Mr Tom Reimer for facilitating a day that provided much by way of insight and spiritual growth for the boys.

Dr Paul Hine