As the sun sets on another year, it is timely and fully consistent with Ignatian spirituality to give thanks for all that has transpired over the course of 2019. And, while there is a great deal to be thankful for, there is also cause for lament. The year began with arresting shock and sadness when an indiscriminate attack on a community in Christchurch saw fifty lives lost in an orchestrated spectacle that confronted the world. This was eclipsed one month in Sri Lanka when three churches and four hotels were attacked by terrorists, resulting in 259 deaths of innocent men, woman and children. The wide lens of the human family has seen much suffering throughout 2019, from outbreaks of Ebola in Africa to the political turmoil in Hong Kong and the violation of human rights in many corners of the world. And, closer to home the drought across so much of eastern Australia coupled with the bushfires over recent weeks, has reminded us of the vagaries of nature and the frailty of the human condition. All of these give cause for pause, as we look back on a year that has produced adversity for many.
While recognising the brokenness of the world, there is ample cause to be thankful for the many blessings and endowments that have been part of life at the College in 2019. The boys returned to take up the mantle of learning in quality environments in the aftermath of some very fine HSC results and have immersed themselves fully in the expansive co-curricular life of the College. In the case of the latter, there has been much by way of personal growth and development, and, not a little success. At the senior level the achievements have been manifold: the Lawrence Campbell Cup for Oratory, the Yaralla Cup in Rowing, the most successful Basketball season in the College’s history, GPS Premierships in Senior Swimming and Soccer, All Schools’ Golf Competition, and major titles in Snowsports and Mountain Bike Riding. While these are all commendable and praiseworthy, they are subordinate to the sine qua nonof College life: service and social justice, whether that be in local aged care facilities or disability centres, in reconciliation initiatives across the nation, or through immersions to different parts of the world. It is to the latter that we turn in a Jesuit school – that which is a visible sign of the gospel in action, faith expressed through the care and compassion of those who are least able to control circumstances for themselves.
The College community was privileged to have the newly installed Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO, QC, attend Speech Day for the annual presentation of awards to those whose contribution to College life has been particularly meritorious. The Governor is no stranger to Saint Ignatius’ or the Ramsay Hall, as she was a former parent of a young man who graduated with honours a decade ago. The end of the year and Speech Day itself is a time for reflection – to go inwards to appreciate the many gifts and endowments that the year has provided. That includes the wide range of opportunities for growth across so many domains of the educational program, and the richness of the experiences associated with them. It is my genuine hope that every young man will engage in this process – namely, evaluation of how they have responded to personal goals and to consider what priorities loom as 2020 comes into view.
We have a number of staff who are leaving, most of whom have taken promotional positions in other schools. While it is always disappointing to lose quality staff, it is heartening to see that their time at the College has produced professional growth and capacity that will be of benefit to their own leadership and to higher order positions that they have secured in other schools. To each and every one I wish them well, and offer a statement of thanks for the significant contribution that they have made to the College during their time with us.
Over the summer months the Riverview Reads initiative aims to promote the cause of literature and reading for enjoyment among the entire Riverview community. Over recent years, the publication that has been chosen has focussed on a social justice theme, and this year the panel is delighted to announce that No Friend But The Mountains, by Behrooz Boochani, has been selected. Authored while interned on Manus Island via a mobile phone using WhatsApp, the content of the book provides a compelling insight into conditions of isolation and internment experienced by those who sought asylum in Australia. I would encourage all to find time over the summer to be informed about an issue that has, and remains, cause for national concern.
As we move into Christmas, I wish to thank all who give so very much to this extraordinary school. Saint Ignatius’ is fortunate to have the generous inputs of many across a variety of activities and events, without which we would be the poorer. To each and all, I offer a sincere statement of gratitude and appreciation. Very best wishes for a safe, restful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year, and I look forward with great optimism and confidence to the resumption of classes and a new academic year when next we meet.