Friday 29 November 2019

Toward new horizons

Boys on the Regis Campus gathered early in the week to celebrate their End of Year Mass and to acknowledge those whose contributions to the community over the last 12 months have been particularly meritorious and noteworthy. It was an occasion that profiled how far these young men have come in such a short space of time: for the Year 5 boys, the completion of the first year on the Regis campus, and for the boys in Year 6 who now face the transition to secondary school over the coming months. It is abundantly clear that there is a deep sense of gratitude for all that has transpired across a busy year, and that there is anticipation and excitement about what lies ahead. In both instances, a new horizon beckons as the youngest men in the College face their ‘graduation’ from primary school over the coming year, and the boys who will begin their secondary journey and in years hence will arrive as the graduation class of 2025. Congratulations are extended to boys who received awards on the day, and particular commendations are extended to George Wormwell and Lachlan Wappett who have been elected as the Captains of the Regis Campus for 2020.

Amid the final weeks of the year, the momentum associated with the strategic planning process (2020-2025) has intensified with students providing their own inputs and perceptions about future priorities and goals. A representative group of boys from Year 5 to Year 11 completed a tailored survey and then shared a lunch to discuss some of the key directions that are being considered. These will be added to a very wide pool of data that is elicited each year via MMG Satisfaction Surveys of all boys and parents in Year 7 and Year 12 that assess the efficacy of every aspect of the educational program. The latter includes feedback on the teaching and learning program, pastoral care, the co-curricular program, facilities provision, leadership and management, IT, boarding, communications and many other aspects of school life. Staff have also contributed to this process in order to ensure that the breadth of the school community are consulted about current strengths and weaknesses as well as future priorities. Over the summer this information will be collated and triangulated against contemporary trends in education from across the top performing jurisdictions and schools, mindful of the fact that Saint Ignatius’ is a Jesuit school with its own very distinctive traditions, values and principles. As we lift the eyes and project the sightline into the next five-year period, we need to be respectful of a past that has built such a strong edifice of education, but also mindful of embracing the best in current practice at all levels of the College’s operations.

As we head into the final week of the term, let us not forget those who have been dealing with the devastation of the bushfires over recent weeks. A number of our boarding families and their communities have been directly affected by the impact in significant ways. One such family made contact during the week and sent the following:

The photo is of our 74 year old neighbour’s house. He is now living in a humpy under three sheets of burnt tin. Some 300 to 500 households in NSW are experiencing the same catastrophe… We were blessed to have many people around the globe praying for us and our house was spared due to a combination of prayer, our deep valley location, water supply, favourable winds on some of 14 days of fire, and the bravery of our children. 99% of our property has been burnt out… We have been listening to old growth habitat trees crashing down for two weeks now. The trauma in our valley is palpable. … If city people wish to help rural people get back on their feet, the ‘Blaze Aid’ model is appropriate and worth supporting.

Let us hope and pray that the rebuilding will be swift, the support plentiful, and that a new horizon for those who have lost so much will be forthcoming.

By contrast and despite the lack of rain, the jacaranda trees have exploded in colour, forming a stunning picture from the very tips of the trees to the velvet carpet where the dislodged petals gather. In front of the Arrupe (main building), the buds of variegated roses form their own exquisite canvas against the backdrop of the Lane Cove River. As a resident of Riverview, I am woken by the arresting bellow of the kookaburras which sound the advance of a new day, that precedes the busy routines of feeding and preening in the trees. As we transition into summer and the final busy weeks of the year, the sheer beauty of the ordinary can escape us without that reality check that makes us step back and marvel at manifold gifts and the blessings of daily life. Ignatian spirituality is about ‘finding God in all things’: in the sunrises, in the jacarandas, in the freshness of the breeze and the renewal of landscapes which have been ravaged. Associated with that is the primacy of gratitude: the capacity to step back and invoke a sentiment of deep thanks for the many endowments of life that bring, not least of which is seen in the strength of family, friendships and faith. May beauty be appreciated and may the gift of gratitude be abundant as we move towards the curtain call for 2019 over the coming days.

Dr Paul Hine