On Friday 15 July, our College community came together at the Vogue Ballroom in Blackburn to celebrate 60 years of Catholic Carmelite Education at Whitefriars College. Over 250 current and past students, teachers, friends and families attended this joyful celebration. Amongst them I was very pleased to acknowledge our Provincial, Father Paul Cahill and Board Chair, Margaret Mckenna. As we all know much work goes into the planning and execution of evenings such as these. I am very grateful to the efforts of our Parents’ Association led by Mark Trajcevski and Michelle Stapelfeldt, and supported by Natasha Alexander (Director – Development and Enrolment) and Mel Alexander (Communications Officer), Helen Worthington (Archives), Keli Joiner (Administration Manager), and Michael Van Der Horst (Maintenance Team).
Below is the address I delivered to those gathered on this significant occasion:
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, it is great to be here with you tonight as we celebrate 60 years of Catholic Carmelite Education in Donvale. I too wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand this evening, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, and pay my respect to elders past, present and emerging who may be with us tonight. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of the Provincial of the Carmelite order of Australia and Timor-Leste, and former Principal of our College, and most importantly former student of Whitefriars Fr Paul Cahill. Here too, is Chair of the Whitefriars College Board Margaret McKenna, our College Chaplin Fr Paul Sireh, Mark Trajcevski, President of the Whitefriars Parents’ Association, and other association representatives, as well as Whitefriars staff, past students, parents current and past and friends of our wonderful school community.
I would like you to take a moment to reflect on your own school days. I know for some of us it was an exceptionally long time ago. What is the first thing that comes to mind? Often when I reflect on these times, I do not necessarily remember what I learnt in class. I do not remember the average day-to-day routine much either. What I do recall is the people and the peak experiences of life at school. People who inspired me, who helped to set me on the right path when I was heading in the wrong direction, who taught me life lessons which I still draw on today. And experiences which brought me joy, where friendships were made, and lifelong memories formed.
For over sixty years Whitefriars College has given us inspiring, generous, faith-filled, dedicated and passionate people, and exciting, challenging, poignant and life-changing experiences, which have assisted in the development of well over 14,000 students to grow to become fine gentle men of Whitefriars. Tonight, I would like to focus my attention on the people who have lived the Carmelite tradition of faith formed in contemplation, community and service, dedicated to the support of young people. People like the Founder of Whitefriars College and giant of Catholic Education in Melbourne, Fr Frank Shortis.
Fr Frank’s vision for a Catholic school for boys in the Carmelite tradition was founded on concepts of unconditional love and respect for the dignity of each young person. In an era when life in schools was characterised by harsh discipline, teacher-centred learning and a narrow curriculum, Fr Frank challenged his fledgling group of young Carmelite teachers to develop a broad innovative curriculum and co-curricular activities, and to build strong appropriate relationships with students where they were challenged to achieve their best in a caring and supportive environment.
Imagine the group of thirty-two 12-year-old boys in new uniforms, complete with cap and shiny polished shoes, who arrived at the top of a dirt driveway on February 14, 1961 and looked down on an incomplete school as demonstrated by the site of trucks and graders and sounds of hammers and saws. Fr Frank defined his approach to education in his memory of this moment. He wrote “On that warm February morning a lone year 7 boy walked down the unmade dusty drive driveway toward a school that still resembled a building site. A couple of Carmelite Brothers were busily polishing floors and clearing away building debris when they noticed the young student struggling with a school bag bigger than himself. Seeing the boy in the distance the brothers immediately dropped everything and ran to greet the boy. In that one action these young brothers exemplified what educating young people in the Catholic Carmelite tradition is all about. Seeing a need they dropped everything to attend to it.
For the last 61 years, all who have worked in this place have been charged with that same responsibility, when you see a need drop everything and attend to it. I am sure each of us here tonight can think of many other examples of people of enacted this this approach to education here at Whitefriars.
People like the legendary Fr Noel Kierce whose heart was as full as the jar of Minties on his desk which he constantly dished out, particular to those in trouble. A man who made each person he met feel like his special friend.
People like Fr Paul Cahill the longest serving Principal of our College who has done and continues to do more to grow and develop this fine College than anyone else in our history. A man too, who serves this community with unfathomable dedication, courage and deep humility. Sounds like another Carmelite we know whose canonisation we recently celebrated in Rome – the great St. Titus Brandsma!
Then there are those who have devoted a lifetime of love and service to Whitefriars. The list of these people is long, but I believe the first among equals in this group is Marie Cameron. For over 50 years, Marie has served Whitefriars as both a volunteer, and then as an employee. Although her boundless dedication and generosity meant that you would never be able to separate one from the other. Marie commenced her time at Whitefriars in the early 70s when her eldest son started at Whitefriars. From that time, our College has always been at the very heart of her life. Marie has held many roles at Whitefriars, but it is not these roles which define her. It is her energy, her can do attitude, and her positive and faith-filled heart which has best exemplified this extraordinary contributor to the life of Whitefriars.
Most significantly, it has been the relationships that Marie has formed and the countless members of this community she has supported which truly define her time at Whitefriars. When I think of Marie, I picture a person with tea towel in hand, sharing a laugh with whoever happens to be next to her at the time. In fact, if she was here this evening, Marie would be doing the million and one things very quietly in the background which would ensure that everyone had a good time. Marie is wonderful example of Marian service which is at the heart of our Carmelite identity.
Unfortunately, Marie is not here this evening, the first of an event of this type she has missed in fifty years. But I know you will join me in sending our love and prayers to Marie in her recovery, and I know we will find another opportunity down the track to thank her in person.
On behalf of our College, I thank you for being here tonight. Your presence is significant in continuing to build on the great legacy of community which exists in our College…
I would like to ask you all to stand and charge your glasses, toasting sixty years of Whitefriars. May our College continue to thrive and grow as a Catholic School for Boys in the Carmelite tradition under the care and protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Almae In fide Parentis.
Mr Mark Murphy