Dear members of the Whitefriars College family,
Working in schools is a wonderfully privileged activity. Everyday we have the opportunity to walk with young people as they navigate all the joys and pitfalls life has to offer. They make mistakes, as all of us do, but they also do amazing things and reveal to us glimpses of the of the fine gentle men they all have the capacity to become. As we begin our year at Whitefriars, I have already been witness to many examples of all that is possible for the boys of Whitefriars as our community gathered for two significant events.
On Monday last week, we gathered as a school community to remember and pray for our beautiful friend Br. Sean who died early in the new year. On Tuesday, we gathered to celebrate the commencement of our school year at which we inducted our new College Captains, as well as celebrating the efforts and achievements of the Class of 2020. On both occasions our students demonstrated a clear understanding of the importance of these moments and each displayed unwavering maturity and reverence through the services. Put very simply, each young man rose to the occasion. I am grateful to our young men for the way they approached these significant events in the life of Whitefriars. I am equally grateful to the many people who provided us with meaningful, prayerful and memorable opportunities to celebrate all that is great about Whitefriars, and to give thanks for all the blessings we have in our lives. I would particularly like to thank Josh Vujcich, for his leadership and thoughtful planning of these liturgical events, along with Fr Paul Sireh, College Chaplain and the Ministry team for their support. I would also like to thank the Whitefriars College Choir led by Mr Nick Fitter, and supported by members of the Performing Arts staff, for contributing a beautiful musical dimension to our mass. Thanks also to our maintenance team and IT staff for the behind-the-scene work in setting the space and providing live streaming. Finally, I wish to thank Fr Paul Cahill, The Provincial of the Carmelites of Australia and Timor-Leste who celebrated our senior mass.
Mr Mark Murphy
Below you will find extracts from the eulogy I presented at the memorial service for Br Sean, as well as the address I gave at the Opening Masses.
Eulogy for Brother Sean – 8 February 2021
When I was a student at Whitefriars College, I was blessed to be taught and supported by many Carmelite Priests and brothers. They were my teachers, my footy coaches, my Principal’s and my counsellors. Their gentle presence, generosity, good humour and warmth was ever present. Mostly, they made each of us boys feel supported and cared for. Looking back, I suppose we took these gentle men in the brown habits for granted.
For the last 25 years, one of these amazing men has been a constant presence among us. Br Sean Keefe; man of boundless energy which he poured into supporting those in greatest need in our community. One of Sean’s enduring legacies will be the work he has done to secure a better future for the people of Timor-Leste.
But he leaves an even greater legacy with the Whitefriars community. He leaves us with a lasting example of what it means to be Carmelite. Even though Br Sean appeared to be constantly on the move, as a Carmelite, Br Sean did spend time in contemplation. Most mornings, he would celebrate mass with his fellow Carmelites at the house called Merinda, just over the hill, or spend time in personal prayer. More than this, everything Sean did, every action and interaction, was motivated by his desire to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Most of his time during the day was spent in community here at Whitefriars, always on the lookout for the lost or the vulnerable, always brightening our day with a smile and a “Hi There” in his broad American accent. Always doing what Therese of Lisieux would describe, as the small things with great Love. Small acts of love and kindness that would brighten a person’s day and make them feel like they were his special friend. We were all Sean’s special friends.
Br Sean too, was a man of service. He got out of bed everyday with one thought, one question in mind – how can I serve my community today? That was his way. He devoted over 50 years of his life to the service of others, whether it be here at Whitefriars, in the local community as a member of the Kiwanis club or internationally with his many fundraising efforts in support of the people of Timor-Leste. Such were his efforts, that in 2016 Br Sean was awarded and Order of Australia for services to the community. You would not know it though, such was the humility of the man.
So, what does all that mean for us here at Whitefriars today? I believe on this day, when we honour a man who exemplifies everything we stand for, there is a great opportunity for us to reflect on how we will continue to keep the spirit of the Carmelite alive. Br Sean has shown us the way. Now it is our turn. We need to be Carmelite for each other. We need to do those small acts of kindness and do them with great love. I hear people say, that Br Sean will leave a huge gap in our community. Well I think it is up to us to fill it. To live out the Carmelite tenets of Contemplation, Community and Service everyday, both here, and beyond the gates of this great school. Then, like Br Sean, we can truly say we are Carmelite.
Principal’s Address – Opening Mass 2021
It is great to be with you as we induct and commission our College leaders for 2021 and celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of the high achievers from the Class of 2020. I am sorry that due to restrictions, we are unable to meet at St Patrick’s Cathedral, as is the tradition, and greatly appreciate your cooperation and support in this space today.
At our induction ceremony with Year 7 and 12 students a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a story about the very first day of Whitefriars College – 14 February 1961. On that warm February morning, a lone Year 7 boy walked down the unmade, dusty driveway toward a school that still resembled a building site. According to the first Principal of our College, Fr Frank Shortis, 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. Fr Shortis writes that 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 being part of a community means. Seeing a need, they dropped everything to attend to it.
Whitefriars College was built on the bedrock of community. In fact, without the community coming together in all sorts of ways, Whitefriars would not exist. In the late 1950’s, well before Whitefriars was built, it was the community who came together to raise much need funds to build the original classrooms. On 16 January 1962, a raging bushfire approached the College, coming with tremendous speed and ferocity from the north. It jumped the Mullum Mullum Creek and roared up the gully towards the College. If not for the courage and commitment of the Carmelites and the support group of neighbours and passers-by, who maned hoses and who beat the flames back with wet sacks, the College would have been lost. They even helped prevent the flames from again crossing Park Rd, at the top of our drive, saving a number of properties in the process.
Since that time, there have been countless other examples of the community coming together. From our ever present Whitefriars Parents Association, to our dedicated canteen volunteers, to parent working bees. Staff who have always gone far above and beyond their roles, in providing education and wonderful experiences for their students. The students themselves, who have contributed countless hours of their own time at school tours, open days, fundraising activities, and the list goes on.
At Whitefriars we stand on the shoulders of giants, who for the past 60 years have built our community. It is therefore fitting, that this year, our College theme is ‘community’.
Having said all of that, all these examples of community are hypocritical, deceitful even, unless we practice the idea of community among us every day. Unless we reach out in support of our classmates, our teachers and our staff. Unless we do something about the needs we see around the College. It could be as simple picking up some rubbish, throwing a ball back to a game of downball, chatting to a boy who looks like he is on his own, giving your full attention to a teacher in class. We don’t have to fight a bushfire to build community, but we have to do something. It could be as simple as forgiving someone who has done us wrong or being a listening ear to someone who is doing it tough. St Paul tells us that we should bear with each other and forgive one another; ‘If any of you has a grievance against someone, forgive as the Lord forgave you’.
If we can do these things, then at the end of this year, Whitefriars College will be a stronger community than it was at the beginning, and we will have given honour to those from the past who did that too.
So, in this year of Community, this 60th anniversary year, my challenge to all of us is – that when we see a need, drop everything and do something about it.