Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
So much of what I see at Whitefriars in my short time has left me with a very positive and encouraging impression of this unique and remarkable place. A place that knows who it is and what it is about. A friend of mine once said that if you truly want to know the identity of a place you have to ask the why question. Why does this school exist? Why did the Carmelites build this place nearly sixty years ago? I believe that the answer to that question is twofold. First and foremost, Whitefriars was built as a Catholic school for boys in the Carmelite tradition. Therefore our first role is as evangeliser of our shared faith in Jesus. Secondly, this school exists to educate boys to take their place in the world as fine ‘Gentle Men’ and responsible global citizens.
It is the latter of these two I wish to briefly touch on here. I can tell you that learning is alive and well at Whitefriars. Last week I wandered into our study hall after school. This is a significant service provided by our College particularly for senior boys as a place of quiet study and support from teachers. As I walked in I noticed among the 40 to 50 boys in the room, some students engaged in quiet private study and others working in a more collaborate setting. I spoke with a number of students who greatly appreciated the opportunity to complete 2 to 3 hours study before they went home as there were less distractions here and they could also seek support from peers and teachers. This great service is supervised by Mr Michael Douglas and runs five nights a week. Michael informed me that this year there has definitely been greater uptake of this valuable service. Congratulations to all senior students who have recognised the wonderful opportunity that this initiative provides.
Last week I also attended a meeting of our academic captains hosted by Mr Mark Ashmore (Deputy Principal – Learning and Teaching). This inspiring group of young men spoke with passion and enthusiasm about their particular subject area. They each presented how they would, this year, animate and promote their area of study across the school. They provided some innovative ideas about how they could work with their respective learning leaders to engage and connect students across the College to the subject they love. More than this they spoke with commitment and diligence about how they would encourage and support their VCE/VCAL peers to achieve their best this year.
Finally, last week also saw a great celebration of leadership and learning at our annual opening mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral. It was amazing to see our whole College community gather in this place to celebrate the Eucharist and to formally induct our College Leaders as well as paying tribute to the High Achievers from VCE/VCAL students of 2019. I was moved by the thoughtful and meaningful celebration of the Eucharist celebrated by Fr Paul Sireh O.Carm and his fellow Carmelites and beautifully supported by Mr Josh Vujcich, (Director – Identity, Service and Mission) and our College Choir. I was in awe of the efficiency of organisation with regards to the movement of the entire school community led by Mr Peter Ciardulli (College Operations) and supported by our dedicated staff. I was greatly encouraged by the number of parents and families who came in support of the day, including my own. Finally, I was grateful to our all students who participated with such reverence, maturity and respect. Another unique and remarkable day in the life of Whitefriars.
Below you will find the address I delivered to our community on this occasion.
Mr Mark Murphy
Good morning members of the Whitefriars College Family. On behalf of the Carmelites and the Whitefriars College Board I would like to welcome you all to our 2020 opening mass. I would especially like to welcome the Provincial of the Carmelites of Australia/East Timor and former Principal and Old Collegian of our College Fr Paul Cahill, his fellow Carmelites and Fr Michael Gallacher (Old Collegian, the Chair of the Whitefriars College Board), Mrs Margaret McKenna and other board members present today along with Mr Phil Thomson, President of the Whitefriars Old Collegians Association.
It is great to be with you as we induct and commission our College leaders for 2020 and celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of the high achievers from the class of 2019. It is appropriate that we gather in this place, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the heart and the home of the Catholic Church here in Melbourne for over 150 years. You are all most welcome here. This place is particularly significant for the young men of Whitefriars in that it is the first opportunity for our Year 7 students and others new to our College to gather as part of the Whitefriars family and it will be the scene of their last official gathering on the night of their Year 12 Valedictory.
I feel so grateful and humbled to have been given the opportunity to serve this wonderful Catholic Carmelite school. I am still pinching myself as I walk down the hill everyday into this beautiful place we call Whitefriars College.
I would like to take a moment to reflect on the idea of opportunity. Have you every been presented with an opportunity and you didn’t take it? Maybe because you were afraid to have a go or lacked confidence or perhaps because you didn’t think you were prepared for it. Or possibly all of these things. I believe that opportunity can only really be grasped successfully if we are prepared.
The great Lawyer and Advocate of the oppressed in our society Julian Burnside once said that we should not so much plan our life as we should prepare for it. We should prepare and prepare and prepare so that when opportunities arise we are ready to grab hold of them with both hands. By way of example; if Mary had not lived a life of faith and fidelity to God perhaps she would not have been ready and prepared to offer her unconditional “yes” to being the Mother of Jesus. Perhaps if Elijah had not spent time in prayerful contemplation he would have been too afraid to emerge from the cave when he felt the presence of God. Maybe if those hermits on Mt. Carmel hadn’t spent time in prayer and discernment about how best they could serve God they would not have formed a religious community called the Carmelites. If a young Priest named Fr Frank Shortis hadn’t studied hard and refined and developed his passion for education and shown grit and determination in convincing others that they should build a Catholic school for boys in the Carmelite tradition in Donvale, none of us would be in this place today. Personally, I never planned to be a Principal. But I did a lot of preparation so that when opportunities came I was ready to put myself forward.
I look out on the young men I see before me today – the high achievers from the Class of 2019. These boys are models of preparation. Young men who have worked hard, shown grit, perseverance and self-discipline in preparation for what is to come. These Old Collegians may or may not have planned but they definitely all prepared, so that now the world is theirs to embrace, to take on the many opportunities which will come their way. I see too our young leaders who have not been given their positions for free. They may not have planned to become a school leader but all the work and dedication they have shown over their time at Whitefriars has prepared them to take on the challenge of leadership. They have given freely of themselves to their community and built up the trust and confidence of those around them and are now ready to lead.
At times though, even preparation may not be enough to get us over the line. I think though the thing that Mary, Elijah, the early Carmelites, Fr Shortis, me and you have in common is that when the opportunity comes we might hesitate. We might wonder whether we are worthy or able to take it on. It is at these times we need to look beyond ourselves, we need to put our hand up. Personally, I look to my family, my faith and my community in these moments of doubt and uncertainty knowing that I can’t do this on my own. I pray, I discern I discuss and I listen and from all that the right answer usually comes.
So, if we want to be ready to take on the opportunities which come our way we should work hard and reach out to our family, friends, the staff of this great school and to God as we prepare for the opportunities which will surely come our way. I commit myself to you in the years ahead to walk with you as you learn and grow and prepare, and I look forward to standing in this place and shaking each of your hands as Valedictorians; as students who have prepared, who have taken opportunities and who have grown to become good gentle men of Whitefriars College.