Dear members of the Whitefriars family,
It is wonderful having all the young men of Whitefriars back among us. Finally, our community feels complete and life is returning to some level of normality, albeit with new restrictions, processes and protocols to keep all in our community safe. I have spent a lot of time among the young men of our College, over the past few days and there is a general sense of excitement about being back at school. Most tell me though, they miss getting up a bit later as well as having the fridge and the pantry close by during the day!
On Friday, we staged our first ever “virtual” assembly during pastoral care. Our students and staff watched the assembly from the comfort of their pastoral rooms via webinar. The assembly was beautifully and expertly led by our Senior Leaders and concluded with a video created by Trent Collins (Director – Middle Years), which provided a visual timeline of the experiences of our students during the Home Learning Program. The backing track to the video was provided by one of our talented music students, Joshua Hannan. I would like to thank Mick Lafferty (Deputy Principal – Students) and our College Leaders for their thoughtful leadership of this important gathering of our community.
At the assembly, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to our staff and students about my reflections on this strange and challenging time. The following is an extract from my presentation.
The question I am hearing most as we re-enter life at school is… what did you miss? I think the answer is pretty easy for most of us. We miss people. We miss our mates, our colleagues, our teachers and other staff who support us each day. I think though, the more important question to ask and answer at this time is… what did you gain? I asked this very question of a group of Year 7 boys I met the other day. One of these young men provided me with a very inspiring response. He said that he had gained a level of maturity and independence that he had not had before. Even though he had great support around him from teachers, classmates and parents, still he needed to stand on his own two feet like never before. He had to become a problem solver, a critical thinker, he had to organise himself without having someone constantly looking over his shoulder. Basically, he said, he had to grow up fast!
As people of the Carmelite tradition we are naturally reflective, contemplative souls. I want you all to take a moment to reflect now on what you have gained or learnt through this time. Because you see if we didn’t learn something and if we don’t take what we have gained and nurture it and grow it and take it into the future, then we have lost a valuable opportunity. People will often rise to a challenge and do remarkable things in moments of great difficulty, tragedy, challenge or crisis. Sporting commentators would call these people, “big game players”. The trick is then to continue to present that way in the ordinary, mundane routine days of our lives. That’s real growth, sustainable growth.
I have witnessed moments of adaptability, patience, kindness, community, courage and solidarity over the last couple of months. These are the qualities of the “gentle man” that we hear about here, that we aspire to here. Don’t let that go. Don’t slip back into old ways. Show the grit, maturity and determination that I have witnessed and heard about during this time. Let us all move forward in a new way with a gentle and compassionate heart, a strong mind and a faithful soul as we take our great school forward to new and exciting places. Mostly, as young Carmelite men, reach out in service to those in greatest need in our community everyday as Mary would, as a caring loving mother would – Almae In Fide Parentis.
So, my question to all of us is… what have we gained and learnt. It could be as simple as becoming a more competent user of IT. It may be as life changing as adopting a new rhythm of life. Personally, this time has helped me to reflect on and take stock of all the wonderful blessings in my life and how I have often taken them for granted. I have become a more grateful person during this time. I pray that I will not allow this feeling to dissipate, to get lost in the milieu of the everyday. Whatever we have gained or learnt lets all try to hang onto it, nurture it and grow it, not just for our benefit but for the benefit of all in our community.
Mr Mark Murphy