Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
Last Wednesday evening, our College community came together at Robert Blackwood Hall for our annual Evening of Celebration. It was with great excitement and hope that our community came together to celebrate the efforts and achievements of our students and to showcase their many talents on the stage.
I am very grateful for the efforts of so many who made this evening possible, especially Kelli Joiner, Jessica Van De Garde, Adrianna Tascone, Michael Schofield and Peter Ciardulli who coordinated the entire event, and the many other staff who were present in support of our students.
Below is an extract from my address on this evening:
On a number of Friday evenings in October, I had the pleasure and privilege of welcoming several groups of past Whitefriars students to our College as part of our reunion events for 2023. As we wandered around our beautiful grounds with these past students, from as long ago as 1973, these men spoke with affection about their time at the College, particularly with regards to their teachers and the care and support they had received in their time here.
There were parts of our College which appeared somewhat familiar to them, as well as others which were quite new and different. Most interesting was that each group spoke not just about how much our College had changed in a physical sense or in terms of new and redeveloped buildings, but more so, how much it had stayed the same with regards to less tangible things. Many commented on the sense of calm and peacefulness of our natural bush setting, which as students they often took for granted but now realise it’s significance and value. Many too, spoke of an intangible and not easily articulated feeling they experienced when they were here as students – which they still felt walking down the hill these many years later. A feeling of warmth and of welcome, of relationship and care.
At the very heart of that feeling, I believe, lay our Carmelite heritage and identity. For 63 years, the Carmelites have generously shared their unique perspective on faith and of life founded on the ideals of Contemplation, Community and Service. We have been blessed during that time to have over 30 Carmelites walk with us and provide us with models of what it truly means to walk in allegiance with Jesus, Mary and Elijah. From the great educational visionary, Fr Frank Shortis whose tenacity, courage and commitment to the education of young people led him to founding a school in Donvale in 1961, to our present day Carmelite Chaplain, Fr Paul Sireh who walks with us with the same unassuming and deeply committed presence as those first Carmelites who entered our gates long ago.
Father Paul Cahill, former student, teacher and Principal of Whitefriars College best expresses the essence of our Carmelite identity. He says this…
Whitefriars had a distinctive spirit, reflective of Carmelite spirituality. The kernel of this spirit is reflected in the reading from the Book of Kings, outlining that the Prophet Elijah experienced God on Mount Horeb in “the still small voice”/”the sound of sheer silence”. This spirit, which has been characterised as “contemplative”, bespeaks a gentleness, a peacefulness, a calmness, a prayerfulness, an openness which God’s presence in our lives evokes, instils and encourages. The Prophet Elijah’s story also features firm resolve, resilience, commitment, service of others and a thirst for justice. These are the attributes which have been at the heart of our approach to educating young men for over sixty years.
I speak of these things on this particular evening because as you may be aware in 2024 our College will be moving to a new governance structure where the Carmelites will be handing over governance responsibilities to our new Trustees of Whitefriars College in Mercy Partners. It will give you great comfort to know that despite this, nothing will change at Whitefriars. We are totally committed to maintaining the Carmelite charism as absolutely central to the identity of our College and we will continue to foster and grow that identity to support the development of the gentle men of Whitefriars.
Therefore, it is appropriate that on this night, on your behalf, I speak with deep gratitude and respect for the Carmelites. Men who embody, who live out the Carmelite ideals and who are and will continue to be wonderful examples to our community of faith of hope and of love.
Tonight, I also wish to thank all those students, parents and staff who have contributed to Whitefriars College this year. Many of you have made a positive and valuable contribution to the culture and identity of this great school and for that I am indebted. I would particularly like to pay tribute to the staff of Whitefriars who each day have provided great care and individual support of their students in the Carmelite tradition. To our student leaders, I thank you for your enthusiastic and passionate involvement in all aspects of the life of this College. Thanks also to our generous and thoughtful Parents Association led by Mark Trajevski who have provided many memorable and valuable opportunities to bring our community together. I would also like to thank our College Board led by our Chair Margaret Mckenna for the selfless dedication and commitment to Whitefriars. I would like to thank our parents who have entrusted us with the care and education of your sons, and who work in close partnership with our staff in helping them to reach their full potential. Finally, I wish to thank our Carmelites, led by our Chaplain Fr Paul Sireh and our Provincial Fr Bruce Clark, who everyday through their presence and actions remind us of what it means to educate in the Carmelite way. Thank God for the Carmelites!
I would particularly like to congratulate all the young men here this evening who are being recognised for their hard work, diligence and commitment to all aspects of life at Whitefriars. I admire your courage and resolve in setting the bar high for yourselves, for supporting your teachers and your classmates, and for taking on every opportunity and challenge our great school has to offer. Congratulations to you for living our Carmelite spirit of Contemplation, Community and Service. We are proud of you all.
May I wish you all a happy holy, restful and safe Christmas and I look forward to working with you next year in support of the gentle men of Whitefriars College.
Mr Mark Murphy