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. Over the past two years, like so many other events, the evening was held online so it was with great excitement and hope that our community was able to gather to celebrate the efforts and achievements of our students and to showcase their many talents on the stage, together, in one room.
I am incredibly grateful for the efforts of so many who made this evening happen, especially Kelli Joiner and James Smith who coordinated the entire event and the many other staff who were present in support of our students. I would particularly like to pay tribute to Mr Phil Thompson who over the past 20 years has been a constant presence and support of this event, in his role as President of the Whitefriars Old Collegians Association (WOCA). On behalf of the College community, I wish to thank Phil for his dedicated service to Whitefriars, and for his passion and commitment to WOCA over these many years and wish him well for the future.
Below you will find an extract from my address to the community on this significant evening.
When someone asks me the question: Do you want the good news or the bad news? I always opt for the good news first. It is the eternal optimist in me which always seeks the good news. Perhaps it is because our lives are so dominated by a media that believes that only bad news sells, that I crave a little glimmer of light and hope amidst gloom?
So tonight, I would like to tell you some good news. The good news of 2022 at Whitefriars College.
It begins with our staff who go above and beyond expectation in support of each other and the boys. Teachers who give up much of their own time to assist students in need at lunchtime, after school and during school holidays. Teachers who take on extra co-curricular activities just because they see an opportunity to engage and connect boys to their school. Teachers who come to the assistance of each other when illness and other obstacles imped their work. Teachers who are people of faith and who take their role as evangelizer and messengers of the words of Jesus seriously.
The good news does not only come from the actions of our teachers but from the many other staff who live out the Carmelite ideal of service to ensure every day that our College can operate at its best to meet the needs of all in this community.
The good news comes from our parents who after two years of lockdowns and restrictions, have this year turned out in ever increasing numbers to support the College and their sons. This year saw record numbers of parents attend our valuable Time and Space program at Years 7 and 8. They also came in their droves to support our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day breakfast. Not to mention the vast numbers who attended information nights, presentation evenings, sporting events, debates, guest speakers, performances, gala balls – list goes on. I truly believe that one of the greatest influences a parent can on their sons’ education is to demonstrate how important it is to them through their attendance and participation in the life of the College.
As parents you also showed your support in tangible ways through your involvement in our Whitefriars Parents’ Association. And what about those generous parents who came and supported our transition program with our new Year 7 families? Mostly though you, your support was shown through working in partnership with our staff because we all know that the education of these boys is a joint effort.
The good news comes finally from our boys who everyday inspire us and who show all the hallmarks of their becoming fine young gentle men.
It comes from our Year 11 and 12 boys who support our new Year 7 students as buddies throughout their first year at Whitefriars. It comes from the enthusiasm of our junior students who throw themselves into every activity with gusto. It also comes from our older students who naturally show support for younger students and assist them with their studies at Homework club. The good news comes also from our students who show self-discipline, diligence and perseverance on the stage or the sporting field. The good news comes from our Year 12 students and who were models of diligence and studiousness during the exam period.
It comes too from the record numbers of students who this year put themselves forward for leadership positions, a testament to the wonderful leaders who precede them and a hallmark of the health of our College community. The good news comes from students who work very hard every day to achieve their best, students who devote their time and energy to attendance at All Saint Meal Service or Rosie’s Street Mission or who demonstrate support for their teacher in the classroom
Now we all know that this is not Camelot, and the news is not always good. We have many challenges at Whitefriars. Challenges to engage our students in learning. A pursuit in which we do not always succeed or one where we do not always have the appropriate resources and pathways to support every boy. Challenges to discern appropriate ICT strategies in a rapidly changing world. Challenges to maintain an affordable education in a funding environment which sees schools like ours getting less and less. Challenges to continue to provide the best learning facilities as our College ages. These are the trials that challenge us but also energize and motivate us as we continue to discern ways of continuing to develop Whitefriars as a great Catholic School for boys in the Carmelite tradition. News that will next year see the development of a new College Master Plan to support the continued growth and reimaging of Whitefriars.
Finally, the REAL good news is the Good News of Jesus which we are called to present to our boys every day. The great Carmelite St. Titus Brandsma, who we honoured this year tells us that “We must all commit to seeking the truth where it is to be found, seeking the truth in love, with our sisters and brothers.” I know of no other better news than that.
Tonight, I 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 Pastoral Care teachers 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. I would also like to thank our College Board led by our Chair Margaret McKenna for the selfless dedication and commitment to Whitefriars. Finally, I wish to thank our Carmelites led by our Chaplain Fr Paul Sireh and our Provincial Fr Paul Cahill who everyday through their presence and actions remind us of what it means to educate in the Carmelite way. Thank God for the Carmelites!
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