From the Principal – The Challenge

Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,

It is great to welcome you all back for the start of another term at Whitefriars. Last Monday I wrote to our staff expressing my concerns and apprehensions about what we were coming back to. I told them that… there was a moment when I despaired at what may lay ahead for us this term. No amount of positive platitudes or mindset is going to change the fact that there will be many challenges ahead. But then I lifted myself out of my malaise when I thought about the opportunity we have to bring a little light and comfort to the young men and broader community we serve. I genuinely could not think of a better place to be right now, doing the work that we have been called to do. And this is true! It is true because I have come to know in a short period of time the passion, dedication, generosity and thoughtfulness of our staff, founded on a firm desire to serve the needs of the young men of our College within our Catholic Carmelite context.

Like all of us, our staff are human beings who have their own struggles and hurdles to overcome. Family and personal circumstances are real for all of us, at the best of times. These circumstances are amplified by the strange conditions in which we find ourselves. Each of us has to try to find ways of reconciling our personal needs and the broader needs of those around us, which is easier said than done. That is the tension for all of us – staff, parents, students and even Principals.

For each of us in the Whitefriars family, there is great opportunity in the midst of this challenging time. The opportunity to do what we can to support each other. To offer understanding and empathy and acknowledgement of the individual circumstances and views of each member of this community. To reflect on how each of us can play a significant part in keeping our community safe. To reach out in solidarity and support of each other in and beyond our community. At this time more than ever we need to be patient with each other, accepting of each other and understanding of each other as Mary was.

Speaking of Mary, last week we celebrated the Feast of our Lady of Mount Carmel. Some may say that there is little to celebrate in the world at the moment. I believe though that this is the perfect time to give thanks to Mary for the ultimate example she is to us, about how to live fully in these difficult times. Last week, to mark this significant occasion, we were blessed to receive a video message from the Prior General of the Carmelite Order, Fr Miceal O’Neill.

Fr Miceal told us that Mary was the perfect model as to how we should live in these times of challenge. He said that Mary was a contemplative prayerful person who pondered all things that were happening in her world and instead of despairing she made the decision to take them into her heart and bring light and love to the world. Mary reminds us of the need to stop, to ponder, to contemplate, to pray and try to make sense and meaning of what is going on around us. Mary too was a woman of strength and of action. A person who would take a leap of faith not knowing what was to come, who would drop everything to be with another in need of support and comfort and who would stand firm at the foot of the cross in love and solidarity for her dying son.

This is a tough ask, in a time when our human nature is driving us towards a focus on the self rather than the other – just look at the supermarket shelves! These are extraordinary times, so what better time than this to be extraordinary, to be like Mary.

Lastly, on behalf of the Whitefriars community, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the Hammerton family (James, Year 8) following the passing of James’ grandfather Denis, after a long battle with cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hammerton family at this time of sadness.

Mr Mark Murphy