Dear members of the Whitefriars College family,
As we conclude what has been a very challenging term for us all, I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to you for your continued support and encouragement of all that we are doing at Whitefriars in support of your sons. I have been overwhelmed by your generosity and the positive and resilient attitude you have displayed throughout this extraordinary period. I think that a positive attitude is the greatest gift we can give our children during difficult times. However, it is also often the most draining and difficult of endeavours. I often ask myself in these moments; who is caring for the carer? Each of you has shouldered a heavy burden, from juggling working from home and supporting children with their home learning, to dealing with the future uncertainties inherent in our current situation, among a million other things.
There are as many theories and approaches to dealing with these issues as there are issues themselves. I think it is important to seek out these resources, as often they can help us to view our situation through a different lens. For example, last week at Whitefriars we acknowledged RUOK day. This national day of action provides a wonderful opportunity to remind us to connect and support one another by asking the simple question; Are you OK? The idea being if someone says they’re not OK, make time to listen, encourage action and check in. That conversation could change, or even save, their life.
Personally, my approach to moments when I feel my resilience is waning, is three-fold:
- To take time to remember all the things for which I am grateful.
- To reach out for help.
- To pray.
It is these last two, which I find most powerful. Giving myself over to the care of others and to God, acknowledging that I can’t do this alone, and that I don’t always have all the answers, and being prepared to show vulnerability – can be a most liberating of experiences.
There are others who speak about vulnerability with far more eloquence than I ever could.
- “I define Vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. To be human is to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” Brené Brown
- “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.” Cardinal John Dearden – Inspired by St. Oscar Romero
Jesus himself was the definitive example of vulnerability. He spent his life confronting his own vulnerabilities – from being tested in the wilderness, to the moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he handed himself over to the will of his Father. In his public life too, Jesus focused his energy and attention on the most vulnerable in his own community, from lepers to tax collectors. Ultimately, over and above all this, Jesus asks us to do the most vulnerable thing anyone can be asked to do – to love. And not just anyone, but particularly, those who are hardest to love.
So, in the midst of all this, the best we thing we can do is to love. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.
Last Friday, we held our historic Whitefriars Day via zoom. What a wonderful celebration of our school and all it stands for. The brief for this day is one which…
- celebrates and fosters our amazing community;
- connects with and enhances our Catholic Carmelite charism of prayer, community and service;
- raises awareness of the mission of Carmel Impact through social advocacy.
There is no doubt that all three of these elements were present. Each was presented in thoughtful, creative and reflective ways. I am very grateful to Josh Vujcich for his excellent leadership of this day, well supported by Fr Paul, Br Sean, Mick Lafferty, Kelly Hoinville, Fiona Matthews, Tracey Phelan, Jeremy Freeman, Michael Bohan, Jack Gargano, Alessandra Akers, Alex Dunmill, Luke Harford and Zain O’Neill. Not to mention our wonderfully talented and dedicated students who provided us with liturgy, learning and laughter and incredible gifts and talents. I leave you with the address I presented to our community on Friday.
Mr Mark Murphy
It is great to be with you today as we celebrate Whitefriars day. Listening to those great young men of Whitefriars who have just spoken to us, gives me great encouragement because each of them, in their own way, has provided us with a wonderful insight into who we are as a school and what we are about. Courage, selflessness, family, perseverance, positivity are all words these boys used, which really describe the essence of a gentle man of Whitefriars. These young men also spoke of looking after each other, being the best version of yourself that you can be, taking pride in your school and celebrating the uniqueness of every member of our community. These boys understand the essence of who we are as a Catholic Carmelite school for boys.
Last week, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg spoke to our community about how we can support the development of resilience among our young men. He spoke about many of the things that our boys have mentioned today. There were three things he said, which stood out to me and which captured the heart of what it means to me to be a Whitefriars boy.
- When we are together, everything’s better
- If you want to feel good, do good.
- To find a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives – we need to connect with our spiritual selves.
In the language of the Carmelites these ideas can be better summed up as:
- Community – We are strongest when we are together, when we are in solidarity with each other, when we respect and celebrate the unique gifts of each other, when we show empathy, compassion and love for each other
- Service – Doing good and doing it quietly is in the Carmelite DNA. Doing good as Therese of Lisieux would. St. Therese spoke of the “little way” – to do small things with great love. What better model could we have as gentle men of Whitefriars?
- To connect with our spiritual self or in other words – to pray, to reflect on faith, to practice a more contemplative life. The Great St. Teresa of Avila gives us a hint about how to pray. She said we should not think of prayer as some intellectual thing or one where we had to pray using particular words. She said, rather, the important thing with prayer was not to think much but to love much.
So, if we engage respectively and supportively in our community, if we serve others by doing small things with great love and if we treat prayer as a way to reach out to others with love – we will truly live what it means to be Whitefriars people.
I wish to thank you all, staff and students, for the way you have supported and cared for each other during this difficult time. You have inspired me every day with your fortitude and your generosity. Stay safe and stay well, look after each other and I pray that we will all be back together soon.
Until then remember we can all take comfort from knowing, that we are all in the care of our loving mother Mary.
When this is over,
may we never again
take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbours
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine check-up
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
When this ends,
may we find
that we have become
more like the people
we wanted to be
we were called to be
we hoped to be
and may we stay
for each other
because of the worst.
– Laura Kelley Fanucci