Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
I often quote the prayer to the great Archbishop of El Salvador St. Oscar Romero… It helps now and then to step back and take the long view.
I believe the opening line for this prayer is quite fitting for the last week of a school term. It is also pertinent to who we are as a Catholic School in the Carmelite Tradition. It is not by chance that the first of the three tenets of the Carmelite Charism is Contemplation (the other two being Community and Service). How often do we step back and take the long view? How often do we take a moment to reflect on what has been, to just take a moment to breathe? It might sound simple and a bit strange but the simple act of stopping and just focusing on your own breathing just for a few moments can be very good for your health. Some call these moments mindfulness, some call it mediation, some even call it prayer.
Why do people aspire to leadership? What attracts them, drives them, provokes them to want to take on these types of roles? Some might suggest that money, power and prestige are the motivational forces behind people’s desire to lead. Leaders like these generally don’t last very long and if they do they will often be disappointed and never be truly satisfied in their role.
There are so many inspiring and uplifting things that happen every day at Whitefriars. Some are obvious and attract much deserved fanfare and accolade. Others are more hidden, subtle, and understated, but no less powerful and deserving of recognition and celebration. This idea was brought home to me last week when I enjoyed an opportunity to take a prospective family on a tour of the College after school hours.
Last week at Whitefriars we celebrated the inaugural feast day of St. Titus Brandsma. This was followed on Sunday with a mass at the Spiritual home of the Carmelites here in Melbourne, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Middle Park. It was wonderful to see members of the Whitefriars community there on the day including some of our great boys, many of whom were from the House of Brandsma, and who helped to lead this significant celebration.
On Friday 15 July, our College community came together at the Vogue Ballroom in Blackburn to celebrate 60 years of Catholic Carmelite Education at Whitefriars College. Over 250 current and past students, teachers, friends and families attended this joyful celebration.
Last week I was fortunate to attend the Year 8 Drama Performance of Murder in the Knife Room. This highly entertaining and positive evening showcased and celebrated the talents of a dedicated group of Year 8 students supported by an equally passionate and dedicated group of Performing Arts staff. The result was a wonderful gift of fun and frivolity to those of us present. Prior to the performance I ventured backstage to wish our budding performers the all the best for the show. I asked the boys if they had performed on stage before and was interested to discover that most of them had not. You would not have known that by their enthusiastic, skilled and confident performances.
I often say to prospective families, if you want to know who we are and what we are about here at Whitefriars, you only need to remember three simple words; Catholic, Carmelite, Boys. Whitefriars College is a Catholic school for boys in the Carmelite tradition. Now of course, these simple words require some unpacking to truly understand the identity and mission of our school. However, I think often actions speak louder than words. So, today I would like to provide you with a couple of examples from the past week whose actions and events best illustrate the character of our school with a focus on the three tenants of the Carmelites; Contemplation, Community and Service.
There are moments in life when words fail to adequately describe a significant life experience. Reducing such experiences to a mere description of events just doesn’t cut it and suggesting that… you had to be there… is not particularly helpful. Such has been my experience here in Rome over the last couple of days as myself and other representatives of the Whitefriars community attended the Canonisation of Saint Titus Brandsma.
On the 15 May in St Peter’s Square, his Holiness Pope Francis will canonise the Carmelite, journalist and Professor, Titus Brandsma, martyred at Dachau (1881-1942).
At times, I believe, boys receive more than their fair share of “bad press”. Granted, as with all of us, there are occasions when it is warranted. However, there is often little in the way of positive commentary about young men to balance things out. I am blessed to witness young men doing amazing things every day. Please allow me to offer some positive press about the young men of Whitefriars College.
One of my earliest memories of growing up as a Catholic was the season of Lent. Not because of some deep understanding of this part of the liturgical calendar as a time for repentance and preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter, but because we were told that during Lent we had to give up something we really loved. That something always seemed to be lollies!
The commencement of the year in schools is always an interesting time to observe a community as it reconnects with College and with each other after a period away. I find there is always a little nervousness and apprehension, mixed with excitement and anticipation at what is to come. That feeling doesn’t just relate to students, it goes for teachers, support staff and even Principals! I am sure that as parents you experienced this mixture of feelings as your son made his way to Whitefriars on the first day this year. Whether he is in Year 7, 12 or any level in between, that mix of trepidation and expectancy is always there in our heart and gut. We feel these things because we love these young men, we are fully invested in them, and we want them to experience success and happiness in this place called Whitefriars.