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.
Last week our community came together to celebrate the efforts and achievements of our students at our annual Celebration Evening. Due to the restrictions of the day, we were not able to host this significant event in person. However, the efforts of our staff and students in presenting this evening online provided for a meaningful and memorable event. I am particularly grateful to Ms Kelli Joiner and Mr James Smith who put together all that we saw on screen along with Mr Josh Vujcich, Fr Paul Sireh O.Carm, Mr Mick Lafferty, Mrs Catherine Spurritt and our wonderful Student Leaders who all brought a great sense of dignity and gravitas to the occasion.
Each year on Remembrance Day our College community gathers to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war defending the liberty and freedom we enjoy in this country today. At our service held yesterday I was encouraged by the reverent and prayerful way the students of Whitefriars attended to this solemn and significant ceremony. It is important to remember that this occasion is not one where we attempt to celebrate or glorify war but one where together we reflect on our role in being co-creators of a world where peace and reconciliation replace war and violence.
There are moments that define a group of people. Whether that be a sporting team, an orchestra or even a graduating class – there are moments when the true character and quality of that group comes through, for better or worse. The last day of celebration for Year 12 students is one of these defining moments. As a Principal my greatest concern on these days is the safety and wellbeing of our students.
Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
It is very exciting for me to be writing this week’s newsletter from my desk overlooking the natural beauty of our grounds here at Whitefriars. Even more heart-warming is the sound of boys playing on the nearby basketball courts on this sunny, Thursday lunchtime at the College. It almost feels like a normal day at school. Unfortunately, it is not. It’s not because five sixths of our young men are missing along with many our staff. It’s not normal because we can’t see the smiles on people’s faces under their masks. It’s not a normal day because we cannot gather as a school community, play competitive sport, sing in choir or many other COVID-19 unsafe practices.
Last week our College community came together (virtually) to celebrate Whitefriars Day. This years Whitefriars Day is especially significant as we celebrate our 60th anniversary. Unfortunately, as with most things we had to rethink our approach to this special day and I am very grateful to our staff and senior student leaders, led by Josh Vujcich, Director of Faith and Mission and Mick Lafferty, Deputy Principal – Students, for the innovative and creative way they presented our Whitefriars Day online assembly.