Hope, challenge and heroes
“Let us try to keep God with us by charity of thought, word and act”
Mary McKillop September 1890
In keeping with this year’s College theme of ‘Service’, these inspiring words come from Australia’s first saint, Mary Helen McKillop. Her feast day falls on 8 August after her canonisation in October 2010.
Mary was born on 15 January 1842 in the family home in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy and spent most of her early life in Victoria. Known in life as Mother Mary of the Cross, she was the eldest of eight children and was born when the colony of Melbourne was less than seven years settled.
The family’s impoverished life was hard for Mary, but any sense of hopelessness was countered by her mother’s trust in the Providence of God. Mary herself was a serious child with a strong love for God and a desire to do what she could for people in need. Following her education, Mary went on to become the founding member of ‘The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart’, with an Ordered Rule of living in poverty with dedication to the education of poor children.
At a staff meeting earlier this week, five of our boys who participated in the recent Indigenous immersion experience spoke eloquently of their own experience in communities with little material possession.
Staff and students were able to immerse themselves in the lives and culture of the indigenous peoples in Darwin, on the Tiwi Islands and in the remote Minyerri community, some 600km south of Darwin. It was clearly a journey for the boys that provided an opportunity to learn about people, culture, history, traditions and beliefs – and humbling to hear them speak of their growing understanding of self, spirituality and faith.
The boys who have engaged with our Timor-Leste immersions over the past 10 years speak similarly of unique and life changing experiences. With images of picturesque beaches littered in rubbish, impoverished streets and friendly smiling people living on less than a few dollars a day, the boys articulate a renewed sense of gratitude for what they have in Australia and no longer taking things for granted. They speak of a place with no technology, yet everybody connects and eye contact is unmistakeable and warm.
A more local organisation has been established to help people experiencing homelessness and women and families fleeing domestic violence. Hayden Rujakin is a Year 7 student, whose charity, ‘Hayden’s Helping Hands’ has approximately 20 volunteers and helps in the order of 70-100 people per week. The purpose of Hayden’s volunteer group is to distribute food and supplies to people experiencing homelessness, provide opportunities for interaction, improve access to basic human needs and promote an awareness of homelessness. Mary McKillop would be so proud.
At Whitefriars we strive to develop in our boys an experiential understanding of the world as far bigger than the comfortable surrounds of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It is important for us to recognise, and respond to, the endless local, national and international opportunities; to follow the example set by Australia’s first saint. We all need heroes and heroines to give us hope, to challenge us, and to show us the way to live the Christian life.
Mr Greg Stewart
Almae In Fide Parentis