A particular welcome to those families who have sons joining the College for the first time. It is our hope that your son will find friendship, challenge and success in many forms.
The staff began our time together on Wednesday of last week with a day focused on life in a Carmelite school. It is one of the many ways in which we are seeking to further develop our understanding of Carmelite spirituality. Fr Paul Chandler from Brisbane was an excellent facilitator.
The Year 7, 10 and 12 boys returned on Monday with the remainder of the school making up the full complement on Tuesday. Our Year 12 students assisted with the running of the orientation sessions for the younger boys and led those sessions well. They then caught the bus into the city to begin their two-day seminar at the University of Melbourne. There was a practical focus on preparation for the year with a number of Old Boys guest presenters giving some worthwhile input. The senior boys have a second two-day community building experience at the start of term two. We wish our Year 7 boys well as they journey off to camp next week.
Both year levels have had Information Evenings and we thank parents for their willing presence on those nights.
Our Opening of the Year Mass was held yesterday. It is wonderful to see our Community gather at the Cathedral. There were a number of comments made by Fr Michael Gallacher and myself as to why we gather at St Patrick’s Cathedral. You may like to read some excerpts from my talk (below) which do focus on this point. The students of the College are to be complimented on their demeanour and goodwill at the Mass and ceremonies. Indeed, the entire first week has been very positive.
All families received an email on Wednesday referring to the spate of hoax evacuations that have been occurring in schools across Australia. As indicated we have not enacted an evacuation based on this premise. Ironically, one hour after the email was sent, we did have an evacuation when one of our fire sensors malfunctioned. The response was swift, safe and orderly and serves as our requisite term practice.
All families will have received a Strategic Plan which has been devised by the College Board. It has been designed to give a relatively succinct explanation of what our major aims are for the next five years. As far as Master Planning is concerned we are nearing the final stages and have fixed on a Science and Technology building as Stage 1 of this development. Students of all year levels will benefit from such a development. All being well, we hope to use 2017 as a building time for this stage. More details will be given when the scope of the project is fully determined.
Welcome back to the boys. Let us hope it is a year of happiness, relation building and learning.
Please find below an extract from my talk given at the Cathedral yesterday.
I formally welcome you back to the 2016 academic year. A particular welcome is given to our new staff and students. As we gather today we acknowledge and pay our respects to the traditional custodians, past and present, of this land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, who long before us lived, loved and raised their children on this land.
We also acknowledge all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait families in our community and acknowledge their physical and Spiritual connections to the land.
We come together today to learn, to share and to journey together.
Good Morning Fr Denis Andrew, Provincial of the Carmelites in Australia and Timor-Leste, Mr Peter Duffy, Chair of the College Board, Fr David, Fr Angelino and Fr Michael, other Carmelites who join us today, guests (including Old Boys from the Class of 2015), staff and students of Whitefriars College.
Yesterday was 3 February. On that day in 1788 (228 years ago) the first Christian service was held in Australia. It was conducted by Reverend Richard Johnson in the open air at a place that what was later to become known as Hunter Street, Sydney; this is now one of the main streets in Sydney today. Those at the service were either prisoners or soldiers. Why did they have the service? Because the authorities of the time said that all people, free or prisoner needed to feel some sense of connection and that prayer was one way of providing that connection.
Of course, the aboriginal people of Australia had been spiritually connected to this land for thousands of years and understood its significance. Koori Nations had hundreds of communities here long before that first Christian service.
Nevertheless, that Christian service was an attempt to create a connection, to build up a community, based on certain values, symbols and rituals. Our Mass and ceremonies today have a number of rituals and symbols reflective of our values. Many of you know the story of White development in this country from the 18th Century onwards. Melbourne was a part of that development and today we sit inside a building that forms a significant part of that story. St Patricks Cathedral was built in 1858 and took 82 years to build what you see today. There are many impressive facts about St Patrick’s and some unusual ones.
When it was built in Stage 1 in the 19 Century it was the largest Church in the world built for that entire 100 years. It also had stonemasons with a sense of humour. There has been a long tradition of putting strange looking faces called Gargoyles on the outside of these Churches. These Gargoyles form part of the rainwater spouting so that rain eventually runs through the mouth of the face. Stonemason were like cartoonists of today. They would take the face of a famous person and exaggerate it. You will see a number outside.
But the size and features of this building are actually not the most impressive part. The fact that this building was funded and built by migrants who had recently come to this country is the more interesting fact. These people were working class, had little money and generally lived in what we now know as East Melbourne, Richmond, Fitzroy, Brunswick, St Kilda, Carlton and South Melbourne. Indeed, even some of the original Victorian AFL Clubs had fund raisers to build this place.
Because they wanted they recognised that their faith community was not just about small churches that were dotted around Melbourne, but also about being part of a broader Church community that shared their values.
We are here today not because it is the only Church that will hold our entire school, and not because it is an impressive looking place, but because Whitefriars is fortunate to be a part of a broader Catholic Church in Melbourne. We are connected through history and through faith. The Whitefriars Community belongs to a wider Melbourne Catholic community that consists of 68 Secondary schools and over 339 Primary schools; having a common belief is important.
The aboriginal people of this land have a common belief through their dreamtime stories, the first Christian service in Sydney had people with a common belief, all of those thousands of men and women who helped build this Church had a common belief and so do we.
You cannot have a common belief unless you have an understanding of what you believe in. For us at Whitefriars we have a set of Mission and Values that shows we are clearly Catholic and is faithful to the Carmelite tenets of Community, Prayer and Action. What does that mean?
It means that, like our Theme for 2016 Become, suggests, we work with each other to:
Become a stronger community
Become more reflective people by taking time to pray
Become more practical in the way that we help people who cannot help themselves
To our Year 12s, we look to you to Become strong role models through strength, character and resilience. We look forward to the many ways all Year 12s will lead our community in prayer, service and learning this year and wish you well as you do lead us this year.
To any new student or staff member this year, we realise that being new is exciting but also challenging. We hope that you are finding the support you need.
To all students of the College, we as a staff hope that you find imagination, passion, commitment and belief in what you do this year and that you have supportive friends who accept you for who you are and what you can do.
I wish to pay special recognition to the Carmelites who have created and fostered Whitefriars as a living community. We here today recognise the contribution you have made and continue to make strongly. We know that your journey in Timor-Leste is still young and that this emerging country can be most proud of Fr Angelino, Br Januario and all their brothers who are forming stronger links with Australia.
The staff and students of the College re-commit themselves to not only preserve the heritage we have been gifted but more so, to see it prosper and grow. Your gentle invitation for us to take up the Charism and walk with you is valued and deeply appreciated. We commit to continue your mission and values.
The aboriginal people wanted to Become people connected to their land, those who attended the first Christian service in Sydney wanted to Become people connected to their faith and those who built this Cathedral wanted to Become people connected to their Community They are reflective of us who want to Become more connected to our Community at Whitefriars and the community beyond the gates of Park Road.
Almae In Fide Parentis