Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
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.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had many incidental conversations with boys around the College about their experience of their first days back at Whitefriars for 2022. The commentary they provide varies in detail and content, however the general sentiment is the same. Our students are all very happy to be back at school full-time! Even though for some, who miss the days of home learning where they were able to roll out of bed minutes before the start of classes or for whom the fridge and the pantry were virtually within arm’s reach, they are still excited and happy to be back onsite.
There have been a couple of events which have occurred over these first weeks that remind me of how fortunate we are to be physically present at Whitefriars. The first was our Year 12 Formation and Reflection days which occurred during these boys first days back at school. The Formation and Academic seminar days provided the Class of 2022 with the luxury of time to stop and reflect on where they had come from and where they are right now, to learn from others who came before them and develop a plan for the important journey ahead.
At the other end of the learning journey spectrum here at Whitefriars, our Year 7 students were able to attend our camp experience at Mornington. Each boy I chatted with, both at the camp itself and back here at school, spoke with joy and enthusiasm of his experience. Many spoke of the kayaking or raft building or pizza making or giant swing (very scary!) as the activities they loved the most. Others spoke of the excitement of meeting new friends, some of whom will become their lifelong mates, as well as teachers who supported them and helped them to feel safe and happy in that space.
The event which, for me, brought home the sheer joy of being back at Whitefriars occurred last Tuesday when the entire school community gathered around the flag poles to acknowledge and congratulate students who had attained leadership positions for this year. As I stood among these emerging young men, I felt a sense of warmth and community that I had not experienced for some time. Judging by the reverence and respect paid by the boys themselves to this significant occasion, I think they felt it too.
It is important to reflect on the fact that for some, the commencement of this year may not have been all they had hoped for. Some may be experiencing continued apprehension or worry for a whole range of reasons. It is important as the broader Whitefriars College family that we work together to support and encourage those who are finding the start of the year a little more challenging. My advice is to figuratively or literally, put your hand up for help. Reach out to those who will be walking most closely with you and your son – House Leaders, Pastoral Teachers, Directors of Students, Counsellors or anyone else you feel comfortable in contacting. We all know that small problems become big ones when left unattended.
I look forward writing to you in this space throughout the year and providing you some insight into life here in our great College. I hope and pray the year ahead is a positive, productive and hope filled one for us all.
I leave you with the address I gave to our community at our recent Leadership assembly.
Mr Mark Murphy
Leadership Assembly 2022 – Principal’s Address
Good morning, Staff and students, and members of the Whitefriars College family, it is wonderful to be here with you this morning as we celebrate and commission the student leaders of our great College for 2022.
I would like to congratulate all those students who put themselves forward for leadership positions regardless of whether you attained a position or not. I firmly believe that one of the most courageous things a boy at Whitefriars can do is apply for student leadership. It’s courageous because when we aim high, there is a long way to fall when things don’t work out as we would have hoped – and that hurts!
Late last year we went through a comprehensive process to elect the Whitefriars College student leaders for 2022. I am very grateful to those of you who applied. Each of you have shown great courage as well as a love for and commitment to Whitefriars. I would like to congratulate those students who achieved positions of leadership. I am confident that each of you will carry out your roles in the true spirit of service in the Carmelite tradition.
One of the great leaders of our early Church was St. Paul. He was someone who did more to bring the good news of Jesus to this world than anyone before or since. More than this, he was a highly intelligent, versatile and skilled person – a speaker of at least seven languages, a persuasive and stirring orator, a creative and gifted writer, an accomplished sailor and soldier and a leader who could inspire those around him in the face of adversity and persecution.
It is in a letter to one of the communities that he met on his travels that gives us a clear mantra or message about the keys to leadership. In the first of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians he says this – Now these three things remain – faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
To lead we need faith. Faith in our ability, faith in the people around us who will support, guide and nurture us and faith in the God who has given us all we need. Another word for faith is belief. As leaders we need to believe in ourselves. More than this we need to have a firm and unshakeable set of beliefs which will guide the decisions we make to achieve our goals.
Hope, I believe is one of the most valuable attributes we can possess. Hope can sustain us when things get tough. When all seems lost, when those around us doubt us, or more importantly when we doubt ourselves, maintaining a positive attitude and a hopeful outlook will help us to see things through, to fulfil our potential and to achieve our goals.
I think John Lennon was channeling St. Paul when he penned the famous musical line, love is all you need. To be good leaders we need to love what we do. The greatest artists in history are so because they have a passion and love for their art form. The greatest leaders are those who have a genuine love for the people they serve. Love keeps us on track and ensures that what we are doing is motivated by a desire to make the world a better place, not so much for ourselves, but for those around us.
I am sure that each of you can think of people who have believed in you when others doubted. People who gave you hope when all seemed hopeless, people who loved you unconditionally even when you felt you didn’t deserve it.
Our Carmelite identity also provides us with some signposts on what it is to be a good and effective leader through our tenets of contemplation, community and service. As contemplative leaders we need to be reflective. As the prayer to the great leader and St. Oscar Romero said, it helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. In doing so we find perspective, we take time to listen to the views of others in our community, remembering always that all we do as leaders is motivated by a desire to serve others, particularly those in greatest need.
Finally, it is important that each of us remember that at different times and in different situations we all can lead, have a voice, and serve others. The challenge is having the courage to put ourselves out there, to take up the offer and to serve the Whitefriars community in faith hope and love.