From the Principal
Welcome to our final Duce for what has been – as ever – a very hectic Term 1. With so many events, activities, sporting commitments (including triumphs) wedged in among the critical first term’s learning agenda, all at the College will be looking forward to a break after next Friday’s Mission Action Day.
This week I’d like to offer a reflection from last Sunday’s Gospel, coupled with a writing on a Lasallian Easter, and present a contemporary analogy with our community’s efforts in fundraising hopefully in excess of $100,000 at Friday’s Mission Action Day walkathon.
St John’s Gospel from Sunday told the story of a tired and thirsty Jesus asking the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. The themes and meaning behind the extract relate to identifying; for what do we really thirst, from where do we gain meaning and gratification, how do we gather the strength and wisdom to make the right choices?
As I was attending Mass at St Joseph’s Malvern with one of the 2016 Year 12 Coolies, it occurred to me there were many parallels between the Gospel and our students, indeed our community’s commitment to the poor and our emphasis on social justice. With the traditional family involvement in parish life waning and the place of formal religion in our society also not what it used to be, there exists a vacuum as to where we search for and find meaning in our lives. For many of our students this void is filled through their commitment to and involvement in the Lasallian charism.
In answer to the Gospel’s question, “For what do we really thirst?” the answer for our community is often just the opportunity to do well, to better ourselves, the Lasallian principle to see a need and make a difference. This is surely a noble sentiment for our young men to carry into the 21st century and one that has served very well not only our Coolies each year but also the wider student body as they commit to the support of needy Lasallians through next week’s Mission Action Day.
In October last year six Year 12 students, bound for the Coolies social justice immersion in India, presented to the three weekend Masses at St Joseph’s. The boys spoke of their desire to commit time, manpower, labour and money to the building project at a Lasallian school near Madurai, and St Joseph’s parishioners very generously donated funds to support the Coolies’ works. In return, the boys returned to speak at last week’s Masses to report on their experience and how the funds were disbursed.
It was a humbling experience to hear young men of 18 years of age speak so passionately about what had clearly meant a great deal to them. Each night of the four and half week trip a student would lead a reflection and discussion around why they came to India, what they hoped to get out of it, what they were enjoying, what they found confronting and challenging and how the experience was affecting them. On Sunday the boys spoke with passion, maturity, empathy and great sincerity of the profound impact their Indian immersion had had on them.
Their comments were certainly in keeping with what I heard from the rest of the group on the trip when I spent two weeks with them in December. These young men who went to India “thirsted for something” more than the typical post-Year 12 partying of ‘Schoolies’. They found meaning in giving. They gave time and sweat (and a little skill) to the building projects, but perhaps the greatest gift they gave was presence and empathy to the many Indian students in Boys Town, Madurai. The local kids just loved having their fellow Lasallians visit from Australia, to mix with them, chat in broken English (we had NO Tamil!) play cricket, volleyball and basketball and to share their environment.
The experience was very challenging for many of the Malvern boys. Distance from home, first overseas trip for many, heat and dirt, basic accommodation, cold showers, handwashing laundry, a foreign diet (three very similar meals a day) the inevitable stomach upsets and associated illness, some homesickness and pretty demanding labouring all provided a genuine test of character. In spite of all this the students’ resilience and devotion to duty shone through, and by the second and third weeks the mood had switched from one of survival to pride, collaboration, unity gained through tackling adversity and the gratification gained from knowing they were making a difference. The building project was coming along, maybe a little slowly but it was transforming into something promising which would benefit the community. The three weeks’ labour were coming to an end and spirits were noticeably higher, buoyed by meaningful achievement.
Like the life-giving water Christ spoke of in the Gospel our students gained an ongoing strength, gratification, satisfaction and a terrific sense of achievement. To understand first-hand the difference between a comfortable life in suburban Melbourne and the poverty their Lasallian brothers happily endur in India was a life changing experience for the boys. They most certainly felt they had made the right choice in coming to India and the experience would enable them to make worthy choices in the future.
This project which provided so much for the Madurai community and the De La Salle boys who visited, can only really be possible through the generosity and spirit of the wider Malvern community through Mission Action Day fundraising. With a week still to go I implore all families to support and encourage the students in gaining sponsorship. The positive impact these funds have in impoverished Lasallian schools in India, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam cannot be underestimated. Our donations are literally life-changing in relation to the facilities, equipment and resources we can provide through MAD funds.
As this is the final Duce before Easter I would like to pass on some extracts from A Lasallian Lent – Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving by Brother Jeffrey L. Calligan, FSC. An American, Br Jeff is well known to many of us in Malvern from his years here and personally from his delivery of a course I attended in 2015-16.
I see parallels between Br Jeff’s suggestions as to how we can take action in Lent and what we are aspiring to achieve at De La Salle. Supporting others through Mission Action Day and planned improvements to our teaching and learning program have explicit and obvious connections with Br Jeff’s writings.
I would also like to congratulate both the 1st and 2nd XI ACC Cricket teams. Both teams were victorious in their respective Grand Finals on Wednesday. A special thank you to 1st XI coach Marty Rhoden who has overseen these five premierships; his coaching, mentoring and advising the students inspires great deeds! Peter Larsen has also been a stalwart of senior ACC cricket, taking charge of the 2nds for many years and his premiership is well deserved and certainly a just return for the boys’ great season.
Finally, I wish you all a restful and safe holiday over the two week break. May you all enjoy the opportunity to relax with family and friends, recharge a little and enjoy a happy and holy Easter period. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in and around the College for the myriad events of Term 2 – especially our Mother’s Day Breakfast on Wednesday 3 May.
Mr Peter Houlihan