From the Principal
It was a little startling to hear at Mass last week that it was the first Sunday of Advent.
While I was vaguely aware – in the heat of activity so typical of the last weeks of school – that Christmas wasn’t all that far away, it hardly seems possible it has arrived so quickly.
The Advent season is filled with preparation, waiting and expectation. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas — shopping and decorating, socialising and celebrating, cooking and cleaning. Too often, however, we are so busy with the material preparations that we lose sight of the real reason for our activity: it is worth taking some time out from the traditional pace of the season’s preparations to reflect on the spiritual focus of Christmas and its true meaning. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, it would be good to keep Advent a season of waiting and longing, of conversion and hope.
It is that theme of hope which I’d like to focus on a little today. In Luke’s Gospel from last Sunday, when Jesus pointed to his coming and the turmoil that may bring, he realised there would be anxiety. But he wanted anticipation. He wanted his people to stand tall and raise their heads. He wanted them to have hope.
These biblical, even mythical stories, may seem a little remote from us in 2015 but, when we look around at the truly tragic situations in the Middle East and resultant refugee crises, the Paris atrocities, climate change, poverty and disease, we need to source hope and optimism from somewhere. We often look to God in these situations to bring order to chaos or at least make some sense of it. I think now, perhaps more than ever, we need to have hope and look for it wherever we can.
As I come to the end of my first two years as principal I see tremendous evidence of hope and potential in all areas of our wonderful school. In so many ways, this hope comes from our students, who so consistently provide hope, inspiration and promise for the very bright future of our College.
Visit to Yarraville Special Development School
On Wednesday last week I was privileged to visit Yarraville Special Development School (YSDS) with our Year 11 VCAL class. The boys have been working with the YSDS students all year, visiting them fortnightly and helping in class, playing games, building a garden and providing companionship. While the staff and students at YSDS loved having the De La boys there, our students were the real winners as they learnt so much and provided so much in what is a very different learning environment.
Students in the Public Domain
This term I have been delighted to receive a range of positive comments from the public commending our students on their behaviour in the public domain. People have reported incidents as dramatic as our boys administering first aid to an unconscious man until paramedics arrived, to helping elderly people on public transport, making a difference to people’s lives in an Aged Care facility and just demonstrating traditional good manners on the tram. Given all the negativity and bad news we see every day, such examples of our young men simply doing the right thing because that’s what’s required is a source of hope for us all.
In a similar vein, I have had some terrific reports from our staff and students currently in India on the Coolies program. Working on a building site at a De La Salle school in Tuticorin, southern India, our 16 freshly graduated Year 12 students, led by teachers Michael Wilson, Clare Kennedy and Michael Petrie, are giving up the comforts of home to work as labourers six days a week for three weeks in pretty tough conditions on the site. This involves a significant chunk of their holidays as well, but the desire to be part of the Lasallian mission, to support our Lasallian partners in less fortunate conditions and just make a difference outweighs the sacrifices, aching bodies and blisters.
Year 12 Leadership Camp
Last weekend I joined the 2016 Year 12 Leaders on their Leadership Camp where they prepared for their roles next year. I was thrilled and impressed with their dedication, ambition, organisation and communication skills as they focused on plans for their individual Houses. The maturity and sense of unity and commitment evident was excellent as they worked on creative approaches to ensure the new House system and vertical pastoral care structures are embedded successfully.
College Master Plan
Preliminary work has begun on the College Master Plan, with a project manager and architectural firm appointed. Interviews, meetings and consultations are underway to map out the process and the myriad issues we need to address and external bodies we need to deal with to realise the vision and future mapped out in our Strategic Plan. I will provide details and updates as the plan takes shape in the early months of 2016.
Christmas Giving Tree
This year has seen the return of the Christmas Giving Tree to De La Salle. We contacted several charities and Berry Street Childhood Institute were delighted to accept our offer of donated gifts. Over the past week many, many families and staff have donated gifts suitable for a teenage boy or girl as per Berry Street’s request.
I am very grateful to all those in our De La Salle community who have once again demonstrated the Founder’s “preferential option for the poor” and so generously supported the Giving Tree campaign. Your support will certainly brighten up the lives of a great many young people on Christmas Day. Our students are certainly great ambassadors for the Lasallian charism and this is yet another example of the Christian attitudes of the fine young men we have at De La.
Blue and Gold Yearbook
Finally I would like to congratulate Jonathan Hewett and Leah Hartmann for the outstanding 2015 Blue and Gold magazine. It is a production of the highest quality and certainly presents a glowing representation of all which has happened and all that’s been achieved in the College this year.
On behalf of all in the College community, a particular thank you to Jonathan for his countless hours of photography, sorting and formatting to get the quality to the level where our Blue and Gold is such a tremendous record of College life for the students, staff, parents and Old Collegians to keep. Thank you also to Leah for her work and editorial skills and advice on the layout and formatting of the pages, photographs and articles. I’m sure you’ll agree the whole magazine reflects the skills and dedication (and many, many hours) invested by Jonathan and Leah. Thank you as well to those who helped in any way, especially those who contributed the articles which paint such a terrific picture of our 2015 experiences in all aspects of the College.
Mr Peter Houlihan