From the Principal

Since the last edition of Duce we have celebrated Founder’s Day on Friday 12 May.

This is always a significant date in our College calendar and at all Lasallian schools as we take the time to reflect and give thanks for the extraordinary legacy of St John Baptist de La Salle. In a local context we acknowledge the wonderful work done by generations of De La Salle Brothers here in Malvern. We are all familiar with the Lasallian story, with the Founder starting an educational system from humble beginnings in Reims. However, I wonder how many of us are aware of the extent of that legacy, with more than one million students engaged in Lasallian education today, in 81 countries, covering primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

Three points stood out for me on this Founder’s Day. Firstly, celebrating the day with the Eucharist in a very meaningful way with over 1100 students and 150 staff, enhanced by the wonderful manner of Fr John Sherman OMI and the significant input and involvement of so many students across the year levels. Secondly, it was terrific to have three De La Salle Brothers present for Mass, given the nature of the celebration at hand — Director of the Malvern Community, Br Michael Carroll, the very fit (94 year old) Br Julian Watson and staff member Br Paul Toohey. Their presence on Founder’s Day served as a reminder of the 105 year tradition of De La Salle Brothers at Malvern as we reflected on 330 years of Lasallian education worldwide. Thirdly, the celebration following Mass was a terrific example of the community spirit which exists and is so strongly evident at De La Salle. The work of the student leaders and Ms Lisa Harkin in driving the planning, organisation and administration for the day’s activities was a wonderful testament to the Lasallian spirit and practical application of our Five Core Principles.

Planning and administration is well underway for this year’s Year 12 Social Justice Immersion experience in Sri Lanka. Deputy Principal — Faith and Mission, Mrs Rana Brogan, writes in more detail about the program elsewhere in this edition of Duce. In addition to the obvious mutual benefits for students from both countries the newly re-named Yaluwo Program creates a concrete international relationship between our College and the De La Salle Brothers in Diyagala Boys’ Town. This partnership is designed to be a three to five year commitment. Following my visit to Diyagala in April, we were thrilled to have Br Denzil Perera from Boys’ Town visit Malvern last month. While enjoying the visit and the chance to look around an Australian Lasallian school, Br Denzil elaborated on the importance of the developing relationship between our two schools. They are very excited about our selecting Boys’ Town as the location for the Year 12 students’ visits. We are both well aware of the importance and the benefits of our young men from Melbourne working alongside a variety of De La Salle Brothers in several settings in and around Colombo. As these men demonstrate in a very real and practical way their commitment to their Lasallian ministry it sets a wonderful example for our students. They gain a terrific insight and appreciation of what supporting the poor can really mean, beyond the usual pleasant surroundings of Malvern.

Last week I was privileged to attend the 2017 Conference for PAVCSS (Principals Association of Victorian Catholic Secondary Schools) held in Marysville. The principal presenter for two of the days was Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, a Dominican priest from Oxford. The Chancellor of the University of Oxford describes Fr Timothy as, “a man distinguished both for eloquence and for wit, a master theologian who has never disregarded ordinary people, a practical man who believes that religion and the teachings of theology must be constantly applied to the conduct of public life.” Fr Timothy, was also Master of the Dominican Order and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas.

It was Fr Timothy’s theme of applying learnings from religion and theology to everyday life which struck a chord with me. There was obviously far too much material to analyse or summarise in this article but his presentation and analysis of the parable of the Prodigal Son was instructive in relation to dealing with adolescents and young adults.

In unpacking the motivations, behaviours, actions and reactions of the two sons and the father, Fr Timothy took us down themes such as: The issues of childhood today, grabbing maturity, coming home, fleeing adulthood, taking time, taking the first step, cherishing the child’s dignity and celebration.

The Prodigal Son is a very instructive story – about a drama of any young man growing up, trying to grab onto adulthood, but he’s not yet ready. It’s Dad who seems to be standing between him and having a good time. Does this sound familiar? In the end the father is the one who demonstrates what it means to be grown up – demonstrating compassion, wisdom and common sense, as most of us do (most of the time), as parents and teachers.

There is also a salient lesson for our young men in the situation and response of the prodigal son himself. To cope with adversity, say yes to life and embrace it; swim upstream when you have to, accepting that this is your stream, regardless of how well it suits you at the time, or how difficult it is. We will all get it wrong at times as we navigate life, but to be resilient, to concede you may have messed up and set about atoning in a mature fashion is an important life skill.

Last Monday evening 22 May, I was delighted to work with over 100 Year 7 mother and son pairs at our annual Time and Space evening. Mr Bill Jennings from Time and Space guided attendees through a two hour seminar/workshop culminating in structured conversations between the mothers and their sons. These are always wonderful community and family events. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from both the mothers and the students, as it creates a meaningful and significant opportunity to genuinely focus on each other in a one-on-one conversation, something many of us struggle to organise or make time for in our busy lives. Thank you to Ms Haylene Peipert, Personal Development Coordinator and the range of staff, students and parents who came along to support the evening’s program.

Finally, on a sad note, can I ask you to keep in your prayers Mrs Jean Brodrick, mother of long-term staff member, Mr Tim Brodrick. Mrs Brodrick passed away on Sunday after a short illness, aged 88. The funeral will be held on Friday.

Eternal rest grant unto Jean, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 07 - 25 May 2017