From the Principal

As I sit down to draft this article, I have just returned from a conversation with about eight of the Year 11 students who have just made their way back to Malvern from De La Salle High School, Bomana in Papua New Guinea.

The annual Year 11 immersion experience is an integral component of our commitment to our well-established social justice program, a living example of our boys contributing to the Core Lasallian Principles of justice, faith and inclusiveness.

It was terrific to have an informal chat with the Year 11 students and listen to them describe their experiences in Bomana. In speaking about why they actually elected to volunteer for the immersion experience the boys offered a range of ideas:

I had heard how tough conditions were up in PNG and just wanted the opportunity to give something, to contribute to their community.”

We know we live a pretty privileged lifestyle here in Melbourne compared to the families at Bomana, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to take myself out of my comfort zone and help out in their school for a while.”

We always raise heaps of money at Mission Action Day so I wanted to see where some of it was actually spent and what a difference we were making with our fundraising.”

The 12 days’ work were spent on a range of building and maintenance tasks, primarily renovating a rundown Year 9 classroom block. Removing and replacing wall panels, sanding, painting, laying a concrete path and building stairs and landings were the main activities. In the hot and humid Port Moresby tropical climate this represented a significant challenge for most of the party, yet the most impressive aspect of the boys’ summary of the week was their stated willingness and capacity to deal with these challenges. The labour, the heat, the sleeping conditions didn’t raise a single complaint. In fact, it was these challenges and difficulties which provided most of the rewards. The boys acknowledged it was tough at times but having been through it, made their contribution and returned safely home they are justifiably proud of their achievements. Seeing the upgrades and improvements to the classrooms they were able to effect in their short time at Bomana is a source of great satisfaction.

The aspects of the trip the students most enjoyed were interesting as well. For some it was the visible, physical difference they were able to make to the environment of their Lasallian cousins, others enjoyed the manual labour and they all found that the opportunity to establish relationships with the PNG boys was a great experience. However, the most common theme was the simple notion of being able to give, to support and to genuinely make a physical and social difference in the lives of a group of Lasallian kids less fortunate than themselves.

Besides the obvious links to the Core Principles mentioned above and a deeper connection to our College’s social justice initiatives the Year 11 students’ immersion in Bomana and their personal descriptions of their experiences point to their own version of a Lasallian spirituality.

One of the most influential USA Lasallians, Br John Johnston said,

Spirituality is a blessing for all those who view their work as a ministry and a way to realise their human and spiritual potential. It is at the heart of association for the Lasallian mission. It can help us to strengthen our faith in our way of life and our mission and it contributes to the building up of living educational communities which shine by their witness and their actions….lay people are now carrying out the main part of the mission to young people.”

It was both moving and a source of great pride for me, as a Principal, to hear our students speak in such mature and generous terms of their work in PNG. Perhaps it is not overtly religious but it was most certainly an expression of the students’ spirituality and ministry – a noble deed done well for the betterment of others. These are great young men; typical of our cohort with whom we are all fortunate to work.

With next week being the final week of classes for Year 12 students, I would like to pass on a few simple messages. There has been a lot of communication and correspondence between the College, the Year 12 students and their parents and there will be more in this Duce, but the following advice seems to work well each year.

The remaining days of scheduled classes are crucial; invaluable opportunities for revision, support, input, advice and strategy with the Year 12 teachers and indeed peers. NO classes can afford to be missed in this time. Once school formally concludes on Tuesday 24 October, Year 12 classes will continue to run up until the respective exams. If any student finds themselves procrastinating, looking for guidance, structure, feedback etc. they should most definitely come in and work with their teachers.

On Monday, we had four of our most successful 2016 students return to the College and present to the current Year 12 students about the very best ways to use the time between now and each exam. This was a terrific session and I must encourage all the Year 12 students to heed this advice.

In closing, this exciting period at the end of thirteen years of school throws up many temptations. For the boys, they must avoid any actions or behaviour which:

1. Poses a risk to their safety and wellbeing, or that of others;
2. Causes any damage to property, either within the College or beyond; or
3. Compromises the good name of the College.

It is a terrible shame when a student’s poor choices place at risk his leave to attend the various end of year/graduation functions. Given the positive nature of our student body I am confident this will not be an issue we need to deal with.

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 15 - 12 October 2017