From the Principal
In recent weeks I was privileged to attend the annual conference of the Association of Victorian Catholic School Principals, held in Creswick.
The conference theme was “Education From and For Faith” which may initially sound a little heavy but with a terrific presenter, the three days provided rich and fertile ground for discussing how to bring our Catholic faith into the lives of contemporary teenagers in our schools. Dr Thomas H Groome, Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College, Massachusetts, was our keynote speaker. Dr Groome also currently serves as Director of Boston College’s Church of the 21st Century whose mission is to be “a catalyst and resource for the renewal of the Catholic Church”. Growing up in County Kildare, Ireland, the youngest of ten children, Dr Groome is an outstanding speaker, very engaging with many tremendous anecdotes and stories, all illustrating his lifelong passion — that Catholic education be “from and for faith.” His main goal is to present religious education in a fashion which enables people to bring life to faith and faith to life.
The reason I mention my experience with Dr Groome is the way in which he was able to take the traditional messages of our Catholic experiences and make them relevant for education of our young people in our Australian Catholic schools. He believes Catholic education must reflect a “transcendent” take on life – looking a long way forward to the “ultimate horizon,” to make sense, find purpose, forge community, and receive help. Dr Groome’s intrinsic theme is that Catholic schools encourage every student to grow into fullness of life — to realise their potential, to bring values of God’s reign into the public domain and commit to social justice. In considering Dr Groome’s ideas, I couldn’t help but make the connections between his impressions and some terrific examples of our young men living out their commitment to our Catholic and Lasallian ethos.
On Tuesday afternoon I went along to see a group of our Year 9 students presenting their Intergenerational Projects in St Joseph’s Parish Hall in the culmination of their six-week immersion with JoCare. JoCare is a free service supported by St Joseph’s Malvern and Cabrini Health. Their vision is of encouraging friendship and support within neighbourhoods in the local Malvern area. People in the Malvern area are welcome as volunteers or recipients of the services offered by JoCare. Organised by Ms Elizabeth O’Connell, Year 9 In9uiry Coordinator, the 15 students worked with JoCare service as an expression of their Christian faith in action. It was also an opportunity to be of “service to their neighbour as a means of connecting with others and as fulfilling their desire to build community.”
For six weeks these students met with an older person from the community, getting to know them, listening to their stories from a bygone era and providing friendship, support and connection. The presentation on Tuesday was a summary of what they had learned about their JoCare companions’ life and what they now understood and appreciated about people from that generation. The students wondered at the stark differences between their companions’ lives and their own brief and privileged experiences. It was beautiful to see and hear the obvious affection the students developed for their JoCare companions and in presenting a booklet with scanned copies of precious old photos and flowers or a gift, I saw our young men find real purpose, forge community and a commitment to making others’ lives better. The JoCare and Cabrini staff were tremendously impressed with the De La boys, and it was an enriching experience which will remain an integral feature of their Catholic education. Dr Groome would approve, I’m sure!
Mr Peter Houlihan