From the Principal

Yesterday all De La Salle staff joined with Kilbreda College, Mentone, Killester College, Springvale and selected staff from Star of the Sea, Gardenvale for our annual Staff Spirituality / Formation Day. Now in its fourth year, this event is an important opportunity for all of our staff to take a break from the daily commitment to teaching, administration, students, maintenance, ICT, finance etc and join all in the school for a full day connecting with our Catholic faith.

In our frantic times, it is sometimes a little too easy to focus on the everyday demands of learning, wellbeing and co-curricular activities and forget who we are as a College and why we are here. As our Latin motto, Deo Duce (With God as Leader) reminds us, we are first and foremost a Catholic, faith-based community. Our roots are in the Lasallian tradition, but without the Catholic church, there would have been no St John Baptist de La Salle!

Our presenter and facilitator for the Formation Day was Fr Timothy Radcliffe, a Dominican friar of the English Province. Fr Timothy entered the Dominican Order in 1965 and ordained a priest in 1971. Fr Timothy taught Holy Scripture at Oxford University at Blackfriars and was elected Provincial of England in 1988. In 1992 he was elected Master of the Dominican Order and held that office until 2001. During his tenure as Master, he was ex officio Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome. In 2001, Fr Timothy resumed life as a member of the Dominican community of Oxford. He is now a highly sought-after speaker, teaching and preaching in many countries. In 2003, Fr Timothy was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, the University’s highest honorary degree. In 2007, his book What Is the Point of Being A Christian? was honoured with The Michael Ramsey Prize for theological writing.

In 2015 Fr Timothy was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Fr Timothy is Patron of the International Young Leaders Network and helped launch Las Casas Institute, dealing with issues of ethics, governance and social justice.

We were very fortunate to have such an engaging, challenging and humorous speaker. Fr Timothy is currently touring Victoria and suburban Melbourne, where he has been heavily booked by Catholic schools eager to hear his views on a range of contemporary topics relevant to our church and schools. I spent two days with Fr Timothy at the Catholic Principals Conference last year and, on Tuesday night, attended his lecture at St Kevin’s where he spoke to the question of “What is the future of the Church?” During his month in Victoria, Fr Timothy is speaking to over 5000 Catholic school staff, much to the betterment of all.

Fr Timothy spoke on three main topics, selected from a list of about 24 he offered the organising team. All of his points rang true with relevance for all of us, regardless of our position, length of experience, religious affiliation or level of devotion. With his vast experience in visiting Dominican communities in so many areas of the world, including impoverished, violent and war-torn areas, Fr Timothy’s presentations, views and examples made for fascinating and relevant listening. I will provide just a snapshot of the key ideas in each one.

Keynote 1 – Let them be one: Catholic Identity

  • The unity evident within Catholic identity is a sign and symbol of the unity of humanity
  • Hope is shared, destiny is common, we must look out for each other
  • Welcome the stranger
  • Confront church abuse with honesty and compassion
  • It is not enough to simply apologise – we must know their pain and despair, share their issues
  • Respect people as equals
  • Face the failure with open eyes and hope — apply our failures and use them to build hope and renewal

Keynote 2 – What hope are we offering the young? The witness of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East

  • The young are the future, in these areas especially
  • The future belongs to those who teach the young to hope
  • If you want hope, go to the places that seem hopeless
  • Hope and optimism so important, and where life is grim there is hope in God
  • Look for the creativity in our students to express hope

Keynote 3 — Can we all feel at home in the Church?

  • Jesus welcomes all unconditionally, now and always
  • We’re all invited to belong if we want (Church, school, Christian society ) — the paradox is that at the same time Jesus said be perfect, forgive, walk the extra mile, be holy
  • Any friendship worthy of the name changes you for the better
  • Best friends make you believe you can do things you didn’t believe you could do — the role of teachers crucial here in supporting students
  • If you protest against church teaching and feel you cannot belong, you actually fit in! The church needs protestors to debate and challenge

The three keynotes were followed by a Panel Session with Fr Timothy and two staff representatives from each of the four schools.

In following themes of the importance of listening, questioning, hope and acceptance Fr Timothy had valuable and positive messages for us all. His engaging, challenging, humorous and relevant presentations made for a wonderful day reflecting on our Catholic faith and identity and where it fits in our daily work at De La Salle.

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2018 11 - 10 August 2018