Founder’s Day Mass – Perspectives on Faith and Service

On Thursday 5 May, the staff and students from St Edmund’s College celebrated our Founder’s Day. We began in Mass together, at St Christopher’s where Ms Gair addressed our community, and presented students with a challenge regarding the importance of genuinely living out faith and service at St Edmund’s.

Good Morning, Father Chris, and thank you for celebrating Mass. I too would like to extend a warm welcome to our special guests; our Faith and Service award winners, Ms Colin Rodgers, Mr Jim Rice and our own, Daniel De Bruin.  It is so meaningful to have you here with us to help celebrate Founder’s Day.  And of course, welcome to our parents, the staff and students from our visiting schools, and our Eddies staff and students.

I want to talk with you today about why we celebrate days like this, Founder’s Day, and why it is so important that we begin our day in Mass together. It is essential that before we can do, be, or aspire to be anything else, we must first recognise that our core business, is to animate the will of God. We must understand that the reason for our school existing in this community, is so we can, like our Founder, Edmund Rice, meet and serve those who are less privileged than us; who are at the margins. Like our chapel that is strategically and symbolically situated in the quad, which is the center of our school, it serves as a reminder that Christ, the catholic ethos and the charism of Edmund Rice should be at the center, or heart of all that we do.

Engaging in Mass together is one way we can develop our sense of spirituality, and we talk about that all the time at Eddies… having spirit.  Anyone who is educated at St Edmund’s has heart and soul. Celebrating and Engaging in Mass is an important outward expression of faith. It is an avenue to both teach and learn about unconditional love, empathy, compassion and the importance of being in relationship with one another.

So what is faith?

In a strictly religious sense, it is a belief in God and religious doctrines, but it can also be a trust that there is goodness in us all. It can be having the confidence to know that good things can happen when we have faith, even when faced with much adversity. It is our ability to stop and see the potential in everything, the beauty in the word, and feel gratitude that some miracle has occurred to make it so.  In essence, faith it is the belief in something greater than ourselves.

Why is faith so important for us here at St Edmund’s College?

When we have faith, we solidify our relationship with Christ, and we then in turn feel compelled to respond authentically to his call to action. This means, we have a desire to go out into the community and to genuinely, serve others, without counting the cost to ourselves. Faith is so important, because it helps each of us, sitting in this cathedral today, to recognise our privileged positions. It helps us to understand we have a responsibility to do what we can in big or small acts of kindness, to help restore the worth and dignity in those who have otherwise lost hope, and feel unworthy.

So, having faith, compels us into action, into service and in turn, we are rewarded with increased meaning and purpose in our own lives.

I started at this school, as you have heard, in 2003, 20 years ago. There is not one of you boys sitting here in this cathedral that was even alive back then. I have spent 20 out of my 41 years alive, at St Edmund’s College. When I first applied for my job, I remember all of my friends asking ‘why on earth would you want to work at a school like Eddies?  It was a valid question, and in the beginning, my standard response was something like “well, why not, it’s a job isn’t it?”

It didn’t take me long to realise that teaching at Eddies was not for the faint hearted. It was challenging, it was confrontational, it was relentless and emotionally exhausting. But, amidst all this, I realized something else… That I felt this contagious, compelling and powerful force, continuing to develop inside of me. It was my connectedness to this community and commitment to investing in these relationships. It was the consequence of me having witnessing the long and enduring culture of service at Eddies. So, despite applying for, and getting various other teaching positions and a position in a totally different field, I knew I had to stay…  not only in teaching, but in teaching specifically at this school. I worked out that teaching at Eddies, guided by the catholic ethos and the Edmund Rice charism, required a genuine sense of faith and a commitment to serve others in the community. I accepted the challenge, to try my best to provide catholic leadership, and the challenge to ensure that I never again saw teaching as just a job, but as a vocation, dedicated to providing service for others. At Eddies, when we express our faith, and accept Christ’s call to serve others, we are all open to both giving and receiving an education of the heart.

It is at this point that I would like to acknowledge Mr. Carlo Sorrentino- if teaching is a vocation that demands selfless dedication for the betterment of others, 40 years in this service leadership position is an accomplishment indeed.  Thank you, Carlo on behalf of all our students, past and present, for the investment and commitment you have made the boys and the development of this community.

I’m sure our award winners would also agree, that being connected to a school that focuses on nurturing a strong faith and serving others, has a contagious effect on us all. You can’t exist here, living in the Edmund Rice traditions without seeing and feeling a call to action. To belong to this community, means you recognise that faith and service are not words on a page, but are practical and hands on acts of kindness that help restore the dignity for others.

How do we animate this call to action at Eddies?  

We grant the most precious gift we could give to others… our time, and continued relationship with them. We are dedicated to:  Collecting goods to donate to Karinya House, so that we contribute to the safety and wellbeing of women and children in our local community.

We walk the pavements and collect whatever people have to share for the Vinnies Door Knock Appeal, so that we can provide funds to support those who feel devalued.

We donate blood through Red Cross to help the sick or vulnerable feel less alone.

We commit our limited resources, so we can send our teachers and students on mission to places like Darwin, The Tiwi Islands, South Africa, P and G, and India, because we know the importance of connecting with, and being present for those in less privileged positions in our global community.

We sleep rough, so we can help raise awareness about homelessness and mental health.

We make Christmas hampers to help bring joy to families in challenging circumstances.

We serve from the back of food vans, so that we not only fill the empty stomachs of those who feel lost, but we can fill their hearts and minds with faith too.

We cook for and serve those at HOME in QBN so that those without anywhere to go, have a place of respite and, we, each year look for more opportunities to solidify our relationship with Christ; to do what Edmund Rice did and ‘give to the poor in handfuls”.

A quote from our founder, that resonated with me and helped me understand faith and service At St Edmund’s was that we should all Have faith and courage, for the good seed will grow up in the all the children’s hearts, now, or  later on.”

This quote really does encourage us to all have this awakening experience. I can tell you, that I still, regularly get asked “why would you want to work at Eddies?”  and I have not in as long as I can remember ever said, “well, why not, it’s a job isn’t it”. I confidently explain that it is our Edmund Rice interpretation, and our animation and understanding of faith, spirituality and service that consequently lead to my sense of belonging and connection that make me want to remain a part of the Eddies community. I tell them it is because everyone who experiences Eddies, feels compelled to “turn up “for each other, to provide love, kindness, empathy and compassion.

What is my challenge for you all in here today?

It is to think more deeply than you have before about what faith and service is. I want you, to within the sphere of your influence, authentically go out, like our award winners, like our founder, Edmund Rice and look for these extra opportunities to give selflessly to the needy in our community. Go and make positive contributions that make the world a better place.

Leanne Gair
Head of House