To the friends and families of the St Edmund’s community,
Vibrant Spirit. Strong Character. Tailored Learning
Our Year 12 Graduation Day events last Friday marked the formal end of school for our Year 12 students. The Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral, Farewell Assembly at school and the Graduation Dinner at the Southern Cross Club combined to form a fitting and dignified finale for our students and I could not have been more proud of our Year 12 boys.
I thank the following members of staff who worked very hard in ensuring the success of all Graduation events last Friday: Mr Michael Monagle, Ms Bridget Cusack, Ms Carmela Wilson, Mr Peter Langford, Mrs Margaret Thomas, Mrs Julie Dachs, Mr Jacob Knowles, Mr Dale Argall, Mrs Tracey Brown, Mrs Elizabeth Mitchell, Mrs Linda James, Ms Leanne Gair and Mr Ian Garrity
I also sincerely thank Mrs Kaylie Stuart (mother of Jed, Year 12) for providing the heartfelt parent address at the Graduation Dinner and our College chaplain Fr Dan Benedetti for celebrating Mass for us in the morning.
I would like to share with you my address to Year 12 students and parents from last Friday evening in the hope that there is something here that resonates with you to share with your son.
Principal’s Address, 2019 Graduation Dinner.
Last weekend my wife and I attended the Annual EREA Leaders Thanksgiving Mass and Dinner in Melbourne. On Saturday morning, before we caught our flight, I took the dog to the pet boarding so they could look after him for the weekend. I turned the car radio on as I normally do, and the song that was playing caught my attention. It was a song called Young, Dumb and Broke by a singer called Khalid – not a new song as it was released in 2017 – but it was new to me. I didn’t mind the tune, but the words troubled me a little with the message. Now because I am of a certain age, I didn’t understand all of the words, so I Googled the lyrics to Young, Dumb and Broke a few days later. At the risk of sounding like an old man, I still didn’t like the message of the song.
If I have it right, the song is saying that adult life brings with it many responsibilities, stress and worries, so it’s okay to be young, dumb and broke as a teenager because that will soon change. Now I can deal with the young part – you can’t help being young, that’s a natural thing. But it was the broke part, and especially the dumb part, that really had me worried. The song is saying that it’s okay to be ignorant, it’s okay not to take notice of the world around you, it’s okay not to take an interest in things just because you’re young.
My wife knows that when I come across something I don’t like, I often say, “I’m going to write them a letter!” (which I never do!). Well I felt like writing Khalid a letter. And in that letter I would express my disappointment that he was selling young people short, and I would explain to him that I come across young people every single day who do more than just want to be young, dumb and broke. I would explain that we work in and go to a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition, a school that implores us in its values and touchstones to be more than who we are; to reach beyond ourselves and take notice of the people around us, and if they need help, we give them that help. If they don’t have a voice, we give them a voice. If they are being treated unjustly, we respond with justice. If they are experiencing conflict, we offer them peace.
We are in a school environment that asks of us this question – do we give the best of ourselves in every encounter we have? Do we demonstrate the fullness of who we are and who God wants us to be in every encounter we have?
One of my favourite writers is a Benedictine nun called Sr. Joan Chittister – she writes about personal authenticity. She writes that “The more equipped I am to distinguish the me I want, from the me everybody else wants me to be, the more likely I am to become it”.
She also writes, “The power that comes with self-discovery at any age catalyses us. It drives the young; it surprises the middle aged; it emboldens those who might be tempted to declare life over before it has even truly begun. Now, I can stop doing what everyone else wants me to do and begin to care more about what God has made me to do”. Notice how Chittister writes of self-discovery at any age, including the young (as opposed to Khalid’s theme of being young and dumb).
I have seen these words of Chittister alive this in the group of young men sitting in front of me this evening.
I saw it in the email sent to me by the mother of a Year 7 boy after they both attended the Rugby Grand Final. The mother wrote how the captain of the First XV overwhelmed them both with his sportsmanship and leadership – this is part of what she wrote: “What impressed my son and I was the composure and leadership by the First XV captain as he led his team on to the field. Also during the game, he was the first player to go over on check on injured players for both teams and articulated clear and calm messages to his team. There was no swearing or carrying on. I told my son after the game that is what every young Eddies boy should aspire to be. He is a natural leader and was a fantastic captain”. Mind you, this is no surprise as the First XV Captain is from the son of the person who in my eyes demonstrated the highest pinnacle of sportsmanship after the NRL Grand Final with his dignified, graceful and respectful silence about the injustice displayed during that game.
But it wasn’t only in sport that I’ve seen the great words of Joan Chittister in our young men.
I have seen it in one of our students who came from overseas and joined us in the last few years. A student who grew up in abject and absolute poverty; poverty which we cannot even begin to imagine. This young man took advantage of every opportunity and has achieved amazing things, finishing his schooling with success and pride.
I have seen it in the words of another Year 12 student who, when a few weeks ago I asked him how he felt about finishing school, he explained to me that coming to this school is not like going to school at all – it was more like coming into a positive, friendly community every day and he loved coming to school every day.
I’ve seen Chittister’s words come alive in the way some of our boys have handled a sad loss in their families; in the way that they allow themselves to grieve but are still there to look after other family members and ensure that they are all travelling well.
I’ve seen the words come alive in the way some of our Year 12 boys worked with the very young students from the Islamic School of Canberra for whom we organised an athletics carnival recently – in the sensitive, caring and supportive approach they took. This also emerges in the outstanding way in which some of our boys interact with our own younger students in coaching and in tutoring – with a great sense of gentle leadership.
I’ve seen the words of Chittister evident in the way our boys commit themselves to whatever task is at hand, whether this be their academic studies, or their school-based apprenticeship, or their co-curricular life. I’ve also seen the words in the way in which our senior boys support each other, providing each other with a firm foundation, standing beside each other with friendship and unity.
I have seen the words come alive during the last week of lessons for Year 12, where each student finished in the way we asked them to finish – with pride and with dignity – and in raising themselves up to this level they raised the others around them. Year 12 – thank you so much for finishing in a way that showed us who you really are.
I have seen the words of Joan Chittister come alive every day by our boys in so many different ways. I have also seen these words come alive through the number of emails I have received from parents here tonight, expressing to me their sadness at having their last son go through St Edmund’s and having their formal connection with the College coming to an end. Each parent described how well their son has grown up and what a positive difference the College community has made in his life.
I have seen the words come alive with our parents who took a risk every single day by giving us your boys hoping that we can do something good with them. You want them to be distinguished, to stand out from the crowd and to be young man of vibrant spirit and strong character. I hope that we have served you well in this.
Joan Chittister says that when we refuse to listen to the call within us to live life to the full, we fossilise ourselves; we become fossils, we remain static. So boys, don’t fossilise yourself – don’t remain static. Try to live your life to the full and be the person you want to be and you should be, not the person that blends in and gets lost in the crowd. Make the most of every single encounter in your life. You have the choice now of listening to the wise words of 83 year old Sr. Joan Chittister, or the words of 21 year old Khalid about being young, dumb and broke.
In Italian we say “Tanti auguri e cammina con Dio” – best wishes and walk with God. Boys, it has been an absolutely pleasure and privilege to work alongside you for the past two years. Thank you for everything you have given this College and we look forward to seeing everything you have to give the world.
A Prayer for the Graduating Class of 2019
May you have Wisdom in heart and mind,
Success in every challenge you find,
Courage to seek life’s purpose for you,
Belief in yourself to make it come true,
Strength to do your best and endure,
And the guiding light of Faith to ensure that whatever you do,
God’s Love will always see you through.
(Lisa O. Engelhradt)
Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Christus Lux Mea
Joe Zavone (College Principal)