To the family and friends of the St Edmund’s community,
Last week I wrote in Vortex and spoke to our students on assembly about the need for all of us to be more aware of our neighbours – not the neighbours next door or in the same street or suburb, but the neighbours who are our fellow human beings; our neighbours who are of a culture, a religion, a sexuality, an appearance and a background different to our own. This is part of what I wrote last week, “As a school for boys, we must instil in our students a sense of right relationships. We cannot tolerate students teasing or mocking other students because of their weight or looks or sexuality or culture or academic ability or other individual differences. We must be a school that cultivates a good sense of neighbour and a good sense of right relationships. This includes relationships in the classroom, in the yard, on the oval, in sporting events, outside of school and in the way our boys relate to each other on social media. It includes the ways our boys not only relate to each other, but the way they relate to their teachers, their parents and family members and the general public. Having a strong sense of right relationships leads to a clear sense of who our neighbours are.”
By coincidence, I received an email earlier this week from an ex-student of about ten years ago. He expressed that he enjoyed his time at Eddies, thanks to good teachers and a good group of friends. He also wrote that he felt pressured to act in a certain way, a very masculine way, when this was not his natural tendency, and that in all his years at the College, no one had ever told him that it was okay to be different. He wrote of the very hyper-masculine culture at the time clearly stating, “I’m not blaming anyone for spreading this culture, but at the same time nobody did anything to stop it. Out of 100’s of anti-bullying seminars, assemblies and talks, not one addressed sexual orientation. Not one person said to us ‘it’s okay to be gay’, or even ‘it’s okay to be different’”. His last line was especially touching, when referring to our boys who might feel a little left out, “Give them the acceptance and understanding that I’ve only now just found.”
I would certainly hope that we are beginning to commence the process of addressing this issue at the College. As an Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) school, we follow and promote the four Touchstones of the EREA Charter – Liberating Educating, Gospel Spirituality, Inclusive Community and Justice & Solidarity. The Touchstone of Inclusive Community is particularly important to us in the context of this week’s message. The Touchstone reads: “Our community is accepting and welcoming, fostering right relationships and committed to the common good”. A further elaboration of this Touchstone explains that a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition, among other things:
“welcomes and values all members of the school community regardless of religion, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation or economic situation; and promotes social inclusion and views diversity as beneficial to a liberating education.” (http://www.erea.edu.au/about-us/the-charter)
I would hope that we do not have to rely on special programs to ensure that all of our students feel accepted and understood. I would hope that our sense of empathy, our sense of understanding and our sense of acceptance for all of our students emerges from who we are and where we are going as a community and from what we do and say every day, just as it should in the wider context of society and the world. I would hope that St Edmund’s College is a place where we can acknowledge our differences and celebrate diversity, where each young man who moves through the College develops a heart and mind that has been shaped by the light of Christ, allowing them to move into a world where they are true to their character and make a tangible difference in their own unique way.
In this third week of Lent, let us pray that our community is a community that recognises, supports and walks beside all of our “neighbours.” In the words of our 2019 scriptural theme, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
May the God who created a world of diversity and vibrancy,
Be with us as we embrace life in all its fullness.
May the Son who teaches us to care for strangers and foreigners,
Be with us as we try to be good neighbours in our communities.
May the Spirit who breaks down our barriers and celebrates community,
Be with us as we find the courage to create a place of welcome for all.
Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our Hearts, forever.
Christus Lux Mea
Mr Joe Zavone (College Principal)