It’s hard to put words around the emotions that I felt late yesterday afternoon when we received news of the snap lockdown. No doubt many of you felt the same. I was recalling this time last year when we were in the midst of the extended lockdown and we were navigating our way through the impact of COVID19 touching our own community. At that time I remember thinking about our College values and in particular the value of ‘hope’. At the time I shared with our community a reflection from Julia Baird in her book ‘Phosphorescence’ (2020). She reflected on how in dark days the search for the light within can be powerful. To me, it was a reflection on what can bring hope. She reminds us that in these times it is important to:
not underestimate the power of the ordinary
seek awe in nature daily
embrace friends and family, doubt and faith, imperfection and mess
and live deliberately.
Last night as some students and families came to school to collect essential items to support them in their learning I noticed a power in the ordinariness of this activity. I noticed the care and concern of parents supporting their daughters. I noticed how important learning was to the girls as they really wanted to have tools to support their ongoing work. I noticed the power of the Arts, as instruments, artworks and folios were collected. I noticed the power of community as students had lists of things they were collecting for friends. I noticed the power of gratitude as students and families thanked staff who had stayed back late to make this happen. This brought me hope and reminded me of the power of the small things in dark times.
Earlier this week staff gathered for our annual Staff Spirituality Day. Due to COVID restrictions on staff gatherings, we conducted our learning fully online. I am extremely grateful to Linda Kiernan, our Director of Catholic Identity who worked at short notice with our IT team to facilitate our learning in an online format. This year we focused on Catholic Social Teaching – ‘What’s the Story?’. We listened to two keynote presenters Dr Anna Rowlands, a theologian from the University of Durham in the UK and Bishop Vincent Long, Bishop of Parramatta. It was particularly timely for us to focus on Catholic Social teaching with the launch of the Kildare Ministries Living Justice Living Peace Charter early this year. Anna Rowlands provided a historical context for the body of what we know as Catholic Social Teaching by situating the teaching in the various times in which they emerged. This helped us to understand the way in which many of the principles of social justice emerged as a response to the signs of the times. We explored the core principles of human dignity, common good, the preferential option of the poor, subsidiarity and solidarity. She also brought us into the present time with reflection from Pope Francis’ writing in ‘Let us Dream’ where he is reflecting on what the current pandemic is teaching us about our way of being together. She reflected that the experience of a crisis is a time of ‘sifting’, priorities are questioned and we cross a threshold and we will come out differently to who we were before. It is our opportunity to respond for a faith and social justice perspective to what we are learning about the interconnectedness of people and creation.
Bishop Long then challenged us to ‘go out with joy’ to be a prophetic and transformative presence in the world. We reflected on our heritage and how many of the people in our tradition were the boundary breakers or catalysts for renewal, including our own Brigidine sisters. Again, he reiterated how the pandemic is teaching us of the mutual dependency we have on each other and who this can be an antidote to privilege. This mutual dependency extends to our living in ecological harmony with the earth. If we truly believe we are God’s people, we have a gospel imperative to care for the most marginalized and reclaim an inclusive relational way of being with each other. While these messages are challenging they are hope-filled. Catholic social teaching provides the sound foundation for a life well-lived, a life that can be an illumination in dark times.
Today it gives me great pleasure in announcing to our community that we have appointed Hugh Saunders to the position of Assistant Principal: Performance and Impact. Hugh joined the College in 2020 taking up the position of School Improvement Leader: Learning. Hugh has held multiple leadership positions across several settings and has broad range of experiences, skills and expertise that he will bring to this role. He holds a Masters in Instructional Leadership, a Specialist Certificate in Leadership for Professional Practice (Coaching) and a Bachelor of Education. Hugh outlined through the appointment process, his vision to create an inclusive and high performing culture that is focused on transformative education and continuous improvement for all within the College. We congratulate Hugh and look forward to him joining the Leadership Team of the College from the commencement of 2022.
Finally, a note about the upcoming MACSIS Surveys. Throughout each year, we pause to listen to our students, families and staff to gauge how our learning community is travelling. This feedback is invaluable to our progress as effective school communities and is backed by evidence-based research and best practices. One tool we use is the Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools – School Improvement Surveys (MACSSIS) which was previously known as CEMSIS. This year the survey will be conducted over a three-week block – 30 August – 17 September 2021. Information will be sent to families next week regarding the survey.
Go gently, everyone.