This week I have started to wonder when I might next get to see my dad. My parents are holidaying in northern NSW doing what they have done for decades, heading north for the winter. Now with border limitations and closures we are starting to wonder when they might get to come home. It’s a peculiar notion to consider my mum and dad being displaced in their own home country. I guess I am feeling this more acutely as we approach another Father’s Day in lockdown. Recently in Kildare Ministry schools we have been reflecting on the wonder of accompaniment. When I think of my dad, this notion comes to mind. Someone who has always been there, even when perhaps as a younger person I may not have wanted him to be. All of us have that person in our lives, be it a parent, mentor, teacher, coach, grandparent or friend. One who accompanies is steady, reassuring, caring and compassionate. Pope Francis tells us that the ‘art of accompaniment’ teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other. There is great reciprocity in a relationship based on accompaniment and I guess that is where the wonder is present, as both people grow in the grace of the presence of the other. I think that kindness, which I wrote about in my last blog, is also central to this relationship. On Wednesday I gathered with Kildare Education Ministry Principals and our prayer reflected on this notion of kindness from John O’Donohue, one of my favourite writers. I share this today, especially thinking about my dad and those who have accompanied me.
Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness. A gentle sound that echoes the presence of compassionate goodness. Kindness has gracious eyes; it is not small-minded or competitive; it wants nothing back for itself.
Kindness strikes a resonance with the depths of your own heart; it also suggests that your vulnerability, though somehow exposed, is not taken advantage of; rather it becomes an occasion of dignity and empathy … human hope is based on this instinct that at the deepest level of reality some intimate kindness holds sway. This is the heart of blessing.
John O’Donohue, Benedictus p. 198
Since my last blog, our school community has been deeply saddened by the death of Trish Clark on 25 August 2021. Trish was a long-serving staff member who held numerous roles at the College, including attending to students, parents and visitors in our General Office at Reception, as well as her time as Registrar and Personal Assistant to the Principal. So often Trish was the first face, or the first voice people would encounter at Clonard. She embodied the Brigidine spirit of hospitality in her welcome and service to others. Trish was diagnosed with a terminal illness last year and showed extraordinary faith, strength and courage in the months that followed. Trish had a wonderful sense of humour, a gentle humility and was always helping and supporting others. She will be greatly missed. As well as being a staff member for almost three decades, Trish’s daughters were also educated at the College. It is at these times that the grace and gifts of story, memory and the common threads that bind us together as a community bring us comfort and peace. We extend our prayerful sympathy and support to Trish’s family, loved ones and friends at this time.
We learned this week that remote learning will be continuing until the end of term. We recognise that this period of remote learning does not have the novelty of last year and our students and staff are really digging in to their inner most resources of grit and resilience to keep going. At our staff briefing last week I reminded staff that this was an opportunity to make what we do visible as we were now in families’ kitchens, living rooms and studies. The work of teachers in providing a faith community, supporting students’ wellbeing and engaging students in learning is now seen in every home. Many of our teachers wrestle with the limitations of remote learning and this comes from their commitment to the students, their passion for their subject area and a deep desire to do what’s best for the students to help them succeed. As I mentioned in my last blog, recently teachers have been sharing with me the names of students who they notice are showing strength and kindliness. It has filled my day with joy when I have been able to pass this affirmation on to a student. I think these student responses speaks to the power of small things:
It’s important to me to spread kindness and recognise others may be going through something that you aren’t aware of. I really do appreciate this message and will continue to spread loads of kindness now and always.
Woah I’m so glad to hear that small acts have made such an impact, I hope you know this has made my day and that I hope all the teachers including you of course are doing well in this time! Thank you for your message
We know that gratitude is a strategy to promote wellbeing – maybe there is a teacher or staff member that you or your daughter has also noticed displaying strength and kindliness during remote learning, who you would like to acknowledge. A message or email can mean so much at these times.
This week we have sent various communications to our families in regarding opportunities for our students aged 16 and over to access vaccinations, especially those students completing Year 12 studies. In some circumstances students aged 12-15 are also eligible where they have an underlying medical condition or they are aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Information about FAQs in relation to the vaccinations for students can be found here.
One of the benefits of the increased use of technology has been our capacity to connect easily with people from all parts or the world. On Tuesday afternoon a number of our Old Collegians gathered to meet and chat with student leaders and Year 12 students sharing their stories and pathways in various fields from arts, sports, sciences, hospitality, medicine, social work, and entrepreneurship. I know the group I was in valued every minute of the time with our guests. We thank:
Samantha Taylor – Graduation Clonard 2015
Brooke Williams – Graduated Clonard 2007
Kat Baulch – Graduated Clonard 1999
Georgina Pennefather – Graduated Clonard 2013
Michelle Freeman – Graduated Clonard 2002
Maggie Williams – Graduate Clonard 2018
Belinda East (Shaw) – Graduated Clonard 1990
We are extremely grateful to our alumni for their generosity of spirit and passion for supporting our students. This is the second year we have held this event and look forward to developing further opportunities for our Old Collegians to mentor and network our current students.
Finally, a shoutout to Paige O’Neill one of Year 12 VCAL students who has done an amazing job supporting Angela Battaglia in creating our Newsletter in Andrea Power’s (Media Officer) absence. This has been a wonderful opportunity for Paige to demonstrate the skills she is developing through her studies.