Already but not yet.
It feels like the end of the year but our students have 3 more days of school and our staff a few weeks longer.
The shops would have us thinking it is already Christmas, yet we have a month to go.
The season of Advent, which started yesterday with the first Sunday of Advent, is the season of ‘already but not yet’ a season to wait. There can be many different emotions connected to waiting, feelings of dread, or impatience to excitement. The waiting of the Advent season is to wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ. We know that the presence of Jesus is already amongst us but has promised to come again. The image of a pregnant Mary waiting to give birth is a beautiful metaphor for the longing, the imagining the anticipating that Advent represents. As we wait in expectation, it is a time to prepare our hearts, just as we prepare our homes for the Christmas feast. Yesterday’s second reading gives us some advice on how to do this. St Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians wrote, ‘make more and more progress in the kind of life you were meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it.’ This statement reminds us that this is within our reach. An Advent way of life is simple and yet profound. We are called to look for the seeds of hope in the smallest moments, the darkest times, the most challenging situations. We are called to free ourselves from all that would distract us from recognising God’s grace at work in our lives. This can be so difficult at this time when we are tired from the year just been and yet there still seems so much to do. Advent rituals, moments of daily pause or prayer, and acts of kindness to others are when we can make room for God to turn the ordinary into extraordinary.
Finally, I share with you this Advent reflection which I feel has a powerful message about opening our hearts and minds to be ready.
One year during Advent, our parish priest invited us to write down on a slip of paper a word that named something that is keeping us from getting closer to God. He suggested it might be a fear, a resentment, or an attitude that shuts us off from the love God so wants to give. We were to fold the paper over a few times, grasp it tightly in one hand, and make a fist around it while he began to preach on the Scripture readings.
After a minute, my hand began to ache. At two minutes, my hand grew numb. At three minutes, the hand started shaking uncontrollably. He told us to open our hands. I found how hard it was to do that. After grasping the piece of paper so tightly, my hand had stiffened and seemed to have a mind of its own.
I can’t remember what else he said that day, but I have never forgotten that lesson. Hold on to resentment, fear, or bad attitude long enough and you will become paralysed.
As I begin Advent every year now, I start with the realisation that I need to let go of any and all spiritual impediments I’m hanging onto. Advent is a time of receiving. It’s hard to receive if your hands are clasped shut. So I begin Advent once again with this prayer: Holy Spirit of God, open my hands, my eyes, my ears, all my senses, and all of my heart so I will be ready to receive your Advent blessings.
And then I sit there in the Advent darkness, my hands open before me, waiting on God.
As we come to the end of the year we have marked this time with some of our own rituals including our annual awards celebration including a College Captains’ handover and a belated Brigidine Day. During our Brigidine Day liturgy, we will acknowledge and farewell staff who will be leaving us at the end of the year.
The following staff are retiring after many years of service to the College. We acknowledge with gratitude the impact they will have collectively had on the lives of many young women. I also recognise that many of these staff members gave so much to the College, often instrumental in developing or establishing programs with limited resources as the College grew to the size it is today. This Friday we will host our first Past Staff Luncheon which will be a chance to gather, share stories and celebrate with gratitude the contribution of these retiring and past staff as well as providing an opportunity to reconnect and share the dreams we have for the future. We thank our retiring staff Richard Jones, Louise Davies and Ian Callahan.
This year also sees a number of staff relocating with family, moving to other schools or concluding their contracts with us. We farewell Liz Rush, Justine Fitzpatrick, Cathy Wilson, Kristin Flynn, Najat Baqtatouche and Karlie Robinson. Madeleine Smith, who has been on leave this year has accepted an ongoing position in NSW. Grace Brodie has completed her traineeship and is taking up a position at Iona College.
Michael Tong is taking 2022 as a sabbatical year. Michelle King and Danielle Nykios will commence maternity leave at the end of the year and we wish them every blessing as they await the safe arrival of their babies.
With these changes, we welcome our new staff who will join us on December 13 for their induction and introduction to the College.
Audrey Atkinson, Stephanie Kljajic, Kate Connor, Kate Rigby, Natasha Quaresma, Samantha Bear, Kim Nguyen, Elizabeth Sullivan, Delphine Pacifique, Marcia Howard, Olivia Pearce, Bridget Taylor and Teresa Carra.
Andrea Power, our Media and Communications Officer will also be joining our Teaching staff in 2022 and Zeke Santilli, our IT trainee has been appointed to our ICT Support Officer position.
Last Friday I attended the final meeting of the year with the Trustees of Kildare Ministries, Principal and Manager of Kildare Ministries schools and community works. We received their strategic intentions for the next few years which align seamlessly to our own School Improvement Plan and give further imperative to the direction we are shaping. The themes of their intentions are aligned to the Living Justice Living Peace Charter. The overarching call is for us to be ‘enablers of justice’.
As enablers of justice and faced with a world that is indifferent, we will work to be prophetic voices of hope, peace, justice and love.
As the last newsletter for the year, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincerest thanks to our families who have partnered with us through yet another challenging year. We thank you for your responsiveness, your patience, your support and your understanding, along with your commitment to your daughters’ learning, wellbeing and faith journey. We especially thank those families who have engaged with information sessions, forums, workshops, connection conversations, online webinars, parent-teacher interviews and feedback opportunities. We look forward to further developing these opportunities in 2022.
I also want to acknowledge and thank our staff who have been tireless in their efforts over the past 12 months. More has been asked of them than ever before. We thank them for their care, professionalism, dedication and commitment to the girls and each other on a daily basis. We trust they enjoy the time to work together as colleagues in the coming days during our Staff Week program before taking a well-earned rest and break with their own families.
As we conclude the year we are challenged to ensure that the opportunities the pandemic has presented are not missed. We have seen the greatest disruption to education in our lifetime. As I look beyond 2021 with wonder for what is possible, I take the words of Pope Francis from his writings ‘Let us Dream’. He says ‘From this crisis, we can come out better or worse. We can slide backward or create something new.’
Building on the 65 years of educating young women at Clonard we are committed to ensuring we will not let this opportunity pass by working together as a community to create something new, and whilst a little weary after the year we look forward to 2022 with anticipation, joy and great hope.
And during the coming Christmas season:
May you be blessed with
The spirit of the season which is peace,
The gladness of the season which is hope,
And the heart of the season which is love.