Last Sunday I was a Godparent at a Baptism celebration. The Church was teaming and alive with families across generations and the sound of children, lots of little children. Seven children were welcomed into the Catholic Church. It was a paradoxical scene to what I usually experience when I attend my local parish on the weekends where quite often I am amongst the youngest. These are two experiences of ‘church’. A third way of thinking about church would be what our students and staff experience in their day to day encounters at Clonard through our expression of our core values, our curriculum including RE, opportunities for prayer, liturgy retreat and reflection and our engagement in social justice. Earlier this week the Principals of our Victorian Catholic Secondary Schools gathered to contemplate the theme of Church Renewal, led through keynote addresses by Emeritus Professor John Warhurst who most recently was a member of the Plenary Council. John shared with us insights of the wrestle shared by many Catholics to hold on to all that is good about the faith tradition, whilst facing up to the challenges that he describes around ‘belonging, belief and confidence’.

The voice for renewal is seeking to take inspiration from Pope Francis who is calling the universal church to be more inclusive, to shift to the image of a field hospital and not a fortress, a Church that is synodal. Synodality is a source of hope and possibility for Church Renewal. At its heart it requires deep listening to the plurality of voices listening to the whole of the people of God, bringing the spiritual and the human together in an encounter of faith and creativity with the patience and generosity of the spirit. If we believe in the resurrection, then we will be open to recognizing the seeds of hope for renewal and continue to use our voices when and where we can for this important quest. If I was asked why I would bother, it is because of the good I see every day in what we do as an educational community for the young women, young people we serve inspired by the life of Jesus Christ. It is because I believe there is something of worth for my two latest Godchildren that I care enough to stay in the conversation, to stay in the faith.

On my return to school, I was met with the excitement of Science Week and the preparations for Book Week next week with our Brigidine Centre undergoing a transformation, capturing the theme ‘Dreaming with Eyes Wide Open’. A shout out to the staff in these areas of the College who have worked to ensure wonderful activities for the students. Our Year 9 Foundation Maths class also ran a successful small business expo at lunchtime today which was visited by a large number of students. This was the ‘real life’ application of their learning from their most recent unit of work and a lot of fun for us to share, especially the popcorn!

Our launch of PB4L has seen our matrix now displayed around the College, classes having explicit short lessons on identified expectations, further staff professional learning updates and commendations noted alongside incidents. Where in the past the focus was only on noticing the negative behaviour we are ensuring positive examples of our expected behaviours in relation to respect, engagement and resilience are reinforced with reference to our matrix. I encourage you to continue to read articles in relation to PB4L as they appear in our newsletter so you can stay across this new initiative in the College.

Last week we completed the Attestation and Assurance visit from Kildare Ministries in relation to child safeguarding. We were able to demonstrate the College’s implementation of the relevant aspects of the child safeguarding principles and the new child safeguarding standards. A student reference group has just completed a review of our PROTECT poster and helped to shape some child friendly policy documents connected to the new standards which will be made available to students later this term. Standard 5 in the new standard addresses the importance of recognising diversity in our practices. Our community is one that values inclusion and welcome. The Kildare Ministries Living Justice Living Peace Charter challenges us to break down the barriers that separate people and embrace the marginalised. Often diversity and difference create barriers or fear that places people on the margins rather than recognising the dignity of each human person.

Last year for ‘Wear it Purple Day’ we unveiled our purple door, created by our students, as a symbol of working together with Kildare Ministries, our students, staff, families and Stewardship Council to help build a safe and inclusive community for all our students, including gender and sexually diverse students. We recognise that this process is one that takes compassion, discernment, listening and time to ensure our community is one of authentic respectful relationships where all can flourish and grow into the fullness of life. This year, on Friday 26 August we will add a further statement to our door taken from the Kildare Ministries Trustees Statement on Gender Inclusivity which states: We firmly believe in and value the goodness, complexity, and inherent dignity of every person. Human diversity is part of the design and wonder of creation. This is a further expression of our value of compassion: walking with and having empathy for all.

May the God who created a world of diversity and vibrancy,
Go with us as we embrace life in all its fullness.
May the Son who teaches us to care for stranger and foreigners,
Go with us as we try to be good neighbours in our communities.
May the Spirit who breaks down our barriers and celebrates community,
Go with us as we find the courage to create a place of welcome for all.

From Clare McBeath and Tim Presswood