What a wonderful day of celebration yesterday to conclude our College year. The activities of our final day allowed our school spirit to shine through as we celebrated all that is good with joy and gratitude. This followed our previous eight days of early commencement where all students are to be commended on the manner in which they embraced the opportunity to learn the new routines of our new timetable, meet their new classes and teachers and be prepared to commence learning from Period 1 Day 1 in 2023. I was privileged to attend all the year level final assemblies held on Wednesday where year levels reflected on their year together, acknowledged student achievements and expressed gratitude to the staff who had worked with them most closely throughout the year. This week our students took home their copy of the 2022 Reflections magazine. We trust you will take the time over the summer holidays to enjoy looking back over the year and the wonderful ways our students have embraced all that Clonard offers.
Yesterday we also farewelled staff and students who are leaving us this year. In particular I wish to acknowledge and thank the contribution of the staff who will be leaving us. Their time with us extends from 27 years to six months. All will have made a difference to our story during their time at Clonard. We wish them every blessing in the next chapter of their journey.
Linda Bentley, Ben Hughson, Gab Mahon, Kim Turnley Jack Hockley-Salmon and Dean Hackwill.
We also thank Kymberley Peace and Sarah Rothwell who are concluding their contract positions and Mahni Beasley who has finished her traineeship.
We also send our blessings to the staff who have recently commenced maternity leave including Ashlee Milne, Olivia Pearce and Laura Griffiths.
As is the cycle of life, next Monday we welcome our new staff for 2023 and then on Tuesday we will meet our 2023 Year 7 students. We look forward to the energy and gifts these new members of our community will bring.
Next week many of our Year 12 students will receive their results. We trust that they will see these as a reflection of the efforts they gave their studies throughout the year. We remind all our students that our staff are here for them, in particular Gab Mahon our Careers Practitioner, supported by our Year 12 Wellbeing Community Leaders. This information has been shared with students and families. We remind students that our experience tells us that no matter what the result, multiple pathways and options can be found to create a pathway forward.
Before I share my final Advent reflection from our Mass yesterday, I wanted to acknowledge the amazing team of staff that I have the honour of working with every day. Their passion, professionalism, care, commitment and dedication to this community is something that I appreciate every day. So often much of this goes unnoticed so I wanted to make sure they received an extra ‘shout out’ as we come to the close of the year.
So now we turn our minds towards the great feast of Christmas with only 16 days to go. For us as a Catholic faith community this time of the year is so much more than tinsel and candy canes and this was what we reflected on yesterday……
So often in Advent we focus on preparing for Jesus’ coming among us at Christmas. Today’s gospel reminds us that this great feast in the Christian tradition needed the extraordinary courage of a young woman about your age. What a great story!
I know I do not spend enough time contemplating the role of Mary in the Advent season so this year I have tried to put that right. Imagine the young teenage Mary going about her daily life when she was faced with the appearance of an angel. I wonder what she was doing when the angel appeared. Had she been doing chores? Had she just returned from collecting water at the well? Had she been preparing a meal with her mother? I wonder what time of the day it was. I wonder how she felt – was she terrified or confused or maybe even excited. I wonder what she told her friends. Maybe you know that feeling when you have been presented with an opportunity or chosen for something that you had no idea was coming or you didn’t think you deserved. Often these times happen because someone sees something in us that we may not see ourselves. What was it that God saw in Mary? Why her?
In Mary’s moment of saying ‘yes’ to the invitation of the angel she embodied perhaps the greatest expression of hospitality, an openness to welcome God, quite literally, to carry and then give birth to the baby Jesus, enabling God to step into the fullness of humanity. There could be no invitation more joyful and more daunting than the invitation of the angel to Mary in that moment. Inspired by the courage and hospitality of Mary we are challenged to consider what we will say ‘yes’ to this Christmas that will make the love of God present to others. Our first reading gives us some hints as to what this might look like – maybe it is a time for healing, a time to bring laughter to others, a time to gather, a time to throw away that which weighs us down, a time for silence and renewal, a time for love, or a time for peace and forgiveness.
In the moments after the angel shared with Mary what was being asked of her, Mary had to make a choice. In the poem ‘Annunciation’ the poet Denise Levertov captures this moment when the universe held its breath. She writes
‘This was the moment no one speaks of,
When she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
She was free to accept or to refuse,
Choice integral to humanness.’
My favourite line in this stanza is ‘God waited’. In Advent we have been taught about waiting for the coming of God at Christmas but what if we turned this around and thought about Advent as a time where God waits for us, waits for us to wrestle with doubt and belief, fear and comfort, just like Mary, and waits for us to discover God’s presence in unexpected places. The God of our faith tradition is an invitational patient God who has waited for us since the birth of time and continues to wait. This God knows that wrestling is part of our human condition, Mary experienced this as did Jesus in his time among us. The encounter with the angel reminds us that in our struggles and fears we can come to know the perfect love of God, ‘The Lord is with you, do not be afraid’. This is not an absent, external God, but a God ‘with us and within us’. Now whilst we may not have angels with wings visit us each day, we will find God waiting for us in the presence of others this Christmas ready to say ‘I am with you’ if like Mary we are open to this joy filled invitation.
The gift and mystery of Christmas that brings forth the fruits of the meeting between Mary and the angel Gabriel is the light and love of God born into the baby in the manger. As we celebrate another Christmas let us rejoice in the hospitality, courage and faith of Mary whose selfless choice to overcome fear and doubt through her unwavering faith in God is a symbol of hope and inspiration for us all. She was remembered, just like one of you, one of us, as an ordinary young woman who changed the course of human history because of the most profound ‘yes’.
I wish all students, staff, families and our wonderful community the most blessed and holy Christmas and a joyous and hope filled New Year.