There is a story in the Book of Kings where the Lord tells Elijah to go out, as the Lord is about to pass by. There follows a series of extreme events, wind, earthquake and fire and yet God was not found in any of these. It was not until Elijah heard a gentle whisper, some scripture translations say a zephyr or gentle breeze, that Elijah knew he was in the presence of God. 

This scripture was the first reading of last Sunday and I heard it proclaimed when we were at mass at Santa Teresa or Ltyentye Apurte, NT with our pilgrimage group. I was so struck by the symbolism of the reading in connection with my very short time in Santa Teresa. It was a place that was so peaceful. It was a place where the timelessness and expanse of the land made one feel so small. The people we encountered and met, from Br Mark who led our pilgrimage, to the community members, were so gentle, welcoming and humble. We joined in the sacrament of Confirmation on Saturday evening with the community led by Bishop Charles which was a vibrant and life-giving celebration. One of the most touching moments was listening to the women elders standing and singing the Lamb of God in language, Arrernte. These were indeed the times where I knew I was in the presence of the sacred, the presence of God during my time in Santa Teresa, Ltyentye Apurte. 

This week the students and staff have undertaken ministries in the school, at the spirituality centre where the women create art pieces and with the community members who cook and deliver meals to the elderly in the community. Br Mark was intentional with the students in reminding them that this wasn’t just volunteering but indeed a ministry. A giving of self in service to others, work that gives witness to the good news that Jesus came to spread in the world. I have no doubt that our students and staff will have been touched and indeed transformed by their time in Santa Teresa, Ltyentye Apurte and we look forward to their safe return tonight and listening to them sharing their stories and experiences.

Yesterday and today I am in Melbourne at Kildare Ministry meetings. In exploring the idea of courage, our value for 2023, we listened to Sr Patricia Fox, who is a sister of the Our Lady of Sion congregation who was ejected from the Philippines for her work in human rights and particularly with impoverished farmers and indigenous peoples. She spoke of the killings of many of her counterparts and friends. The courage she displayed in speaking and acting with integrity and working for justice despite the risk to her own safety was truly remarkable. She told us that she keeps the memory of all those lost alive by telling the stories and energising others to continue to work for justice. She said ‘They might stop one but will never stop a movement’.  

Our other work over the two days is around governance, risk, policies and other matters. Of note was the sharing of the Missional Governance statement by the Trustees which is a courageous call to us as schools to ensure our governance processes are truly a reflection of our vision and values inspired by the life of Jesus. It can be very easy to start to slip into corporate thinking when navigating the governance and risk landscape. The courageous leadership of our trustees through this document calls us to not lose sight of our core mission. 

Next week we will hear from our prospective College Captain candidates for 2024. They will deliver their speeches at our full school assembly. We look forward to listening to these inspirational young women and hearing their vision for Clonard. I also find it a joy filled time to watch how the past five years has shaped these young people into the leaders they are already. Fifty three students have applied for Year 12 Leadership Portfolios in 2024. We are thrilled with the strong culture of student leadership that exists at Clonard. Please keep all our candidates in your prayers as they journey through this process. 

This will be my final newsletter before taking three weeks enrichment leave from 30 August. During my leave I will be travelling to the Holy Land and taking part in a pilgrimage through the holy places that are integral to our Christian faith. I will be joining with other Victorian Catholic Secondary School Principals so I have no doubt that this will be a rich and faith filled renewal experience.