During my trip to the Holy Land I came across this statue of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. What I loved about it was how it speaks to me of the humanity of two young women navigating the journey of their pregnancies. I feel like this statue captures the emotions of excitement, fear, anticipation, doubt, love, companionship and the joy of going through something together. As Mary and Elizabeth were cousins it also speaks to me of family.  

Last weekend I gathered with my family to celebrate my mum’s 80th birthday. Instead of a speech I wanted mum to hear from her grandchildren as to how they felt they were most like her, what traits had they inherited from her. As you can imagine there was lots of fun in that someone said they tell stories just like nanny does with way too many details, someone else said they can cook like nanny, one of the boys said I’m tall like nanny and another grandchild said that they hoped they were as kind and gentle and compassionate as nanny. To which the others groaned! Yet Nanny smiled, probably embarrassed but also filled with pride and love. Listening to each grandchild made me think about how in families we carry through the story, legacy and qualities of those who’ve gone before us. 

On Friday we gathered for Eucharist as a College community to mark the end of the year and reflect on the upcoming feats of Christmas, the celebration of another birthday. A birthday we’ve been celebrating for over 2000 years. A birthday that changed the history of the world. A birthday that brought us into a union with God our creator. We gather, not because we are grandchildren but because we are the family of God, followers, disciples or those who value or appreciate something in this story of faith. 

Having had the chance to be in the Holy Land and walk through the places Jesus walked, see the sun rises Jesus saw, taste the foods he may have tasted and experience the heat that he would have experienced it made me understand at an even deeper level the humanity of Jesus. Whilst we know that Jesus was divine it is in his human expression of that divinity that we can be like him. Jesus the child on the streets of Nazareth and in the carpenters workshop, Jesus the preacher and healer who travelled the Sea of Galilee and drew crowds of people as he spread a message of good news, Jesus who courageously came into Jerusalem uncertain as to what he was going to face but knowing that his quest for a just society was going to bring him up against the authorities and Jesus who gave his life on a cross. The Christ child and the resurrected Christ. This is our inheritance. An inheritance that brings us into the unconditional love of God. This inheritance invites us to be people of courage, justice, wonder, hope, compassion and hospitality.  

Today I invited our community to consider how they are embodying or carrying on the essence of the one whose birthday we celebrate. What would Jesus hear us say if you were asked at his birthday on December 25, ‘how are you most like him?’. And in hearing your response I imagine that the young Mary in the statue standing with her cousin Elizabeth would smile gently knowing she had given the world the greatest gift ever.   

It is with a deep sense of gratitude and joy that we close our year. We are grateful for the learning, friendships, experiences, opportunities, achievements, and events that have marked our year. We look forward to celebrating with our Year 12 students next Monday with the release of the 2023 results. As a new initiative this year, Year 12 students are invited to join staff for morning tea at the College.  

I know both students and staff are looking forward to the rest and renewal that the summer break brings. Our Early Commencement Program has given all our students a solid foundation to make a positive start when we recommence in 2024. It was lovely to be together for mass, house choir, the Tullow Gift and then an afternoon of festival fun – Clonard at it best!! 

We farewell the following staff who are leaving us this year and wish them every blessing: 

Sarah Ellmer – Teacher 

Danielle Nykios – Teacher 

Matt Wapling – Teacher 

Rachael Baker – LSO 

Bernadette Barclay – LSO 

Chloe McCarthy – LSO 

Catherine Chrystie – LSO 

Carmel Kelly – EAL Teacher  

Ruby Galbraith – Food Assistant 

We acknowledge the retirements of Josephine Ryan and Linden Young who have both been transitioning to retirement from their full time roles in the Library and IT team. Josephine and Linden have worked tirelessly to catalogue and organise our College archives. This has been a wonderful piece of work to preserve our history. They are currently in the final stage of designing our Heritage Room which was adjacent to the Principal’s Office in Clonard House. We are looking forward to them completing this project in the new year. We also acknowledge Rob Schmidt who retired during this year and thank him for his work as part of the IT team. 

We welcome to our team for 2024 the following new staff: 

Eileen Mackenzie – Food Technology 

Sarah Normington – Science 

Sarah Rothwell – Food Technology/PE 

Laura Brockway – Science 

Maddison Johnson – LSO 

Miranda van Roffum – Trainee LSO 

We have seen exciting developments with our new building this past week with all of the significant tilt panel and columns of the main structure installed. If you are driving down Minera Rd over the break make sure you take a look! 

Next week our staff have a full week of professional learning, planning and preparation for the 2024 school year. Teaching staff conclude on Friday 15 December and then our admin/support staff conclude when our Office closes on 19 December. The Office will reopen on Friday 19 January 2024.  

I wish to express my deepest thanks to the staff of our College who give above and beyond every day. They are truly people of ‘strength and kindliness’ and give witness to the Kildare Ministries values in all that they do. 

We trust you have a peace filled and restful summer holiday period and look forward to seeing our students back onsite for the start of our academic year on Wednesday 31 January 2024.