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Small Efforts + Small Gestures = Big Gains

At the weekend Community Mass, I mentioned at the start that is an interesting time for us all. Understanding that we had just come to the end of a very successful camp week is just part of the story. Last week saw our staff and students venture off to 11 different venues where challenge and comfort zones were the order of the day. Comfort zones are very individual and I hope that all students could have attempted something new or achieved something that they may have not though possible before. All in all, I hope it was a time for growth.

I also mentioned that I am an avid sports fan and especially footy fan; no one particular code just all ‘footy’. This time of the year is a time where all codes come alive. Our Brisbane Roar are getting the serious side of the season and they are again in the hunt for the title. I am an energetic Broncos fan, a frustrated Reds fan and a somewhat hope-filled Lions fan. With these seasons just starting, I know I will be going through the highs and the lows that are inevitable when you decide to follow something you actually have no control over. I suppose once again there will opportunities for real growth for me this footy season.

The other season that has just started is our own Lenten season. Commencing with Ash Wednesday last week this an important time for all of us and not just from a Catholic perspective. Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect as we lead into Easter. It is a time that allows to work our inner self, to examine more about ourselves. For me, the whole Lenten journey is about wondering; answering, or rather trying to answer questions that are key to what we believe. What motivates me? What am I committed to? What are we called to do with our lives? These questions are part of what we need to understand so that we can contribute to our world.

Prayer, fasting and alms giving are three tenets or practices that form much of what we understand about Lent. In a contemporary context, these three practices should be understood from a community perspective. Pope Francis challenges us to see fasting never as superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.” So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Pope Francis suggests that even more than lollies or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others. In his 2015 Lenten message, Pope Francis challenges us by saying that “Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Pope Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

We live in interesting times and Lent is a time for us to reflect on our place in our world and the place of the Church in this bigger picture. The reality is that our place and the place of the Church are in many ways one in the same. We have a faith and a Church that is one of the people. Archbishop Coleridge challenges us to ask questions of our God and not just to ask the easy questions. He challenges us to ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable. It is dealing with these questions that will brings us growth. When supporting our students around the question of where is God, we often use the expression whenever you see love, you see the hand of God. Archbishop Coleridge in his 2017 Lenten Pastoral message poses several awkward questions he suggests we should be reflecting on in our conversation with God. Questions he suggests like “Where is God in the midst of the mess? Is there a future to hope in? Is there healing for wounds that seem incurable? Has the Church lost touch with the real Jesus? Does love really have the last word? Are justice and peace a mirage?”

It is important that we reflect on our world and the part we do and can play in shaping it. If we are to be agents of hope and agents of change, we need to believe in what we stand for. What motivates us, what is important to us and what we are committed to are keys here. For those who may not have seen Archbishop Coleridge’s Lenten Pastoral Message please click play.

God of life and love,
We are called to pray, fast and give generously to others
during the season of Lent
in preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ life and resurrection.
Be with us as we walk the path of preparation towards Easter.
May we love one another as ourselves.
May we treat one another with compassion, peace and justice,
May we care and respect the Earth as we do ourselves.
May we lead others as we seek to create a better world for all.

We ask this prayer through Jesus our brother, Amen

International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world; this year it will be celebrated on Wednesday March 8. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. Here at Ambrose Treacy College in essentially a traditionally all-male student environment it is important that we take time to celebrate this day. The United Nations declares a theme each year for the International Women’s day and this year the theme is “Be Bold for Change”. This is a fitting theme to tie into our Lenten season and message. The United Nations has been very involved in the International Women’s Day movement. They believe that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms requires the active participation, equality and development of women and that acknowledging the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security. For the women of the world, the Day’s symbolism has a wider meaning: It is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilize for meaningful change. Here at Ambrose Treacy College we celebrate the wonderful contribution that women make in our lives – as partners, wives, sisters, friends, colleagues and teachers. We stand in solidarity with women across the world to continue to recognise the many injustices that women have faced and continue to face in today’s society. To all fathers I would encourage you to remember the influence you have on your sons and daughters in this regard, our actions will be more powerful than any words that they may hear us talk about.

Year 7 2020 interviews
This week sees the College Leadership Team busily involved in our first round of Year 7 2020 interviews. It is always an uplifting time as we get the opportunity to listen to the stories of excited boys who hope to join us for their secondary years of education. There is nothing more energising to see the passion and energy of young boys. It is always a little daunting to realise that we are looking at enrolments that seem so far in the distance. In comparison to other cities across Australia, Brisbane is quite different in terms of the enrolment patterns of independent schools and in particular, boys’ high schools. The awkward reality is that most schools will offer place for secondary school to boys currently in year three and so that families are able to make an informed choice we also need to offer parents the choice of a place at ATC at this same time.

We are in a happy position for the upcoming years to have a wait list for places in year 7. During year 4 we ask parents to indicate their thoughts for year 7 for their sons. Most parents see ATC as the logical path for their sons and certainly their enrolment in year 4 guarantees families a journey right through to year 12. There can be a variety of reasons for parents to change their minds on the choice of school for their children. I would ask any parent who has made such a decision for year 7 for their son to please let us as soon as they have made up their mind so that we can look at helping families who have not been able to secure a place for secondary for their son.

Service Program
One of the real success stories of the ATC journey has been our Service Program. What we have achieved in a short time is a culture of giving by a number of families within our community. While this is not a unique action from families it is a unique culture that we are striving to cultivate. By naming and recording service hours we hope to develop a real sense of thinking of others in our students. Families play a big part in embracing this and I am grateful that so many of our families have done exactly this. The service that we ask our students to embrace is not based on sophisticated or flashy actions rather the simple and the mundane. On the weekend as I walked the Mater International Womens’ Day walk it was a great to see Allan Currie-Saunders, Tom Ziebarth and families on the 7km drink station offering a very hot walker a cup of cold water. Similarly, it was great to see a number of students and families gather at the College for the Clean Up Australia Day effort. Small things, small efforts and small gestures are what makes the world a better place.

With best wishes,
Michael Senior