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Experiencing the Highs and Coping with the Challenges

Camp Week 2019

If Josephine de La Baume was right when she said “You can really only enjoy life when you’re extremely busy,” we must all be very happy. The pace of life continues to be a phenomenon that at times can take control of our lives; dictating what seems important and what doesn’t seem important. Here at ATC the last couple of weeks have certainly been busy and last week was one of high activity with our annual camp week.

Across the week all year levels from Year 4 to Year 10, took part in a camp away from the College campus. This took the form of a two day / one night camp for our Year 4 students who are generally undertaking their first school camp. Whereas our Year 10 students have selected one of five options for a five day experience that will see them look at options of a White Water Canoe experience, a Stradbroke Island camp, a Construction camp a Brisbane Story immersion or an Arts camp amongst the choices. This year the week afforded our Year 12 students the opportunity to attend a three-day Claddagh retreat at Laidley.

School camps play an important role in our formation program with students. Here at ATC we deliberately and specifically have chosen the word “formation” to describe the actions we look at in the development of our young men. In some schools the word formation is replaced with a combination of words like pastoral care and personal development. In choosing the word ‘formation’ we see that we must take an active role in the process of forming young boys into young men and that this process is the culmination of a number of groups of people who provide opportunities for our young men to discover who they are, what their purpose in life is and importantly how they can play a positive role in the world that they will live in.

An important part of forming young men is to look at ways in which they can be challenged to experience the highs of achievements and learn to deal with the challenges of disappointments. We feel that it is important the young men growing up have opportunities to get out of their comfort zones and to attempt things that they would not normally have the opportunity to experience in the normal run of life. This is especially important in the world that many young people face in our world today. The outdoor camps that we run serve to offer students the chance to experience independence by having to look after ‘themselves’ for their time away from home and to be taken out of their comfort zones in some of the activities we run. The comfort zones we explore may in the form of challenging physical tasks, challenging emotional experiences or challenging group activities that take away personal achievement in favour of group dynamics.

Today we use a number of buzz words for the development of our young people and we stress the importance of concepts like resilience. In counter to this, there has never been a greater time for the word ‘safety’ and we need to be vigilant to protect our young from many of the dangers that our current world presents, dangers that were not around when we grew up. This is the conundrum for all parents of how and when do we hold onto and how and when do we let go metaphorically speaking. Our hope is that our camps are a piece in this jigsaw that provides your sons with some ‘safe’ challenges albeit that all challenges by their nature cannot be completely devoid of all risks. In these challenges we hope to provide your sons with the capacity to experience confidence, growth and independence.

It would be remiss of me to not thank again our wonderful staff who make these camps a reality. Without the generosity of our staff to give up their own family time, camps are just a dream. On behalf of all the boys and parents I thank all our staff for going the extra mile and ensuring our dream to provide a rich tapestry of learning opportunities and experiences becomes a reality.

Child Protection

The recent news of the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on historical sexual abuse charges, has certainly attracted attention, and rightfully so. I sense that the fact that George Pell holds the highest Catholic office in Australia draws immediate attention – from Catholics who may find themselves in disbelief and for non-Catholics it provided a backdrop for cynical criticism of the Catholic faith. Typically the media has had a field day with sensational headlines and stories. The sadness for me is that this story contains victims and in part they have been pushed into the background as the perpetrator holds centre stage.

My attention is certainly not to hint at any defence of the actions of Cardinal Pell nor is to suggest deficiencies in our legal system. The reality is that this again highlights the importance that we all must place on child protection. The safety of the nation’s greatest assets is what needs to be placed on centre stage. I trust our legal system. This system has found that young lives have been indelibly damaged at the hands of an adult who like all of us was entrusted with the responsibility to protect our young.

In his pastoral letter to the Parramatta Diocese Bishop Vincent offered the view that “Even among Catholics, there is a sense of shame and anger at the betrayal that the clerical sex abuse crimes represent, and the hypocrisy they reveal.” He went on to comment that “Some, too, feel that in the marketplace the “brand Catholic” has suffered a grievous blow. Perhaps so. But we are not a market nor are we a popular cult.” When we slip into this mode of worrying about the ‘brand’ we are all missing the point. The whole focus must continue to be the care of the victims of sexual abuse. This should not be a time of cheap point scoring. This ’tragedy’ reminds us of the importance we all have to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable in our society.

Thankfully our two most prominent political leaders are at least in unison on this topic. Prime Minister Scott Morrison sadly reflected ‘I respect the fact that this case is under appeal, but it is the victims and their families I am thinking of today, and all who have suffered from sexual abuse by those they should have been able to trust, but couldn’t.” Labor leader Bill Shorten echoed these sentiments when he said “It should never have happened, it’s a gross betrayal of trust.’

The reality is that the ugly head of child abuse has been experienced in our own community at NJC and this is something that we as a community sadly acknowledge and as a national entity, EREA has publicly acknowledged. Sadly it is not something that we can change, the only thing we can change is how we act in the present and into the future.

Wouldn’t it be great that the magnitude of this event led us to build a community that never saw a repeat of this insidious action. I pray that our focus should not be on the George Pells of the world; the legal system we have to trust will take care of them. Our focus should be on educating our young to the signals of this abuse and to create systems where this sort of abuse cannot thrive.

If there is to be a form of utopia it should be one where we have successfully eliminated the abuse from our world. This should be the consumer of our energy – it is the only way forward in these tragedies.

Our greatest responsibility as a school community is to try and safeguard the safety of our students and specifically this relates to the safety of our students from abuse and harm. It is the single greatest responsibility that every staff member at ATC shares.

Significant calendar events

Over the last two weeks a number of significant days have been quietly celebrated. The Anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations, International Women’s Day and Ash Wednesday have all been celebrated and as a community we recognise the importance of each of them.

The eleventh Anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations was celebrated recently, an anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations delivered by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. One of the statements made by him speaks so positively about the future:

‘We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians – a future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.’ Kevin Rudd

The way forward demands us to share in a solidarity, a solidarity that holds our greatest hope for the future. The NATSICC Chair, John Lochowiak, recalls the optimism that flowed from the apology 10 years ago. ‘On that day, it felt as if all Australians were as one,” he said. “I want that feeling to continue and for all of us to work together to so that when the 20th anniversary of the apology comes, our people are living longer, gaining a better education and living to our full potential.’

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday heralds the start of the Lenten season. Lent is one of those “stocktaking” times in the life of the Church where we are asked to revisit what is important to us, where the meaning is in our lives, how we express our faith both personally and as a member of a broader community. During these next six weeks of Lent we are all challenged to consider how we might renew and refresh our relationship with our God through reflection, prayer and practical acts of giving to others. The traditional three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting and acts of charity.
At the College, we have focused on the notion of looking outward as we work together as a community who cares for each other. In many ways, the ashes of Ash Wednesday represent our past, our present and our future. They mark us as a person on a journey. They mark us as a community on a journey.

International Women’s Day

Traditionally International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. 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 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.

With best wishes

Michael Senior