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Forging New Traditions and Rituals

Every culture, in every part of the world, in every era has engaged in rituals. This would suggest that rituals are a fundamental part of the human condition. Rituals have even been called our most basic form of technology – they are a mechanism that can change things, solve problems, perform certain functions and accomplish tangible results.

For eons they have been the tools humans have used to release and express emotion, build their personal identity and the identity of their tribe, bring order to chaos, orient themselves in time and space, effect real transformations, and bring layers of meaning and texture to their lives.

As a new school we have been very conscious of the need to look at what rituals and traditions will frame our culture. At the end of each school day we have a ‘ritual’ with our College prayer. In many ways, the day would not seem the same without a pause at 2.58pm to signal a time for us to gather in prayer. In all Edmund Rice schools finishing a prayer or reflection with “Live Jesus in our hearts – Forever” has been a distinctive ritual. We have had a number of orientation gatherings for new students that have become a characteristic beginning for them. A common ritual in many schools, particularly boys’ schools, is the school war cry. Here at ATC our students are very passionate about our war cry and it is something that our new year 4 students take great delight in learning.

With our first cohort of Year 12 students graduating this year, we were very conscious that we needed to identify the ritual of how we would farewell our departing students. As our first cohort, we understood that this ritual would continue in years to come. In many schools there is a ritual of a ‘muck up’ day that many schools have learnt to dread as their Year 12 students leave. Whilst guided by some previous experiences at other schools, it was only living out our own journey of farewelling our Year 12 students that our rituals would gather a life.

I was delighted with how our Year 12 students chose to leave. I deliberately use the word ‘chose’ because with all our persuasion, in the end they have determined how they will be remembered over the last few days of their time at ATC. Their presence through to the end was dignified and typical of the majority of their time as our oldest students. Over the last few days outside of exams, they shared memories of their time at school in a whole day retreat, celebrated with the rest of the College in a whole school assembly, respectfully joined a prayerful community at St Stephen’s Cathedral and commemorated their time as students of ATC with a Valedictory Dinner at Howard Smith Wharves in the city.

Whilst the actual events were meaningful in themselves, it was the outpouring of emotion that captured the moment on our last day. Our Year 12 students handed over responsibility to our Year 11s as the student leaders for 2020. This was a poignant moment as it was a responsibility that they had cherished and nurtured over the last five years. Typical of our characteristic spirit, there was an element of playfulness that permeated this exchange. The whole school had a chance to be directly involved, and a human tunnel was formed from the St Francis Xavier Centre back to the main roundabout outside the Edmund Rice building. It was great to see and feel a genuine warmth as the Year 12 students strolled through tunnel and received the generous farewell from our younger students.

Sometimes tears are not an expected or accepted Australian male trait. If this is the case, then the gathering around the Edmund Rice roundabout was very ‘unAustralian’. Tears flowed naturally and freely as our foundation leaders realised that their remarkable time at the College was in its final moments. There were tears of sadness and tears of joy. It was as Dr Seuss was quoted – ‘Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.’ Two small rituals that emanated around this final gathering were the placement of the students’ ties around the Edmund Rice statue; a salute to the last time that they would wear this tie on our Indooroopilly campus and the signing of school shirts by students and staff that gave a final takeaway for students to remember their school journey. Simple in its happening, but powerful in its symbolism.

Our Year 12 students have made an outstanding contribution to the culture of ATC. In every community, culture is integral to the success it experiences. As student leaders we have asked them to accept the challenge to help us create this culture. The culture that we have challenged them to create is based around living out a set of values. I would like to congratulate them on how they have accepted this challenge not just this year but over the last five years. As our oldest students their leadership has been characterised by humility, commitment and presence. There has been nothing pretentious about their leadership, they have remained grounded and lead the rest of the students by walking beside them and letting them see and feel what servant leadership is.

In my final address to our Year 12 students at the Valedictory Dinner, I finished with the following words and perhaps appropriately I should share these with you as I believe they sum up the ritual of farewell for our first graduating class:

“The reality is that life is a journey, not a destination. Your life now continues its time outside the gates of ATC. Go confidently because you are well equipped for the journey ahead. Just be patient with yourself as you find your answers. Mahatma Gandhi was quoted as saying ‘There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.’ In farewelling you tonight it is not a goodbye, there will always be a little of you in the heart of the ATC community. Good luck with what tomorrow brings and good luck in the years ahead. God bless you all.”

Yearbook

Next week our 2019 College Yearbook will be distributed to students to take home. Our Yearbook is an important College publication, both from today’s perspective and a historical perspective. The Yearbook in some ways speaks to the energy and the ‘feel’ of the community we share. From a sneak preview of this year’s Yearbook I feel that it has definitely captured the essence of 2019 and the warmth that is so characteristic of our community.

In distributing the yearbook, the youngest child of the family in Years 4-7 will receive a copy along with the whole school photo by the last day of the term. The youngest child of the family in Years 8-11 will receive a copy of the yearbook and whole school photo at homeroom time on Thursday 28 November. Each Year 12 student will receive a copy of the 2019 Yearbook and this can be collected along with their laptop from Friday 29 November until Friday 13 December in the IT Department. The cost for one copy of the yearbook for each family and each Year 12 student has been included in our College school fee structure. Should any family like an additional copy of the yearbook, the cost is $30 and orders can be placed by emailing College Reception.

Industrial Matters

Currently Catholic school authorities have been involved in a protracted Enterprise Bargaining engagement with the Queensland Independent Education Union. As an upshot of this engagement, the Catholic schools involved in the current protected industrial action by the Independent Education Union may be affected by short stop work action this week. The union has notified employers of a planned half hour stoppage on Tuesday 19 November from 9am. During these stoppages all students will be appropriately supervised and the impact and disruption to students will be kept to a minimum. All students should attend school as normal on Tuesday.

Congratulations

One of our greatest assets at ATC is the quality of the people we have working here. Inspired by the challenge we have been given to bring a contemporary context to the charism of our Founder Edmund Rice, many of our staff go well and truly beyond what might be expected of the role of teacher. Recently I was delighted to learn of a scholarship given to one of our teachers to further his work in a project he had started here at the College. I would like to acknowledge and congratulate Keith Halpin on his wonderful care to start a program to offer an additional layer of support for students in need of some additional TLC. The COMPASS program is a wonderfully supportive framework that aims to help students develop a greater sense of independence in their lives as they face their challenges.

Keith’s scholarship has been provided by NSG Super, an Australian industry superannuation fund. NSG has recently recognised and supported selected non-government educators who are improving themselves, their communities, and the education sector. With this scholarship, Keith hopes to further his work in the COMPASS program and develop a framework that might be transferable to other educational settings. Next year Keith will be working fulltime in our Senior School as one of our counsellors. He is a very committed teacher who has worked tirelessly for the majority of his career living out our Edmund Rice charism. This is well-deserved recognition of Keith’s outstanding work.

Care and Concern

One of the wonderful outreaches that has been in place since the start of ATC has been the work of our Care and Concern group. As a sub-committee of our P&F, the Care and Concern group works silently behind the scenes to offer help to ATC families experiencing the pain of disruption in their lives. Often this outreach will be the provision of cooked meals for families starved of time as they need to meet the challenges in their own families. At other times it might be helping drop off or picking up students from school. Whilst simple in their manifestation, they are big in the support they can offer. Similarly, whilst the actual act of help is very much appreciated, the thoughtfulness of the gesture is also powerful in its caring impact.

I thank Sara McGarvey who has selflessly taken leadership of this group and has been the conduit between the many contributing ATC families and the families in need. This is a huge commitment and I would like to thank Sara for her generosity to take on this, at times, demanding role. I also thank the many families who generously respond to calls for help for the ATC community. It is very uplifting to be a part of a community that really lives out its values in such tangible ways.

Prayers

I ask the community to please keep Cael McColl (7 Nolan) and his family in your thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of his Grandfather. We hope that the passage of time will help heal the pain of his passing. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, may perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace. Amen.

With best wishes

Michael Senior