Last week as a school community, on Tuesday we travelled to St Laurence’s College ERPAC to celebrate our Opening Mass. That afternoon we launched our four new House identities and celebrated their nuances. Thursday I travelled to the Mary Immaculate Church at Annerley to attend the funeral of Neil Betts, while Friday saw me travelling back to ERPAC to attend the Commissioning Mass for Chris Leadbetter as he takes over leadership of the St Laurence’s College school community.
While most weeks will see many of us working behind a desk, last week provided an opportunity to see connections that bring our world together. As a back drop the world we live in is still confused. The spectre of Donald Trump’s Presidential journey continues to divide and confuse a world craving for hope and meaning. On our own national scene the greatest impact of the week was our two political leaders trading insulting barbs that would not be tolerated in any other workplace. We live in an interesting world.
This year we have taken the decision to adopt the theme of trying to be as MAD as we can. As previously discussed, this has nothing to do with our feelings towards Donald Trump or generating the ill feeling of our own political leaders. We want our community to be MAD by Making A Difference in our world. Gathering as a prayerful school community with this theme, gave meaning and connection to our Opening Mass. The calling we hear from the Gospel values espoused by Jesus in his short life, the charism that Edmund Rice was inspired with, and the example that Ambrose Treacy lived as the pioneer Christian Brother in Australia, was very evident in our gathering. Just as Jesus, Edmund and Ambrose made a difference, so too we are called to make a difference.
I am reminded of a quote that I believe speaks powerfully to me – “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” .
Thursday’s celebration for the life of Neil ‘Tiny’ Betts was inspirational. Tiny is a person who has inspired me for most of my life. Whilst I would not claim to know him intimately, his life and his achievements were well known to me. One of his daughters, Pam is well known to me. I started school at St Elizabeth’s Ekibin way back in 1965 and our lives have crossed on numerous occasions since then. Pam is currently the Executive Director of the Brisbane Catholic Education Office. To anyone who has had a connection with the Souths Rugby Club, Tiny is a legend. A Souths Stalwart, Queensland representative player and Wallaby, he was a foundational member of the club in 1948. What was more inspirational than his rugby achievements was the difference he made to so many people in his life. While a legendary rugby coach as well, he was more influential as a life coach of young men. Looking around the Church there were many gathered who lay claim to know the impact that Neil ‘Tiny’ Betts had had on them either directly or indirectly.
To cap off my week I travelled to my alma mater, St Laurence’s to celebrate the Commissioning Mass of Chris Leadbetter as he started his leadership of the school community. Whenever I return to St Laurence’s I am filled with the juxtaposition of thoughts – so much has changed and yet not much has changed. With a student population of over 2000 students, the scope and size of the ERPAC are just two very obvious changes for me. The feeling, the messages expressed and the energy of the students meant not a lot had changed. Sitting comfortably in the air conditioned space, gave me a special feeling of connection for my week. Participating in our Opening Mass, attending the celebration mass of Neil Betts and this Commissioning Mass a consistent them was loud and clear for me – we are all called and challenged to make a difference in our world.
My challenge to us all is – how is our life connected? What are the values that underpin our lives? When our time is up what will be our contribution to our world? What will we be remembered for? In the end I suspect we are all remembered for the little things we do rather than the ‘big’ things we do. Often the big things are part of what we need to do, the small things are the ones that we have the biggest choice in and the biggest influence. Wouldn’t it be good if our political leaders held this tenet – “It’s not about what I see for our future or humanity, it’s about what I do for our future and humanity.” (Steve Maraboli)
This week on assembly I spoke to the students about safety and in particular about road safety in and around the campus. Sadly over the last few weeks I saw a number of examples where students just were not careful crossing our internal roads. I reminded the students that internal roads are no different to external roads – they all need our awareness. Pedestrian crossings are put in place for a reason and we have six pedestrian crossings for our internal roads. All students have been reminded to use these exclusively when crossing roads. As parents we all know that what we do is far more important than what we say. I would encourage all parents to be aware of this when they are visiting the College with their sons. I have asked our Year 9 and 10 students to take on leadership in this as well by setting the right example crossing our roads and challenging students who don’t follow this simple understanding. A worrying trend that I have challenged this year has been students on their mobile phones crossing our internal roads – definitely a recipe for a potential accident.
As parents you play a big part in our safety for students. It is all our responsibility to discuss road safety with our students. As drivers we all become important players in our road safety mantra. Driving onto school grounds demands an extra awareness of the potential dangers. Our internal sign – caution boys being boys sums up these dangers. The reality we face is that despite our best endeavours schools and in particular a school full of young boys present additional risks. I would ask all parents to please observe our speed limits and keep a watchful eye for the unexpected. When dropping off your sons in the morning please add to our safety awareness by reminding them to use the relevant internal pedestrian road crossings.
One of the greatest contributing factors to general road safety is patience. Every parent who drops off and in particular picks up at a school knows that patience, often in big doses, is a key ingredient. Coupled with patience is consideration. Being aware of the needs of others helps the overall safety picture. Here at the College we have a rule that the two pick up and drop off zones are exactly that, pick up and drop off zones and not parking zones. Whilst we can understand that a short stop at these zones is necessary, lengthy waits for students only creates congestion and with congestion can come impatience and with impatience can come careless decisions. Careless decisions are once again a recipe for disaster in road safety. Without trying to sound like I am preaching, the safety of our school community depends on all of us adopting a vigilant awareness in using our roads. We need awareness of others and consider everyone’s needs and not just our own. Road safety is an important matter and it is all of our responsibility to make this work. The old adage that we are only as strong as our weakest link certainly holds true here.
Our annual P&F Welcome Night is now only two weeks away. Whilst it is often a trend that we only buy tickets at the last minute, this trend puts event organisers under unnecessary pressure. I would encourage all of our parents to consider getting a group together to come along and join us for a fun evening. Community is a strong focus of the College. Building community is an active process and this is only achieved when we get to know each other. I look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday 25 February for our Mexican Fiesta.
I hope you are finding ways to keep cool in our extraordinary weather.
With best wishes to all