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Have Hope, Move Mountains

Sitting down on Sunday evenings to consider what I will write about in ATConnect can be a mix of challenges. Sometimes I have a definite thought and it is a little easier, other times the thought juices are moving a little slower and it is more difficult. This weekend I have been preoccupied with thoughts of Conor Tweedy’s journey.

Conor is a current Year 11 student of St Joseph’s, Gregory Terrace and an Old Boy of Nudgee Junior College. He was a Year 7 student in our final year of Nudgee Junior before heading off to Gregory Terrace for his secondary education. Conor was a very active student who was involved in a variety of sports, he achieved well in class and he was a very popular student amongst his peers. He is a great kid.

Two weeks ago, his relatively ‘normal’ life was turned upside down when, playing for the 2nd XV, when he received a serious neck injury in a scrum. The collapse caused a fracture dislocation and spinal cord injury at C4-C5, resulting in weakness and paralysis of the muscles in the arms and legs as well as those required for breathing. Conor’s injury is very serious.

On Saturday afternoon I was made aware of another schoolboy rugby injury. Alexander Clark, a Year 9 student at Nudgee College, who received a serious neck injury and he underwent emergency surgery on Saturday evening. Last night’s surgery was to stabilise the neck, and this was successfully achieved. Alexander is currently in ICU and will remain there for at least the next 72 hours. The extent of his injury is unknown at this stage, and may not be known for days or weeks to come as Alexander recovers.

The extent of the pain that Conor, Alexander and their families are feeling is unimaginable. No one could hope to understand the depth of feeling as they navigate the rollercoaster of emotions, the suddenness of a simple incident and the uncertainty of what the future will hold. The tragedy and pain of these experiences are real and disorientating. It is at these times Christians may often wonder where is God?

Tragedy and pain are disorienting. We don’t want to experience either, yet life keeps bringing them on. Our time is spent trying to keep our lives tragedy and pain-free. In his book Credo, preacher and writer William Sloane Coffin suggests that we have a God who provides us with minimum protection and maximum support. I agree with him—but I don’t like it. Sometimes I just don’t get it, I get indignant, and like millions of others, I shake my fist at the heavens and demand to know why this is happening. This is a world of tragedy and pain. It is also a world of joy and fulfillment.

In our world of pain, we can find God in the loving acts of those who stand by us. In instances like Conor and Alexander’s injuries we can be grateful for those of the medical profession who fight to restore their health. They are the instruments of God and through them his love comes. All healing really is divine. In the depths of our pain and emotional distresses, God comes to us through a friend, a family member or a counsellor, to offer us encouragement. God is there through those who care. In moments of deep need, God comes in a mysterious way to give us courage.

No one escapes the struggles of life. The reality is that our faith does not make us immune from suffering. In our Christian faith we understand that God never promised that life would be without its painful moments. Through our faith we are promised that God will be with us no matter what we face. An anonymous author is quoted in saying, ‘Peace does not come with the absence of troubles, but with the conscious realization of adequate resources.’ Courage and hope are remarkable, and it is often at times of tragedy and pain that these two feelings emerge to take over a situation. I was close to tears to read that Conor insists he will not be defined by his major scrum accident and that he wants to attend his school semi-formal even if it means he does so in a wheelchair. Conor was quoted as saying “I don’t go over what happened (in the scrum). There’s no point … there’s nothing I could have done to stop it anyway. It was just one of those things that happen.” Hope is a powerful agent for dealing with an uncertain future.

This year our theme has been H.O.P.E. – Helping Other People is Easy. Conor has a long and testing journey ahead. Dr Michael Carroll (Principal of Gregory Terrace) in a recent update to the Terrace community wrote: ‘His youth, strength and determination have helped him to cope with the injury and will be critical for recovery. But that will not be enough. The best management and optimal outcomes require significant funding for equipment, therapy, and personal support’ and he quoted Conor’s dad, Sean Tweedy: ‘Asking for support like this doesn’t come easily or naturally for us, but Conor is our boy and, as we cannot take away the tough journey that’s in front of him, we want to do everything that we can to help him be as good as he can be. Michael went onto to suggest that many people have asked about supporting Conor financially. I would like to reiterate his suggestion and implore anyone who is in a position to do this, please consider making a tax-deductible donation by clicking here.

As a College community we will conduct a gold coin donation day in the coming week so that we can do our part in supporting Conor and his family both financially and through our thoughts and prayers. I would ask everyone to please keep Conor and Alexander in your thoughts and prayers too. We pray that they will continue to find courage and hope in their recovery and that they find and feel the presence of their watchful God in the love of their families, friends and medical support teams.

Leadership Assembly

Last Friday it was great to be able to celebrate our leadership assembly. I often get asked what do we mean when we talk about Leadership being one of our three pillars at ATC and what do I mean when I say that we believe that all students are called to lead and all students have a capacity to lead. Leadership is a choice, a choice that everyone can make. It is leadership with a common touch. Sleeves-rolled-up leadership. Servant leadership. As a Jesuit, Pope Francis well understands that dictum of Ignatius: ‘love is expressed more in deeds than in words.’ As one American commentator has recently put it: ‘[Pope Francis] understands the power of vivid images and decisive actions and symbols. When he shuns the lavish privileges of his high office, when he washes the feet of a Muslim woman, when he embraces a man who inhabits the lonely exile of hideous disfigurement, when he undoes bureaucracies that serve entrenched interests, he calls to mind words that are attributed to his legendary namesake, St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the gospel at all times … and, if necessary, use words.’

Leadership is an important concept for students to understand, it is something that will stand with them for the rest of their lives. Once it is understood the rewards of ‘leading’ are boundless; not in any tangible way but it is felt in the emotions that come from knowing you have made a difference. I see this in our students on most occasions. I ask our students not to change anything they do or to think that we expect something dramatic from them – we simply ask them to be themselves and to look for ways in which they can serve others in leadership. Leadership is a simple calling that can have powerful ramifications – a quote by Maya Angelou speaks volumes: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Click here to view the Leadership Assembly album on our Facebook page.

80 year Celebrations

This year will realise 80 years of education on our Indooroopilly campus – 76 years as Nudgee Junior and 4 years as an ATC community. This is a significant achievement that we will celebrate. As a College we will hold a week of celebration in the second week of Term 4 – in the week leading up to our annual Jazz by The River Festival. The celebrations will culminate in a fireworks display from a barge on the Brisbane River at the conclusion of the Jazz by the River event.
During this week a number of College events will be held including:
• A Community Mass to launch the week on Sunday morning 14 October followed by a community BBQ and sports day
• Monday will be the finals of ATC’s Got Talent competition
• Tuesday – An inaugural Interhouse Gate to Gate Run across the College internal roads
• Wednesday will see the conclusion of our photography competition and a poetry Grand Slam and we will host a visiting NZ school who will workshop and perform with our own Wind Ensemble
• Thursday – a House BBQ
• Friday – a special 80 year history assembly and student free historical dress day
• Saturday – Jazz by the River Festival

A commemorative cap marking the occasion will be distributed to all students and we will also unveil a timeline that will map the developments of the College over these 80 years. The timeline will be installed on the wall leading into the Nudgee Junior Hall. I would ask all families to note this week and we would love to see as many families as possible join us for these events during our important celebration.

Congratulations

A hard-working group of Year 10 and 11 students have been leading a major regeneration project in the gully to the south end of the College campus. Last week two of our leaders in this project, Thomas vanGilst and Thomas MacGeorge attended the Healthy Land and Waterways Gala Dinner with Mr Bernard Wong, Coordinator Service Program. The students work saw them nominated as finalists in two categories, Environmental Warriors Group Category and Youth Environmental Leader. In a great result we were just pipped at the post by Hilder Road State School in the group category. I am delighted to share that Alex Davies was recognised for his wonderful work and he was voted as the 2018 Youth Environmental Leader. This is a significant achievement and a just reward for a remarkably passionate young man. Alex practically bleeds green blood and his drive has been the major reason for the great result his team has achieved in the gully. We are very fortunate to have a College with wonderful surroundings and these young men have contributed greatly to not only the outlook of the College but to the environment as a whole.

With best wishes,
Michael Senior