2015 Edmund Rice Day Homily

May 4, 2015

Old Collegian Fr Justin Driscoll (SPC 1981-82) delivered the following homily to the College’s full-school Mass on Edmund Rice Day in the Br W.T. O’Malley Sports Centre on Tuesday, May 4, 2015:

Over the course of the past ten days it’s amazing the events that have taken place. Only ten days ago we were commemorating the centenary of the events surrounding the ANZACs at Gallipoli. This event has captured the imagination of our nation and appeals to many as being able to provide something of a founding mythology on which our Australian identity and nation has been built. Whether it does provide this or not is not my point, but I am thinking about foundations as we celebrate Blessed Edmund Rice. A founding story provides a key to understanding identity and the founding intent should always be included in any re-imagining or reconsideration of future identity and purpose. At St Pat’s we continue as a school in the tradition of Edmund Rice and while tradition is one of the four pillars here, our appeals to tradition are not a securing of the past, but a securing of the future. – Following straight on from ANZAC day, we have witnessed Nepal being devastated by an earthquake which literally shook its very foundations and brought home to the world how fragile we are in the face of such natural disasters, but how, through modern communications we clearly belong to the global village and are now able to make a response that is compassionate and immediate to this disaster and resulting humanitarian crisis. And then we had the deaths of two Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran as well as the six others who were executed by the Indonesian government. – This event has prompted a wave of consideration on the sanctity of human life, which is to be defended at every stage of its existence and of our condemning of capital punishment in particular.

These events bring us today and our Mass celebrating Blessed Edmund Rice and the foundations upon which St Pat’s has been built and continues to live from. While not in the same league as the previous three events, it is nonetheless an important day for us as we honour the founding story and the foundations upon which we continue to build. Edmund Rice, as a founder, was a leader and visionary. As I prepared for today’s Mass, I found myself reflecting on leadership, service and identity. Some months ago I found in the sports section of one of the weekend papers, a reflection on leadership and service by Martin Flanagan (arguably one of the greatest sports journalists) writing on the coach of the Soceroos, Ange Postecoglou whom he describes as -modest and thoughtful.- His description of Postecoglou continued-

-As he’s succinct with words, you have an added incentive to listen. The accounts of what he said to the Socceroos as they prepared to play extra time in last weekend’s Asian Cup final ring absolutely true. He pointed out that the South Koreans were spent, their players lying and sitting slumped on the ground. The Australians were standing; they had more to give, they had half an hour to get another goal, a chance would come. He presented South Korea’s late goal as an opportunity for the Australians to enjoy an even sweeter victory. His players believed and delivered. – One week later, a lot more Australians believe in soccer and the Socceroos than did before that one game.-

A leader who is modest and thoughtful, who is able to unify, build belief and expand possibility and is able to inspire others to action is the snapshot we get of this one modest and thoughtful leaders.

What did emerge for me as I continued reading and reflecting is that good leadership presents a compelling picture of the future. That we are still living out of the founding vision and leadership of Edmund Rice bears witness to this. One of my favourite definition of a leader comes from Ken Blanchard’s book Lead like Jesus. He defines leadership as a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behaviour, or development of people towards accomplishing a goal in their lives, you are taking the role of leadership. This statement implies that we are all, students and staff, leaders at some point in time. So we need many approaches. But for us we need to say more about leadership than its style -“ we need to go to the heart of the leader, to what motivates us to want to lead. For us, in this context of Catholic education here at St Pats, as disciples of Jesus Christ, a leader is one who seeks to serve others. This is what we know as servant leadership, which is characterised by listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, foresight, stewardship, community, and growth to name a few! It finds its inspiration in Jesus, the Teacher and exemplar of servant leadership, who came -not to be served to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many-.

Catholic education at St Pats seeks to educate you as young men to be conscious, competent, compassionate and committed. Let these words guide you. One leader who I find inspirational is Pope Francis, and his leadership seems to be inspiring many across the globe. I’m convinced of that is called -the Francis effect: which highlights yet again how significant one leader can be. His leadership is that of the servant, characterised by humility, with innovation and joy! He says that if you want to lead a happy, healthy life, here are ten steps

1.- – – Live and let live -“ this principle is to guide us all, which is another way of saying move forward and let others do the same.

2.- – – Be giving of yourself to others -“ with a particular preference for the poor. As the Pope advises against withdrawing into oneself, since that runs the risk of stagnation and as he puts it, -stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.-

3.- – – Move quietly, that is through finding stillness in your life, moving calmly, slowly and with humility, which in itself is remarkably counter cultural.

4.- – – Have a healthy sense of leisure -“ while consumerism has brought us many anxieties and stresses, -people who work must take time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, to read, to listen to music, to play sport.-

5.- – – Sunday is for family -“ once a week people should take a break from their work and spend time with family, a concept necessary for the survival of humanity.

6.- – – Find innovative ways to make jobs for young people -“ -Power, money, culture do not give us dignity. Work, honest work, gives us dignity.-

7.- – – Respect nature -“ Pope Francis draws our attention to the connection between environmental problems and poverty and ask of our degradation of the environment: -Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?-

8.- – – Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy -“ we know that joy is one of the hallmarks of the theology and leadership of Pope Francis.

9.- – – Stop proselytizing -“ -the worst thing of all is religious proselytism which paralyses. We shouldn’t talk with others with the sole purpose of persuading them that we’re right. Each person sees the world in their own way and that should be respected, believing that people will be part of our Church if they’re attracted to it not argued into it.-

10.- – – Work for peace. This is the language we must speak and in doing so we must be proactive and dynamic, never quiet.

So we celebrate one of the foundations on which this College is built, that of the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice, whose leadership was responsive to the immediate need for education, sensitive to the demands of justice, and faith filled in it commitment to the Gospel. So too let the leadership of each of us be that of Jesus, the first servant leader, with a consciousness, competence, compassion and commitment that will identify us as belonging to St Patrick’s College.

May God who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfilment.

Justin Driscoll