Headmaster’s Message – December 6, 2017

December 5, 2017

Headmaster, Mr John Crowley, was delighted to welcome over 600 people to the St Patrick’s College Valedictory Dinner on Friday, November 24. Following is a transcript of the speech delivered by Mr Crowley to the graduating class of 2017, their families, friends and College staff.

Headmaster Valedictory Speech – Wednesday 24 November, 2017

Good evening everyone and on behalf of the community of St Patrick’s College I offer a very warm welcome to our families and friends of our graduating class of 2017. Most importantly, I welcome all of our graduands for whom the journey of secondary education has come to an end and the next stage of your life lies before you. In offering this welcome, I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land of which we stand, the Wathuroung people, and pay our respects to elders past and present. May we continue to walk on this land gently and respectfully. May we also continue to be a school community that works towards true reconciliation with, and justice for, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, Australia’s first peoples.

The other evening, when walking through the front garden of St Patrick’s College, I became aware of the reminders of the legacy left by those who have come before us. These reminders have welcomed generations of young men as they entered our gates seeking a Catholic education in the charism of Edmund Rice. The statue of St Patrick, reminding us of his legacy of bringing Christianity to Ireland. Kennedy House and the College Chapel, which stands as testimony to the commitment and work of many Christian Brothers over the years. – The College foyer where we proudly display examples of student triumphs in sport, music and debating.- Through the long corridors where we see examples of men who have used the gift of education at St Patrick’s College as a means of providing service to others.- Faces, thousands of them, in photographs, many long gone, but all sharing the common bond of leaving their imprint on the history of College and more significantly, the broader and global community. –

Legacy is a word that is so significant to our school and our story. It is created and shaped through who we are and what we stand for. From the language we use, from the level of respect we show to others, from the passion and commitment we show to a cause, through our humanity. It is a selfless gift which does not receive or seek immediate gratification. It is a timeless gift that is beyond the here and now. But it is more powerful and inspirational than any other gift because it brightens the world of others around us immeasurably.

And so, as we gather here tonight, it is appropriate to ask the question of each of you, our graduating class of 2017: what will your legacy be as you enter into the world beyond our gates? And more significantly, how will the experience of your time at St Patrick’s College help shape this legacy?

In the words of Barack Obama:

-Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere-.

Obama draws our attention on the one thing that can prevent us from being people of action. – Our fear of failure. His words encourage us to greater levels of resilience and confidence within ourselves. His message is a simple one of hope: as people who must act for others, put your amour on, toughen up, and accept that criticism and failure is part of trying- we can choose to either let it silence us, even destroy us, or, we can harness it to fuel our passion for being even greater agents of change. This is a choice we all have to make.

We must, however, always remember to remain open to criticism and be able to honestly reflect on our failures. For without this, we can never be people capable of growth and change. No one ever has all of the answers.

As our school leaders this year, we have already witnessed your commitment to placing your mark on the story of St Patrick’s College. Your photos are in our corridors, your trophies are in our cabinets. Your legacy. – We have been shown great examples of hope, compassion and empathy from each of you. You have participated in social justice initiatives, sport, music, drama, public speaking and debating and all that this school offers with passion, pride and humility. You have mentored our younger students superbly and led by example throughout the year. You have been a group willing to stand in solidarity with the marginalized and those without a voice on the streets of St Kilda. You have challenged us to to reflect on our commitment in seeking genuine reconciliation and to embrace unity and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians.

And it was the entire Student Council of this year level, led and Mitch, Nick and Josh that stood with the St Patrick’s community at the front of the College in June and offered a sincere apology to survivors of abuse. That took enormous courage.

In these actions, and so many others, you have given active witness to the Gospel of Jesus and the Charism of Edmund Rice. This College was placed in your hands at the end of 2016 and you hand it back tonight a better school for your legacy.- –

My hope for each of you is that you are happy and healthy in life, that you are kind to others and that each of you tell your family and friends that you love them unconditionally. Often. There are many more measures of success that people apply to life, but in the end, none of them are as important as these.- –

On behalf of the entire Staff, I want to acknowledge all of our Parents and Carers for your trust in us to look after your sons over their journey at St Patrick’s College. I thank each of you, on behalf of our graduating students, for all of the support, love and encouragement you have given your son over the past 18 years.

I would like to acknowledge the Staff of St Patrick’s College. For your unending dedication to ensuring each student is given the opportunity to grow and succeed. Without our staff, the limitless opportunities offered to our boys would not be possible. We are so very fortunate to have such a committed and caring staff.

In finishing, I offer the following thought to each of the young men here tonight: In your conversations, interactions and relationships with people throughout your lifetime, never assume all people have had the same opportunities that you have- that is why the world needs your legacy.

Good night and God bless.

Mr John Crowley