Headmaster’s Message – February 18, 2016

February 17, 2016

Headmaster’s Address to Academic Assembly- – February 16, 2016

Welcome to all of our invited guests, parents, guardians, grandparents, friends, staff and most importantly, our students. In offering this greeting, we acknowledge the traditional custodians of this great land. They are the Wathaurong People. We pay our respects to them for their care of the land. May we walk on it gently and respectfully. I would also like to acknowledge Brother Evan Zoch and Brother Bill Wilding who represent the Christian Brothers who have educated countless generations of young men at St Patrick’s College over the past 120 years.

Late last year I found myself sitting in a restaurant with my youngest daughter. Whilst sitting at the table, she looked squarely at me and asked: -Are you wanting to spend time together or are you wanting to play with your phone instead?- I was immediately taken aback at this question, because I quickly realised what she was getting at: I was not present for her. I was not showing interest in her day. I was more interested in checking my emails on my phone than talking to her. I was not living in the moment.

Often I travel to meetings in Melbourne on the V/Line train so as to avoid the stress of dealing with traffic and finding a place to park. The next day after our restaurant visit, I hopped on a train to the city.- Looking around the carriage I became very aware that some people began to recoil into their own world. Earphones were quickly put in ears, effectively blocking out all other distractions. The more I travelled on the train to my meetings the more it seemed to me that many thought human interaction was an inconvenience to be avoided at all costs. Commuters entered into an internal world where others were locked out. Conversation was replaced with isolation.

The trend of spending more time in our own company seems to be becoming more and more part of our everyday routine. Every day, we see hundreds of people run, ride or walk around Lake Wendouree by themselves, hundreds of thousands of people in Australia study university through online courses without ever meeting their lecturers, thousands of cars clog Melbourne freeways and roads with only one person in them. Many more people today live alone in small 1-bedroom boxes, completely isolated from society. People collect hundreds of friends on Facebook, without ever knowing the vast majority of these as people. Doctors diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments online through video without the need to see patients in person. The family dinner is at risk of becoming a dying tradition, replaced by meals carefully balanced on one’s lap while watching television. While many of these things activities are just a reality of life, we must be equally careful to balance them with quality time in the company of others and make sure we live in the exciting moments of life.

There are many ways we can do this. One simple one is to make the decision that when we walk through our front gates of our wonderful school that we take out our earphones and greet the people we pass. When we are with our friends in the school yard we should really listen to what they are saying and be aware of the joy that great friendships bring to us. – When classmates offer comments in class in response to a teacher’s question, we should relish the opportunity to spend time together discussing these. We should be open to the opportunity of extending our academic abilities through active engagement with our teachers and fellow classmates. Each of the boys who will shortly be presented with a Chris Nolan Award have done just that. They have looked outwards and sought to engage actively with others to develop their knowledge and skills in a range of areas. We should be open to involving ourselves in as many extra-curricular opportunities as possible. At assemblies such as this we should be genuinely involved as a whole school, interested in every part of the occasion. When we sing our school song at the conclusion of this assembly, we should sing it with gusto together, not just the one word that is sung loudly, but the whole song, because you are proud to be Paddy boys, just like generations of men who have gone before you. On the sporting field we should revel in the togetherness of the occasion, the friendships we have around us, and not just the victory. In the ensembles and productions, we should appreciate that it is the combination of many voices and instruments that produce beautiful sounds, not a single person.

Last year our three top performing academic students, Paddy, Will and Kelsey, spent many nights together at the kitchen table, pushing each other, challenging each other and encouraging each other. Their story of success reflects the profoundness of spending time with others and living in the moment.

Our greatest teach, Jesus, was, of course, always interested in being with people. He walked with people, cried with people, talked to people and challenged people. He understood that a true connection with each other was at the heart of his message of love.

My hope for each of us this year is that we continue to strengthen what makes us a truly great school -our connection with each other. Let’s guard the opportunities we have to celebrate together fiercely. Let each of us take the time to savour each conversation with our friends as a moment of joy that will never be repeated. Let every success be seen as a memory being shaped, savoured and celebrated, and let the rafters ring and ring as we sing our song together today and at each and every assembly.

Have a great weekend

Mr John Crowley