Headmaster’s Message – June 23, 2017

June 22, 2017

Dear Parents, Carers, Friends, Staff and Students of St Patrick’s College,

As we approach the end of another busy term we draw breath and consider all of the important changes and conversations currently happening at St Patrick’s College. Each of these initiatives have, at their heart, the desire to improve the educational experiences and wellbeing of the young men we are privileged to work with each and every day. I include a snapshot of some of these for your information:

  • Over the past term the College has undertaken a full review of the Year 9 Program. This review has involved conversations with students, staff and parents to reflect on what we see as core features of a Year 9 program at St Patrick’s College. The final details of the review are currently being discussed but they include a conversation around the structure of the timetable and subjects offered.

  • The College is currently reviewing its 1:1 Program under the auspices of Wendy Graham. Wendy is an educational consultant with many years of experience. This review includes a detailed discussion about the use of technology in the classroom and the type of device most appropriate for student use. This is an important review which will permit the College to ensure we are preparing our students exceptionally well for their participation in a digital-based world.

  • Late last year, the College underwent a formal renewal for accreditation to continue as a school in the Edmund Rice Tradition. As part of the recommendations for this successful renewal, we have been encouraged to consider our motto: Raising Fine Boys to the Status of Great Men. Specifically, what qualities do we hope to instill in the young men we educate that will continue to develop throughout their journey of life? This question has involved many enlightening discussions with students and staff and has produced some wonderful feedback for us to consider. It also provides a great backdrop to consider all that we do at SPC in regards to the education of our students. I look forward to providing further feedback to the community as the conversations continue to unfold around this important initiative.

  • The new boarding precinct continues to progress at great speed. This facility will provide a state-of-the-art precinct for up to 95 students, offering modern accommodation, recreational and study facilities. I would encourage all members of the St Patrick’s College community to drive past this facility and to inspect its development.- Most significant is that the College is experiencing very strong demand for 2018 for a place in the new boarding facility.

  • This week, our Year 7 students were involved in a formal Retreat Program. I was particularly impressed but not surprised to read comments such as the following to describe the way they participated fully in the experience:

    -Just letting you know how I was so impressed with how every boy in 7J and 7F on retreat conducted themselves. They were engaged, active, they listened and they reflected fully on their own lives and the lives of their peers. As a teacher, parent of a current Year 7 boy and as an Old Boy of SPC I was humbled and went away from the day feeling that we have a such a great cohort of students.-

    In addition, our Year 9 students participated in their Melbourne Experience this week. I was equally delighted to hear of a phone call received from a person not connected to the College who commented that:

    -She couldn’t praise our boys high enough. Their manners and conversation was exemplary.- The boys talked all the way!– –

    Also, this week I was incredibly proud of the way our 1st XVIII footballers conducted themselves in winning the 2017 BAS Grand Final over Ballarat Clarendon College. Our boys played an exceptional brand of football and were incredibly humble and sportsmanlike in victory. The true measure of a great footballer is not necessarily how skillful they are, but how well they play the game in a sportsmanlike manner. Our boys tick all the boxes.

  • Next Tuesday, June 27 at 4.30pm,- St Patrick’s College will offer our formal apology in the front gardens of the College. As the current stewards of this College, we seek to stand together and acknowledge the unfathomable hurt of the past and to chart a new course of hope for the future: to express our sorrow for, and solidarity with, victims and survivors of sexual abuse, their families, and the wider Ballarat community for the damage done by individuals historically connected with the College. – All members of our community -“ students, current and former parents, Old Collegians, staff -“ are invited to join us for this important event which should last around 30 minutes. If students are attending, we ask they do so with their parents or carers and in full-school uniform.

    This apology is such important part of the journey we are on as a school community and I am so proud of the way our current students, parents and staff have faced this challenge with enormous courage and determination to respond in a way that has found great hope amidst such pain.

    Most significantly, the actions of our current school community have sought to answer the call of our own Charter and Gospel: to be people truly present for others without exception. It must be this way because it is the example given to us in Jesus.

    Recently, Francis Sullivan, Chair of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council highlighted the importance for communities to continue on the path shown by schools such as St Patrick’s College:

    -St Pat’s and other schools and parishes around Ballarat were home to some of Australia’s, and the Church’s worst pedophiles. But despite this, the St Pat’s school community has made a concerted effort to reach out to survivors. In many different ways a level of trust has been restored such that two former St Pat’s students who had been abused attended to the Apology in Canberra. While there is a long way to go and there may well be missteps, this demonstrates to me that things can change for the better.

    When a Catholic Community reaches out with honesty, goodwill and integrity there can be optimism for reconnection and healing. But it will only happen if survivors can see that the offers and apologies are sincere and backed by action.-

    Finally, I want to finish my last Crest for the term with a beautiful reflection by Pope Francis which I think perfectly sums up our call as a Catholic community. I pray that the holidays are a time of personal renewal and reflection and that each member of the St Patrick’s community returns to us safely and ready for another busy term ahead.

    -¦…may the Lord help us all to set out more decisively on the path of justice and peace. And let us begin at home! Justice and Peace at home, among ourselves. It begins at home and then goes out to all humanity. But we have to begin at home. May the Holy Spirit act in hearts, may HE melt obstacles and hardness and grant that we may be moved before the weakness of the Baby Jesus. Peace, in fact, requires the strength of meekness, the nonviolent strength of truth and love.

    Mr John Crowley