Principal’s Message

October 14, 2021

by Principal, Mr Steven O’Connor

Term 4 – the joy of Spring!

Much earlier in my career I had the honour and joy of teaching for a short time at Stonyhurst College, which is in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire in the north of England. Stonyhurst is the oldest English speaking Jesuit school in the world and opened its doors to its first students in 1593. At this time, it was illegal for Catholic schools to operate in England, so the Jesuits opened the school in St Omers in France to educate the sons of English Catholics on the continent. Eventually, the restrictions eased, and the school relocated to its current site in the Ribble in 1794.

The College was and still is largely a boarding school. Some of the buildings at Stonyhurst date back to 1200 and the main house was gifted to the Jesuits when they sought to return to the UK in the 1700s. It was like living and working in a history museum – it was fascinating!

The school sits overlooking both the Ribble and the Hodder Rivers and their spectacular settings. I will always remember the beautiful, dappled, gentle light, particularly as spring arrived and established itself. The light we are enjoying with the onset of daylight savings, with each day feeling brighter and longer here in our own beautiful setting, Ballarat, reminds me a lot of this.

One of the great Victorian poets, Gerard Manley-Hopkins was a Jesuit priest and he both studied and taught at Stonyhurst. It was well known that Manley-Hopkins would walk along the Hodder and find a spot to sit and write, inspired by what he saw around him – the river, the fields and mountains and the stock on the farms in the valley. As part of my routine as a young teacher, I would regularly walk past the College’s junior school and along the banks of the Hodder. I have taken my family back there on a number of occasions; there is something special about the place!

As we begin the new term, we do so in the beautiful light of spring and with all the hope that spring and the new life that we witness in this season.

Whilst the restrictions we continue to work under are less than ideal, there is hope on the horizon. It has been a real joy to welcome our students back to the College over the first couple of weeks of the term. The enthusiasm and excitement of our young men has energised the College again and like spring, it has come alive again! We hope that we will get through the staggered start for the year levels across the first three weeks and then look forward to all students being back on site from Tuesday, 26 October, as per the government’s road map.

The College continues to work through the road map and is determined to ensure that the term is as enjoyable and productive as possible for all students.

We have recognised the achievements of our Year 12 students at a pre-recorded awards assembly, as well as acknowledging and celebrating the outgoing College Captains, Vice Captains and Student Council, whilst at the same time, welcoming the new student leaders for 2022. We have also rounded off the College’s football season by recording the John James Medal Awards ceremony, which will be made available to the College early next week.

I am pleased to advise that a number of appointments to staff have been finalised for 2022, including:

  • Deputy Principal – Mr Richard Brodrick has been appointed to the role of Deputy Principal of St Patrick’s College from the beginning of 2022. Mr Brodrick is currently Deputy Principal Wellbeing at Catholic Regional College in Caroline Springs. Prior to this, he was on staff in a number of leadership positions at St Joseph’s College in Geelong. Mr Brodrick is also an Old Collegian and says that ‘St Patrick’s is a destination school for him’ in terms of his professional career. Mr Brodrick’s appointment comes via an extensive and rigorous process led by EREA.
  • Director of Boarding – Mr Brendon Gilbert has accepted the role of Director of Boarding at the College, commencing in the new year. Mr Gilbert is an Old Collegian, has worked on staff at the College before and for the last several years, has been working as a teacher and Head of Wigan House, one of the boys’ boarding houses, at Ballarat Grammar.
  • Rowing Coordinator – Mr Tom Nash. Mr Nash has accepted the invitation to take up the role of Rowing Coordinator, as well as a teacher of PE, at the College from the beginning of Term 2 in 2022. Mr Nash is currently the Director of Sport and Rowing Coordinator at Ballarat and Clarendon College.
  • Teaching positions: I am pleased to advise the community of the appointments of Mr James Couzens, Ms Kate Millan and Ms Sarah Siakew to the teaching staff in 2022. Mr Couzens has taught at Ballarat and Clarendon College for many years. Ms Siakew is currently on staff at Clarendon and prior to relocating to Ballarat a few years ago, taught in some very good schools in Adelaide. Ms Millan taught for many years at Trinity College in Albury-Wodonga and is currently working at the Catholic high school in Mt Isa in QLD. All of these teachers will teach across English, Humanities and Religious Education from next year.

We are still working our way through our recruitment process for 2022. I hope to be able to announce the appointments of the four new Assistant Principals to the College in the next few weeks. With these important roles appointed, we will be close to having our staff in place for the 2022 school year and ready to provide our boys with the best educational experience we can!

I think it is really important for us to remain grateful and optimistic in education. Every time I walk through the College gates, I am grateful to be in my role and to be walking into such a beautiful school. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with and for our young men; and I am hugely optimistic for what lies ahead for them! I am also genuinely grateful for the commitment and professionalism of my colleagues and the support they provide all students.

Gerard Manley-Hopkins wrote many beautiful poems, some more well-known than others. One of his better-known works is ‘God’s Grandeur’:


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

                 It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

 It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

               Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

                And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

                 Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;

        There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

        Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

          World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


Amongst many things, Manley-Hopkins is known for his attempts to capture in his works the beauty and wonder of God which surrounds us in our daily lives.

We are indeed blessed to welcome all to the new term, to welcome the beauty and promise of spring and to embrace the opportunities and hope that all of this brings to the College community.

Welcome to Term 4. Enjoy!