November 30, 2021
by Principal, Mr Steven O’Connor
End of Year Celebrations and Thoughts
If it was suggested to me or anyone else for that matter at the beginning of 2021 that we would experience several lockdowns and therefore, periods of remote learning during the year, I would not have believed them! 2021 has been an extraordinary year and although I find it hard to believe that we are drawing the school year to a close, in some ways, I am pleased we are doing so. The challenges and interruptions that the year imposed on us have been significant and at times, the sense of frustration almost took over!
I am incredibly proud of how the College community rallied to these challenges during 2021. In particular, the enthusiasm, determination and energy which has characterised Term 4 at St Pat’s speaks volumes about our students and staff. Jumping in and out of remote learning was not enjoyable for anyone. Having a relatively clear run at a normal term during this last term has been refreshing and productive. Congratulations to all!
As I write this article and in the days ahead, we will acknowledge and celebrate the endeavours and achievements of our students during 2021 at end of year awards presentations and assemblies. In addressing these gatherings briefly, I have reminded the students of the importance of reflecting on their efforts across the 2021 school year as it finishes. The best learners will reflect on what has worked well for them and what achievements or outcomes they are proud of. But they will also reflect honestly on the areas in which they could do a lot more…have they produced work to the best of their ability; have they taken shortcuts in relation to their studies and homework; have they entered into their learning journey with a determination to put their best foot forward and to make the most of each opportunity? Can they do anything to improve how they are progressing with their studies? Have they been grateful for the opportunity of a St Patrick’s education and have they acted respectfully to those around them this year?
I encourage every student to take up the challenge of striving for excellence in all that he does next year and beyond at St Pat’s. I encourage you to be great men in all that you do and how you conduct yourselves every day. How you do this speaks volumes about who you are as a young man. Remember the responsibility that we share as custodians of this great school community. We stand on the shoulders of many great people in this sense and I am excited about the opportunities which await us all as members of the St Patrick’s community next year and in the years ahead!
On Sunday, 28 November we gathered with our Year 12 students and their parents at a Valedictory Celebration at RACV Goldfields. I am so pleased that after all the uncertainty we were able to gather as community and celebrate this milestone! It has been a significant journey for our Year 12s and I thank them for the determination, resilience and good humour they have shown so often along the way! The Valedictory celebration on Sunday evening was a magnificent event and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to mark this occasion with the boys and their parents! Well done, Year 12!
The staff at St Patrick’s have done a magnificent job during 2021. Any school’s greatest resource is of course, its staff and in this sense, St Pat’s is well placed! Pivoting from face-to-face to remote learning and then back to onsite learning is no mean feat and has been exhausting for all staff. A massive thank you to all staff – teachers, administration and support staff – who have carried this place and contributed to the SPC story so well this year! I know that all staff are looking forward to a well-earned break in the weeks ahead, once we reach the end of the term. Thank you to all staff for their efforts during 2021!
A number of staff will be leaving the College at the end of the year to take up new opportunities in other places. I wish all of these good people all the very best for these new challenges and opportunities and thank them for their efforts at St Patrick’s College. These include:
- Ms Julia Petrov – currently the Director of Teaching and Learning; Julia has taken up an exciting role with Catholic Education Ballarat as a Secondary School Consultant – Teaching and Learning.
- Mr Mike Silcock – currently the Director of Boarding and the Director of Students; Mike has accepted the role of Director of Boarding at St Joseph’s Nudgee College, a large EREA day and boarding school in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.
- Mrs Ainslie Silcock – currently a teacher of Food Tech and Health; Ainslie has also been offered a role as a teacher at Nudgee College in Brisbane.
- Mr Joe Carmody – currently a teacher of HaPE; Joe has been appointed to the role of Head of HaPE at Damascus College in Ballarat.
- Mr Brad Murray – currently the Pastoral Care Coordinator and a teacher of English; Brad has accepted a role as a teacher at Cathedral College in Wangaratta.
- Ms Rachel Zuidland – currently a teacher of Science; Rachel has taken up the invitation to return to study Medicine and pursue her life-long goal of becoming a doctor!
- Ms Melissa Delaland – currently an Enhanced Learning Facilitator and teacher; Melissa has accepted an offer of a similar role at Loreto College commencing in 2022.
- Mr Michael Evans-Barker – currently percussion teacher. finishing up at the end of the year.
A number of staff will also finish short term contracts and I thank them for their important contributions in these roles in recent times: Ms Elizabeth Till, Ms Holly de Jong, Renee Browning and Markus Frieverts.
A big vote of thanks and best wishes to all of these colleagues for next year and beyond!
I also wish to sincerely thank Mr Hamish McCrum for the wonderful support he has provided in the role of Acting Deputy Principal during the course of Term 4. The role of Deputy Principal is very busy and involves attending to all sorts of details on a daily basis! Mr McCrum has worked very hard to ensure that everything has been in very good order during the term and that students and staff have been well supported as we returned to face-to-face teaching for the term. There has been a lot to keep us busy during the term and I am grateful for Mr McCrum’s great work this term!
As many of you would know, a number of St Patrick’s students have featured successfully in this year’s AFL Draft. The College is proud of these young men and we wish them every success as they take up the opportunities ahead and embark on their careers as professional AFL players. Congratulations to Josh Gibcus who was the number 9 pick and has been taken up by the Richmond Football Club. Josh is a talented athlete and was the highest pick for the College this year. Kai Lohmann was the number 20 pick and has been selected by Brisbane Lions. This will see Kai join Harry Sharp who was picked by the Lions last year; Harry was a member of this year’s graduating class as well. Sam Butler was picked by Hawthorn at 23 and has already commenced his training with the Hawks in Melbourne. Sam will no doubt be looking forward to his first game against his older brother Dan in the future.
To have three young men selected in the AFL Draft – in the top 23 – is a remarkable achievement! It reflects not only the natural talents and abilities of Josh, Kai and Sam and the incredibly hard work they have put into their training and preparation, but it also reflects the strength of the Football program in place at the College! It goes without saying, that we are thrilled for these young men, we are very proud of them and we wish them every success in the months and years ahead!
Incredibly, Christmas is not very far away and I expect that everyone is looking forward to gathering with family and friends this Christmas. I wish everyone a very holy and joyful Christmas and a safe and happy summer holiday.
I hope that everyone experiences the love and happiness of being able to be with family and friends in the days ahead and especially over Christmas. In particular, I hope that we feel the joy and promise that the birth of the baby Jesus brings us, especially after such a challenging and unpredictable 2021. The anticipation of Christmas and the New Year reflects the hope and optimism that we have for an uninterrupted year ahead of us in 2022! There is much to be grateful for from 2021 but in many ways, I think it will be a good thing to put it to bed, as they say!
I am looking forward to being able to share Christmas with my family, particularly with members of my immediate family, as this will be the first Christmas without my father, following his passing in May. We are keen to be together as family in the Hunter Valley over Christmas. For those in the College community who also will be gathering at Christmas without a cherished member of the family (or a dear friend) for the first time, I wish you every blessing and I hope and pray that you will find solace and comfort in the memories of your loved one at this time.
The students and staff (and parents!) deserve to have a really happy and relaxing holiday and I hope and pray that this is the case! Stay well and safe and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to the 2022 school year in late January!
Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art Holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and always,
Now begin, on Christmas day.
(By Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844-1889.)
In a similar vein and finally, I conclude this final contribution to the Crest for 2021 by offering a prayer of hope for Christmas and the new year. May everyone remain hope-filled in this season and rejoice in the hope that Christmas brings us all.
God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh.
Make us a people of this light.
Make us faithful to your Word, that we may bring your life to the waiting world.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Mr Steven J O’Connor