Catholic Identity – 25 July 2019
For the last two weeks our Catholic Identity Team has been privileged to hear world class speakers both in the College and at the CEO in Sale. I thanked Dr Carmody Grey with these words last Thursday:
Carmody, you have embodied the authentic learner, drawing on so much of the past and creating a vision of a new future, with new language and ways of thinking about the beautiful core concepts of our tradition. You have modelled Pope Francis’ invitation to encounter, accompaniment and compassion for the periphery. In our encounter with you, we have responded in body, mind and heart to your words of wisdom. You have accompanied us as we reflected on your insights from the ages, which have implications for what is so important to us – our church and our faith that is ultimately about the joy of God. Finally, you have raised our awareness of those on the periphery, and as such you have given us the practical application of theology. You have affirmed that what we do matters, that it is up to us on the ground to be purposeful and considered as we lead the faith of our staff and students. We have a couple of areas to work on straight away, namely raising the understanding of the Holy Spirit, and of course to work much more passion for the good of the environment. Thank you again Carmody, we are enriched by your time with us.
We also gained wisdom and knowledge from Rose Marie Prosser, whose sharing of a unique Australian spirituality helped deepen our understanding of core beliefs. Finally, Peta Murray from the CEO opened our eyes as to how to be in right relationship with our Aboriginal peoples. These days remind us that we are lifelong learners.
Berwick Soup Van Tuesday 16 July – Reflections
The experience I had with the Soup Van this week was a moment in time to be amazed and moved by. I felt it was the coming together of so many different jigsaw pieces into one moment.
I am writing this reflection as an attempt to unite thoughts and experiences, in order to show an example of living as a Christian community which searches for authentic ways to express faithfulness to God.
- Our student involvement 1 – Charlie and Laura.
Both these students have been on the van over six times. They know and look forward to seeing the people we serve. They talk about who they will see at the next stop. They share the individual characteristics of different people with whom they will share ten minutes of their lives. Their favourite person is a lady at Hampton Park, who receives the food from her car. For twenty minutes Laura, Charlie and Abel (the third student on the van) were at her car door sharing a moment of joy. Laura communicated with her how much she looked forward to seeing her and tears flowed from this lady’s eyes. I felt uncomfortable when I asked the group to return to the van and proceed to the next stop but the glow that was generated through this encounter was memorable. This meeting time and place, three times each week, through all the volunteers of the Berwick Soup Van, paints the story of a family united in giving and receiving.
- Our student involvement 2 – Abel. This was the first time Year 12 student Abel had attended the van. After each stop he would make a comment about what he observed and experienced as he served. We take so much for granted, I appreciate all that I have, This gives you perspective, I didn’t realise, etc. Charlie and Laura were responding to all of Abel’s reflections with their insight and experience. I heard Charlie say that he found it hardest the first time he went. Now Charlie can comfortably engage with all those we meet, offering welcome, equality and genuine interest in their lives. As for Abel, no one could have dreamed that this was his first time on the van.
- Charity has no boundaries. Mary Evangelista, Berwick Soup Van President, accepted an offer of donations from the Sikh Temple in Officer. Hiap, a member of the Sikh community, came to St Francis Xavier College and handed over bags of new and “as new” clothes for the night’s run. He said that he had asked his community to donate clothes for the St Vincent de Paul Berwick Soup Van. He filmed Mary and I gratefully accepting the donations and describing how they would be distributed. He was very keen for the SVDP logo to be in his filming. The night was much later than usual because the people greatly appreciated what was offered, and we gave them time to choose what they liked. There were many sighs of gratitude – I haven’t bought a new jumper for years, This is great, I can wear this to Church. There were no clothes left by the end of the run. Some people hugged what they were taking away. Sikh community gifts through a Catholic community organisation to a public place where a meal is offered to all, perhaps a glimpse of what ecumenism in action looks like in the future, but it happened now. After I related the story of the Sikh community offering clothes at our school morning briefing, a staff member approached me and offered more clothes for the run…
- Charity begins at home. There were no extra donations of vegetables from Aldi in the Soup Van kitchen, as is often the case, so we were not going to be able to offer as much as normal. First came the clothes from the Sikh community of Officer. Then our Berwick Campus REC walked through the door with bags of donated non-perishable items that had come from the families of the Berwick Campus. We were able to assemble separate bags of canned fish products, baked beans and spaghetti, canned vegetables and canned fruit. At the beginning of the night we thought the van would be pretty empty, as we left to begin the run, the van was full. All donations were passed on to the members of the Berwick Soup Van community. The sharing of food and clothes was matched by the conversations that followed.
- Your past is a gift. My brother Russell moved to New Zealand in 1988, married Elizabeth Otimi, a Maori lady. They had one son, Uenuku, who now has five children. Over the years Russell has taught me some Maori words, and about the tribe of Elizabeth, Tuwharetoa. The word for food is ‘kai’. Hearing the accent of a young man (whose name was Jason), I invited him to share in some kai when I opened the door of the van. He reacted as if familiarity was a surprise, and for five minutes we swapped stories of New Zealand, family, Maori culture and Russell. When we parted he gave me a pat on the back. The connection gained with him through my experience of my brother was powerful. It matters when we take an interest in our own life, and this becomes a source of connection and communication with those with whom we are unfamiliar, in the right moment, our past is a gift.
As I reflect again the memories of joy still echo. What a privilege to be in this space. I hope more of our community can experience these moments with our students, with our vulnerable, with our wider faith community, and with our God.
Year 11 Retreat
Thank you to all parents for your support of the Year 11 Retreat. I met all the students and buses as they arrived back from each site, and students and staff were glowing. I can speak from the Synan retreat knowing that experience was shared across all the Houses. Students enjoyed the conversations, the beautiful environments, the time to relax and share many experiences of community living. It was an experience cherished by the students.
We celebrated a Campus Mass on Wednesday at the Berwick Campus and the students were wonderful in their response to Fr John Prest, and were prayerful and attentive. We complete our term Campus Masses next week at Beaconsfield on Tuesday and Officer on Friday. Parents are most welcome to attend, please sign in at the front office.