Headmaster's Address to 2019 Academic Assembly
author: John Crowley
Headmaster John Crowley delivered the following address to the 2019 Academic Assembly:
Good morning to everyone here this morning in the Br W.T. O’Malley Sports Centre. In offering a very warm welcome to all of our invited guests, parents, carers, Old Collegians and, most importantly, our students we acknowledge the traditional custodians of this great land. They are the Wathaurong People. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge their great care of this wonderful land. May we always walk on it gently and respectfully. I also acknowledge the contribution of so many Christian Brothers who have lived and worked on this site over the past 126 years and who have inspired generations of young men in the Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice.
Shortly, we will have the pleasure in presenting a number of boys with awards that reflect the highest level of commitment to their studies. The word that most readily comes to mind here is excellence - excellence in effort, excellence in dedication and excellence in attitude. It is a credit to each boy who will receive an award today. Each one of you has worked incredibly hard at improving your own knowledge of a particular subject. You have taken the initiative for your learning and you will carry this knowledge for the rest of your life. It is indeed a gift. What is most important is that you have realised your potential and we congratulate each of you on these remarkable achievements.
Early in 2018, I had the privilege of visiting Waterford, a seaport city in Ireland. I remember vividly how cold it was in Waterford on the day I visited. Stone brick work had ice attached to it, as puddles had frozen over, and people stayed indoors to escape the cold. I wanted to visit the site of Edmund Rice’s first school. And so, having the choice between a warm taxi, or walking up the cobblestone path for about three kilometres to the Edmund Rice International Heritage Centre, I decided for the latter because I wanted to get a sense for what life was like back in Waterford when Edmund Rice opened his first school for boys in 1802.
What struck me immediately in visiting the site was Edmund’s vision, grounded in the social inequality of the time. He saw the desperate need to improve the life prospects of countless boys from disadvantaged backgrounds through education. Edmund was convinced education was the way to liberate the poor from a life of oppression. But, as I began to investigate the centre more thoroughly, another dimension of Edmund’s vision emerged that speaks incredibly strongly to each of us here today, some 200 years later. Edmund believed that education provided the means of self-improvement not just for oneself, but in using the talents and skills developed in each boy to, in turn, help others in Waterford who were desperately in need.
It is the same message that has been etched into the walls of this school for the past 126 years and is still alive today. That we are privileged and graced by the gift of an education at St Patrick’s College and, through our rich connection to the vision of Edmund Rice, are called to pay this grace forward to others in need. It is another way of expressing the statement - to whom much has been given much will be demanded.
I can think of many examples where this charism is being faithfully lived out in our school today. Consider our College Leaders from 2018, Sam, Tom and Dean, who have all returned to SPC this year in various roles to give something back, to help nurture and encourage the next generation of students. Consider the many past students who finished last year who have returned to help tutor current Year 12s in our newly established Old Collegians Association Year 12 Study Centre, or to work in the Enhancement Team at the College. Consider the many current senior student leaders from Council, including our 2019 College Captain Aidan, and Vice Captains, Jobe and Matthew, who have given of their time generously, and amidst a busy start to their year, to be present for our new Year 7 students on camp last week and this week. And, of course, the many Old Collegians who offer their skills and expertise each and every day to ensure each of you have the best possibilities opportunities provided.
This is an important message for each of us in celebrating the academic achievements of our school here today that needs to be named. That, through your efforts in striving to be the best very best version of yourself possible, both in and out of the classroom, a light begins to burn ever more brightly in each of you. This is the irresistible light of hope; a growing realisation that you carry within yourself an inextinguishable source of liberation for others - others who, at times, will need this light to help them along their journey, others who, at times, need your compassion, your friendship, your honesty, your challenge, your kindness and your guidance. And throughout your lifetime outside of the gates of St Patrick’s College, others who need you to defend them because no-one else will.
And while you don’t even know yet who is calling you, they are in our community, in our world, waiting for you to be present with them and for them.
And in this precious moment of humanity, amidst the richness of our tradition dating all the way back to Waterford in Ireland, some 200 years ago, we find Jesus, in whom Edmund placed his love and trust completely.
Thank you and best of luck to each of you as you begin your journey in 2019