At our Opening Mass on Tuesday we welcomed our Year 7 students to their first Catherine McAuley College Mass as they entered the Cathedral in procession with our Year 12s. It was a day of solemn celebration as we welcomed our students with their parents and carers together with staff and friends of the College.
I would like to thank all who attended, including our special guests, many of whom had travelled considerable distances – Sisters of Mercy Sr Berenice Kerr (ISMAPNG Community Leader – South B Community), Sr Marie Bourke, Sr Ellen Dunn, Sr Kathleen Slattery and Sr Kathy Ryan with Mr Eugene Lynch representing Mercy Education. We are very grateful to our celebrants Fr Rob Galea, Fr Andrew Fewings and Fr Wahid Riad and also welcomed Mr Paul Desmond, Director of the Catholic Education Office and Sr Geraldine Larkins with Advisory Council members Mr Tom Maher, Mrs Fiona Russell and Mr Jeff Westbrook.
We thank each you for your support and hope to see you again at the opening of the Sister Aloysius Martyn Arts Centre in early April and at the opening of the allied health facility, commercial kitchen and new canteen at St Mary’s in the coming months. Next week more portables will leave Coolock after 25 years… that is also just cause for celebration! With the partnerships that are progressing with the City of Greater Bendigo, Cricket Australia, Australian Catholic University and Mercy Health it is great to be reaping the benefits of your support and achieving positive change.
On behalf of the College, I also extend a big thank you to Mr Desmond for supporting the introduction of our English Language Centres at both Coolock and St Mary’s campuses.
In my welcome at Opening Mass, I spoke about the new statue of Catherine McAuley at Coolock, that some would have spotted on the first day at Coolock placed on the upper level of the new Sister Aloysius Martyn Arts Centre.
On the day that Catherine was being lifted by crane into position on the plinth on the second floor a dust storm preceded thunder, lightning and rain – it was all very dramatic… clearly Catherine has a sense of humour! One of the builders who has worked on the site for over twelve months asked me very quietly “who is this woman and why is she wearing that outfit?”. “Wasn’t she a NUN?” He thought she was Sr Aloysius Martyn…
As the rain was belting down I thought, what a great time to tell Catherine’s story. When I explained, Tom could not understand why at that age and after gaining such wealth, a woman would sacrifice it all. What was she thinking? And then he asked why she was going to have had a lamp above her head?
A lot of research had been dedicated to this image by a range of people…. Mr Lynch can vouch for that! I explained that the lamp can be considered in many ways; it can be a source of direction, it can be a source of security, it might be about warmth and visibility. It might also be considered to represent clarity, shining the light of Mercy so we witness Catherine’s legacy. In Dublin during Catherine’s time street lights were beacons – one can only imagine the place at that time when it was dark by 4pm.
In our Church we associate light with Jesus, the light of salvation for believers. Jesus is life-giving light, (John 1:4), and those who follow him “will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). As believers, we are “sons and daughters of light” (John 12:36; Eph 5:8; 1 Thess 5:5).
Tom asked if Catherine thought she was Jesus? Clearly my explanation was not going that well…
So, I continued… Catherine was never arrogant enough to assume she was the light or should be compared to Jesus. But she was a devout follower of Jesus and this is recognised in her legacy. Her communication was excellent, making time to listen to others. Hospitality and respect were a hallmark of her work – having a cuppa, dancing, laughing and enjoying the company of others. Catherine understood the importance of conversation and clarity, talking about challenges, providing feedback and sharing stories. Catherine wanted each community to have the opportunity to reflect and share ideas. This year we have introduced the mentor program and new subjects Veritas and Virtues and we intend to develop a range of opportunities where you can provide feedback and share ideas. Our new Student Representative Council (SRC) model is also an opportunity for you to offer ideas and develop community.
So, the light particles are us… we determine how bright the lamp shines. We are the energy that makes a Mercy community. Through that light and the values we reflect, if we are truly compassionate, courageous and respectful, justice will be served through our hospitality and regard for one another. The statue of Catherine McAuley is a model for us and, like the Gospel, still relevant; an ever-present reminder that living Mercy is just as critical today, in the lives we live, as it was under the street lamp in Catherine’s Dublin of the 1830s.
Today we celebrate Mercy. Not a statue, but a living legacy….
Mr Brian Turner, Principal