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On Sunday and Monday this week, Father Hosking and I attended our first JACSA (Jesuit and Companion Schools Australia) meeting for the year. Like so many meetings these days, it was held online. The Executive Director, Nicki Patten, and Formation and Education Officer, Jennie Hickey from JEA (Jesuit Education Australia), also attended. On Monday, Fr (Dr) Joe Parkinson, a bioethicist in Perth, joined our meeting to present on ‘Gender Diversity and Respectful Relationships’. Father Joe’s presentation was excellent and will be very helpful to us as we continue to seek for ways to better support all our students.

These meetings are always beneficial and enjoyable, and over the years our JACSA network has become stronger and more developed. Having said all that, this particular meeting was also significant because the Chair of JACSA this year is Kevin Lewis, Principal of Xavier Catholic College in Ballina, which is in the Diocese of Lismore. During the course of the meeting, Kevin was called away on a number of occasions to respond to the emerging flood crisis in norther NSW and southern Queensland, and I thought it quite remarkable that he attended our meeting at all. Flood levels in Lismore are over 14 metres, and the images on TV and news services are quite heartbreaking.

One thing that did stand out to me was the way in which people in flood-affected regions committed themselves to help others in need. Those with boats of all shapes and sizes – the ‘tinny brigade’ – performed many rescues and undoubtedly saved lives. The loss of life in these natural disasters is always the greatest tragedy, but the loss of homes, businesses, and livelihoods is also tragic.

During the course of this week, Ballina itself has become flood-affected and, at one stage, Kevin was driving one of the SES trucks to provide assistance. Xavier Catholic College have also provided shelter to those in need and attempted to support their community the best they can. I admire their efforts and those of many others and pray that there is no further loss of life and that help is offered to all those in need.

At the same time, and half a world away, I think all of us are watching the events unfolding in Ukraine with shock and horror. The fact that social media is able to show us developments in real time means that we are experiencing this invasion in quite a unique way. The same could be said for the people of Syria and Afghanistan, but perhaps not to the same extent.

I am conscious of the fact that for some of our students, this invasion of Ukraine is confronting and distressing as an event never experienced before. It is vital, therefore, that we as adults in their lives help them to process what they’re witnessing so that they may not be overwhelmed by it.

One cannot help but be affected by the pictures and stories presented to us of men and women, children and the elderly fleeing fighting and destruction, or parents farewelling children as they leave to fight against the invaders.

At our outdoor Mass for Ash Wednesday, we prayed especially for the people of Ukraine in their time of trial and suffering. I also pray for the people in Russia opposing this unjust and outrageous war who are bravely standing up against what they know is wrong.

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Staff and students gather for the Ash Wednesday Outdoor Mass on the Bellarmine Lawns at the Senior School

As Lent commences this year, there is much suffering evident for us to see. I think our world is such that suffering is always present, and I believe that is why our work to form young men and women who seek to make the world better because they are in the world is so vital.

Ignatius spoke of desolation and consolation. It is easy for us to fall into desolation unless we actively seek for ways to respond to those in need.

I hope that this Lent we all find ways to do so.

Deo Gloria

Mr Peter Coffey
Principal

OREMUS (Let us pray)

We remember all in our College community. May our prayers comfort those suffering at this time. May God’s blessing be a source of support in their sorrow and loss, and bring courage, patience, and hope.

“Ask and you shall receive … knock and the door will be opened unto you.” (Matt 7:7)

If you would like someone to be remembered by the College community in prayer (even anonymously), please provide details to the Rector, class or Mentor Teacher, or House Leader.

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