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Over the past two weeks, masses have been held in the evening for our four House communities at the Senior School. Following mass, there have been social gatherings for students and their families, and House staff.

I am conscious of the fact that we are building a new culture of House-based pastoral care and I am very grateful to all involved in this for their work. I often comment on the fact that we ‘build on the shoulders of those who have gone before us’, and in this instance, we are the original builders, and that is very exciting.

Below is the Gospel reflection given by our Pastoral Care Coordinator, Dr Nathan Leber, at a number of these masses, and I provide it here for the benefit of everyone.

I thought it was a wonderful and important reflection.

Part of my previous work was working with aspiring teachers to help form them into good Catholic teachers. Without fail, whenever asked what makes a Catholic school special, they always say it is the pastoral care – they really care for their students. I absolutely agree, and the level I see at Saint Ignatius is first class. Yet, I have also worked in high-poverty, high-trauma public schools, and our pastoral care was also exceptional … and yet, there is something different, and perhaps it is the ‘God’ thing: that in our God, first in the Hebrew Bible, but then in an intimate way through the incarnation of Christ, we have a model of care – that of the shepherd. Of course, pastoral comes from the Latin ‘pastor’ meaning shepherd, so it makes sense that the shepherd should be the model for care. This parable reveals to us what God is like. No matter what, he accepts us back. You see, God is in the lost sheep business – and I would like to think that so are we!

The parable talks about a shepherd with 100 sheep who notices that one has gone missing. Anyone who has ever had to take a group of students on an excursion, knows how difficult a head count can be when they are constantly jostling around – and usually we only have about 20 of them. Yet, the shepherd in our parable, notices that ‘Fluffy’ is missing from the other 99 sheep who all look remarkably similar. Here is our first lesson – the shepherd must KNOW their sheep. When Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd he says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

So, with the realisation of the missing sheep, there is a choice to make, like you did tonight when you came here. Do I do something, or do I just shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, 99 is pretty good! I can live with that! Maybe it will come back by itself!” Now, I know you are all glad to hear that this is not our reasoning on school excursions! … and nor is it for our shepherd, who heads off – rod and staff in hand to find his sheep – ready for all the dangers that may come their way. You will remember that famous Psalm 23: “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” Lesson two – care enough to do something! In other words, the shepherd must LOVE their sheep. They must be willing to face the dangers and adversities along with those they are leading and guiding. Again, as Jesus says, “The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep” … and we all know he followed this right through to the end for us.

So, you know your sheep well enough to notice, you love them enough to want to rescue them even when they have gone and got themselves into trouble, and then, despite all odds, you find them! Here you are ready to fight back wolves with your stick, and you come over the hill to see “Fluffy” leaping around chasing a butterfly, completely oblivious to the turmoil she/he has just created! This is where Lesson 1 – Know your sheep, and Lesson 2 – Love your sheep, will come in handy. Every time I ask a student why they missed a class, it is less about being in trouble and more about letting them know I cared enough to notice they weren’t there. I even remember one of my students back when I was a Head of House at Saint Ignatius Riverview, who was in a lot of trouble for one of these ‘butterfly incidents’, and I had just given him ‘Saturday penal’ after a lengthy but loving look at what had happened and reminding him of what the best version of himself might have done. He turned around, looked me square in the eyes, and sincerely thanked me for it. It was one of those moments, I knew what our shepherd felt ….

Finding the sheep, he lifts the sheep up on his shoulder JOYFULLY, organises a party and yells for everyone to: “REJOICE with me, I have found my sheep that was lost.” Here is our final lesson, and if you haven’t realised what I was doing not so subtly, this is the AFFIRM part. The value of the sheep is realised not only by the shepherd and the community, but also by that little sheep. Suddenly it realises all this fuss is for it – these people must really care! They want me to be safe, to be happy, to be secure, to be loved, to be saved. This matters to them, so I must matter! Powerful stuff.

So here we are at this House gathering in the new Pastoral Care structure, and hopefully it now becomes clear why we are striving to KNOW, LOVE, and AFFIRM, and even more importantly what that special thing about Catholic pastoral care is. When we look at the ones in need and behave like the shepherd in our parable, we are giving to others what God wants for all of us. When we look deeper inside ourselves, we see we are all called to be shepherds for those in our lives who need our care, protection, and concern. Who in your life needs a good shepherd to lead them to green pastures, to protect them from the wolves and the weather, to teach them, to bring them back no matter what? We are called to minister to those in need, not to ignore and leave them. It is not the sheep nor the shepherd’s fault that the wolf comes, but it remains the shepherd’s calling to act on it. After all, we were all created in the image and likeness of God, and I am forever humbled by the realisation that we are constantly being asked to rise to the responsibility of this likeness.

Deo Gloria

Mr Peter Coffey

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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