From the Principal
During the course of this week, I had cause to reflect on a couple of occasions about the significant changes that have occurred at Saint Ignatius during my time on staff. I hasten to add that I am not referring to changes of a physical or structural nature, but rather changes related to the way in which we maintain our core identity.
When I returned to the College as a staff member in 1995 following my time as a student in the 1970s, Father O’Kelly was Headmaster, Father Mullins was Prefect of Studies, and Father Davoren was Dean of Students. There were also a number of other Jesuit members of staff including the indomitable Br Callil. There was no doubt that we were a Catholic school in the Ignatian tradition with so much Jesuit presence and leadership on staff. That is obviously not the case now, with our Rector, Father Hosking, being our sole Jesuit presence, and we are mightily blessed to have him.
Having said that, I remain convinced that our identity is still authentically Ignatian, it’s just that our lay staff, including me, now embrace the responsibility for maintaining this more actively. Our Ignatian Formation programs are obviously vital in this, and we are fortunate to have our staff commit to this so wholeheartedly.
The reason I refer to this now is that Father Hosking and I started the week in Melbourne at Xavier College, attending our first JACSA Principals and Rectors meeting for the year. Of the schools in our network, five of them – John XXIII in Perth, Loyola Watsonia in Melbourne, Saint Ignatius in Geelong, Xavier in Ballina, and Xavier in Hervey Bay − have no Jesuit presence, and for some, nor have they ever. Having visited all those schools though, and in listening to their leaders speak again on the weekend, I have no doubt that all their charisms are authentically Ignatian, and the formation of their students is the same as we would wish for our own.
The other circumstance that caused me to reflect on matters related to our identity occurred on Ash Wednesday when I found myself presiding at the liturgy for the distribution of ashes for Years Nine and Ten in the chapel. This had never happened to me before as I had always readily deferred to the Jesuits on staff, but our new dynamic in 2019 meant that lay leadership of this service was required, and happily I found myself in the role. I am sure I am not alone in this desire to serve, and there is plenty of evidence to support this view – especially through the work of our Liturgy Committee, student involvement in voluntary masses, and our community service programs.
In the shadow of Cardinal Pell’s conviction last week, when so many Australian Catholics are feeling distressed, disillusioned, and even disgusted, it is perhaps important to remind ourselves that the church is still us. Our priority must be to look after the young in our care and respond compassionately to those who have suffered past hurts. Along with this, we may choose to try and live out Christ’s gospel message as best we may.
For me, in the context of Saint Ignatius’ College in 2019, that is attempting to be a part of a Catholic community in the Ignatian tradition, and striving to ensure that our work with students and families reflects this.
Mr Peter Coffey