From the Rector
Year 12 Valedictory Eucharist
To the Salesian College Family,
For my Rector’s article this week, I would like to share with you my homily at this year’s Year 12 Valedictory Eucharist on 18 October 2019.
Fr Greg Chambers
“On the occasion of this Valedictory Eucharist when we bid farewell to you, the Year 12 Class of 2019, and you bid goodbye to us at Salesian College Chadstone, I would just like to place this evening’s scripture readings in the context of goodbye, farewell and blessing for the future.
In the first reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul is no doubt conscious of the fact that he is an old man now, that his life is continually in danger and at risk, and that his letters and visits to the Christian community in Rome will be limited in the future. So he wants to impart to his fellow Christians a most important message:
‘Let your love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual respect; outdo one another in showing honour. Share with the needy, and extend hospitality to everyone. Rejoice with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do everything possible to live in peace with everybody.’
In the Gospel Reading from St John, Jesus is also preparing his disciples for a time when he is no longer with them, as he instructs them as part of a long farewell discourse. Thus he asks them to remain attached to him like the branches of a true and productive vine. He commissions them to keep his commandments and to go forth and bear much fruit. Above all, though, he gives them a new commandment to guide their lives and their dealings with others: ‘This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.’
Yet, it must be said that Valedictory Addresses or Farewell Messages are not simply confined to Jesus and to Sacred Scripture, but can be readily found on the lips and in the writings of many famous men and women down through the centuries.
One of the most powerful speeches I have ever come across is one by Martin Luther King Jr, the great American freedom fighter and campaigner for racial equality. Ironically enough, he delivered the address just two months before his assassination in 1968. Maybe he saw his death coming, maybe he didn’t. Be that as it may, his words are of timeless value, and very appropriate to tonight’s Year 12 Valedictorians:
‘If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral…Tell the preacher not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize – that isn’t important. Tell him not to mention that I have 300 or 400 other awards – that’s not important…
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr tried to give his life serving others. I’d like somebody to say that Martin Luther King Jr tried to love somebody… I want you to be able to say that I did try to feed the hungry…I did try in my life to clothe the naked…I did try to love and serve humanity…
I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say.’
In this monumental speech, King is appealing to those present, as well as to those in the future like us, to spend our lives not predominately for ourselves but for others. To clothe ourselves in humility, selflessness and generosity by serving others; caring for the hungry, needy and those without shelter, clothing and the basic necessities of life; and ‘trying to love somebody’. Above all, he challenges us to lead dedicated and committed lives, and to leave behind a legacy of decisive action and meaningful contribution when our turn comes to make our ‘final’ valedictory address.
But my friends, this doesn’t mean that life will be easy or straightforward, that it will be without its fair share of problems, crises, failures and disappointments, and that everything will go according to plan. Far from it. But what is most important is that we maintain our courage and persistence, our faith and our hope, our commitment and our focus right to the end of our lives.
And that we realise, according to a current sporting advertisement, that ‘a setback is just a comeback in disguise’!
Finally, however, I would like to say something important to you, not just as fine young men or as exemplary Year 12 students in a Catholic secondary college, but as Salesian students and members of the worldwide family of Don Bosco, our founder and inspiration. This valued Salesian Connection comes through loud and clear whenever you sing your College song, particularly the final stanza:
“Don Bosco’s spirit before us
Our College motto calls us
‘To all people be all things’
Our pledge renew
We’re side by side with joyful pride
But our Salesian heritage is more than a school song, more than the years that we have spent at Salesian College, more than the fact that we will be able to call ourselves Salesian alumni, past pupils or old boys from this point onwards.
You see, it also means that we have received a call and commission to carry forward from this place all that we have learnt about Don Bosco and the way of life that he advocated: being ‘Good Christians and Honest Citizens’, doing the ‘ordinary things extraordinarily well’, and being ‘All Things to All People’ without reservation and without exception.
It also means being true to the message from St John Bosco himself: ‘I will never die if you become the Don Boscos of tomorrow.’
My fellow Salesians, I wish you well in your future lives as ‘Don Boscos in the World’!