One of the many legacies of Rob Brennan’s distinguished principalship are our College Values. Our Vision and Mission Statements are worthy but wordy. The College Values of Integrity, Respect, Belonging, Joy and Dynamism, are, in contrast, an elegant distillation of what we are on about as a Catholic and Salesian school.
Of the five values, the one that stands out for me is ‘Joy.’ Three little letters. But a powerful word ripe and replete with meaning. It might seem strange to speak of joy, in a week where we have been tested again by the pandemic and, in an entirely different way by the sombreness of Ash Wednesday. However, perhaps now more than ever as we navigate our way through this shriven sliver of time, we need to nourish joy in our lives and in the lives of others.
How can we, boys, staff and families, do this? A good starting point is to strive to live out our Values Statement:
Joy is expressed when we:
- Play an active part in our community, both in and out of the classroom
- Are enthusiastic about our teaching
- Are able to make a commitment to be cheerful in all out interaction with each other
- Celebrate who we are and our achievements, both personal and collective
We can also learn a lot from other faiths. One of the more memorable colleagues I have worked with at Salesian is KJ Maan who headed up our I.T. Department for a number of years. KJ was a fantastic I.T. leader but, in my mind, his greatest gift to the College lay in his cheerfulness, his humour, his optimism and his care for others. There is a big Sikh community in Woolgoolga, near Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales. KJ, himself a Sikh, was in Coffs Harbor to attend a wedding. Having a bite to eat with a couple of friends, KJ and his companions were racially abused by some locals. KJ and his pals just smiled benignly: this totally disoriented the gang who, deflated, moved away. I remarked to KJ that his response was remarkable. KJ explained that Sikhism stresses the need to embrace ‘chardi kala.’ This is the term for seeking to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism. Sikhs are ideally expected to be in this positive state of mind as a sign of their contentment with the will of God, even during times of great and adversity. What a great mindset!
Don Bosco, too, was no stranger to hardship. Orphaned as an infant, living through famine as a child, bullied by his older step-brother, sent away from his family for a period of time due to poverty and family tension, the young John Bosco had a very difficult upbringing. As a priest he was shot at, persecuted by secular authorities, endured heartache and disappointment and continuously worked himself to the point of exhaustion. Still, everything he did and said radiated joy and hope. Tellingly, Don Bosco believed that ‘Holiness consists of being cheerful.’
As we negotiate a way through our current difficult circumstances, let us rejoice that we are back at school. Let us be hopeful about the future. Let us be active and enthusiastic. Let us embrace the opportunities that we have. And let our Lenten journey enable us to cherish the joy and hope of the Paschal Mystery.
Mr Neil Carter