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Yesterday we celebrated Ash Wednesday. This was done in each House Group through ritual that explained the meaning of Ash Wednesday and its significance to our Catholic faith. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday. It is meant to be a day of reflection whereby we consider what needs to change in our lives if we are to be “fully” Christians. Lent is a season that reminds us to repent and get our lives centred, our priorities straight, and our hearts clean.

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolise the dust from which God made us. As the ashes are placed onto a person's forehead, they are accompanied with the following words: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." or "Repent and believe in the Gospel."

The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with holy water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolise penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.

The ashes are signs that we have sinned, and that the difference between the good in us and the bad in us is sometimes frightfully thin. It is recognition that we often fall short of the faith we claim. We have sometimes treated people as things and we have sometimes treated things as if they were valuable people. Lent is also meant to be a season of hope and with ashes on our foreheads and hope in our hearts, we go forth to love and serve. For by God’s grace in Christ, we do not have to stay the way we are, with God’s grace we can all change.

Lent is a great time to spend some individual time with your son(s). It is a good time for conversation around what he feels about himself and the challenges that he thinks that he needs to meet to get to where he wants to be as a good person. Often these conversations are avoided because they can be confronting to young men. However, they can often be conversations that open into the sharing of real feelings and issues that may have been suppressed for some time. Such conversations can often offer hope and understanding in situations that some young men may not have the knowledge or skills to resolve and see as hopeless.

On Tuesday, the College held our first Academic Assembly for the year. It was an occasion to recognise the great results achieved by students at the end of the second semester last year. It was also an opportunity to invite back our senior students from 2015 who attained an Overall Position (OP) score of 1 – 5. The assembly and medallions and certificates were organised by Mr Chris Campbell and Mrs Maxine Nott. I always find these assemblies most enjoyable and I congratulate all of the students who received an award. I am also mindful that some of our students have worked very hard and did not reach the results to receive a medal. It is our intention to have a program in place by the next assembly whereby such achievements can be recognised.

On Monday evening we held our Year 12 Parent/Son Information evening. The Year 12 students also participated in a planning and team building afternoon before they met with their parents. The feedback from the students and staff was positive from this opportunity and I hope that the information sessions with the families was also relevant. This is an enormous but exciting year for our senior students and the staff at the College are certainly looking forward to working with parents and students to support the young men throughout the year. I hope that the students and families left the Callan Centre on Monday confident that we have plans in place to allow this to happen.

On Wednesday evening, we also held our first Parent Education Evening. On this occasion, Mr Chris Campbell organised study skills workshops for the students and an study skills information presentation for parents. The evening was facilitated by Elevate Education and was a very worthwhile evening.

If you had the opportunity to attend any of the events that I have mentioned and wish to pass on some feedback that may assist us into the future, please contact me at your convenience by email or telephone through the College office.

On Saturday 26 January, there was an interesting article in the Courier Mail entitled P & C model faces shake-up: 1960s methods ‘don’t work in the electronic age’. The article was suggesting that the viability and relevance of P & Cs have changed over more recent times. Parent involvement in Parent’s and Friend’s associations is waning. At the end of last year, the P & F AGM was very poorly attended and the matter of continuation of the group was raised. There will be a meeting held in the College Library on Tuesday 16 February commencing at 7:00pm to discuss the future of the P & F at St Patrick’s or alternative models to the current one or other alternatives to the P & F. All parents who are interested in this issue are invited to this meeting.

On Saturday 20 February, all of our Year 9 parents are invited to a meeting in Waterford Place to be informed about the Year 9 Rite Journey program for this year. The purpose of this program is to open our young men to possibilities of what it means to be a 'good man'. They undertake discussions and activities that support the development of self-awareness, responsibility, respectfulness and developing resiliency. I would strongly encourage all of our Year 9 parents to attend this morning so that you can be aware of what the program offers and why we consider it to be so important in the formation of the young men at St Patrick’s. Please book into this event through the parent portal as we are arranging catering for the event.

Mr Mark Mewburn’s funeral was held on Tuesday. It was a very sad but uplifting occasion. Mark’s passing was sudden and unexpected and sometimes when such things happen to those around us, it gives us cause to be grateful for what we have and to always be gentle and loving to those close to us and always respectful and tolerant of everyone. Do those close to you know how much they mean to you?

God bless,

Mr Chris Mayes - College Principal