The title of my Calling article this week may at first appear to be a typo – that there is a letter or word or perhaps a number of words missing. However the title, “The”, is precisely what I would like to focus on in this, my last Calling article. Please read on – I know it may seem like I have finally lost my mind, but I promise I am going somewhere with this…

“The” is a significant word. In English, “the” is known as a definite article, with a specifying rather than generalising effect. In other words, if you use the word “the” before something, you are normally indicating that there is only one of those things, as opposed to if you use the word “a” or “an”. For example, “Throw me the ball” can mean something different to “Throw me a ball”. Stay with me here, I have a point…

Take for another example our College Motto, Fight the Good Fight. Fight THE Good Fight; not Fight A Good Fight. It appears there is one “good fight”! This of course begs the question, what is this “good fight” if there is only one of them? Seeing it is our motto, and we say it and sing it all the time, perhaps we should know what exactly we are all fighting for!

Perhaps we should look at where the phrase comes from – where those first four Christian Brothers looked for the motto. We find the phrase in a letter that St Paul wrote to a bloke called Timothy soon before Paul died. He said in this letter:

The time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Here is our first clue – fighting the good fight has something to do with finishing our race (not giving up), and with keeping the faith (believing in something and standing up for those beliefs). In another part of the letter to Timothy, Paul says:

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

So, this seems a little clearer – the good fight is about righteousness (justice), godliness (mystery), faith (truth), love (compassion), endurance (perseverance) and gentleness (kindness).

To fight this good fight, as we are asked to do, it appears that we must:

  • Embrace the mystery of God and whatever that means for us.
  • Strive for justice for all people.
  • Seek truth.
  • Love tenderly, passionately, compassionately and unconditionally.
  • Persevere.
  • Be kind and gentle to ourselves and to others.
  • Not give up.
  • Stand up for our beliefs.

I’ll be honest though. I didn’t learn this from Paul or from Timothy, though I’m sure they were both very clever and wonderful people. I learned what the St Patrick’s College motto meant from St Pat’s people. To me, the good fight is on show at our College each day…

  • I learned to embrace the mystery of God when I spoke to Elliott Fletcher’s best friends the day Elliott died in February 2010. Gerard Denkes, Callum Brodie, Josh Wright, Isaac Keinonen, Jaye Britton – these boys were so strong that day and each day afterwards. A faith in a God who can be turned to in the most horrific circumstances for comfort and strength is worth fighting for.
  • I learned to strive for justice for all people from students like Aaron Dart, Jackson Da Forno, Zac Harmer, Brodie Zeller, Lachie Righetti, Darcy Smith and Isaac Wilkinson, among many, many others. So many of our young men have fought, and continue to fight for a better world for all people. They continue to inspire me.
  • I learned to seek truth from my fellow members of the College Leadership Team – Michael Carroll, David Gardiner, Ray Celegato, Frank Torrisi, Chris Campbell, Paul Corfield, Zoe Morgan, Darren Kearney and Chris Mayes. They have continually fought for a deeper understanding of what an authentic Catholic and Edmund Rice education is all about, and strive everyday to model and provide this for our staff and students.
  • I learned to love tenderly, passionately, compassionately and unconditionally from every single person I have engaged with through the Year 12 Kairos Retreat – staff, young men and parents. Thank you.
  • I learned to persevere from walking with Alroy Bara, a young man from a remote Aboriginal community in East Arnhem Land called Numbulwar. Alroy arrived at St Pat’s as a Year 11 student with English as his fourth language. He worked hard, had struggles, scored a great goal for the 3rds Football team, and when he graduated Year 12, he read the First Reading at Mass in his traditional language. Alroy and the other boys who have come to St Pat’s from Numbulwar, Normanton and the Tiwi Islands have changed our College for the better, through their presence and perseverance.
  • I learned to be kind and gentle to myself and to others by working in the Identity Team for the past six years and working with amazing people every day. Thank you very much to Helen Righetti, Paul Corfield and Luke Royes. Other staff members like Andrew Pashley, Peter Bancroft, Kev Van der Weide, Janet Garside, Jan Thompson, Julie Parker, Alison Marzcak, Jim Mann, Mick Prackert, Rebecca Hewitt, John Tucker, Jonathan Miers, Cherie Nowlan, and so many others have constantly challenged, guided and inspired me to look after myself and do my best to look out for others.
  • I learned about the importance of not giving up from the young people I met in India on the two Immersions I attended, particularly a young girl called Boishaki from Kolkata. What an honour to go to India to feel closer to humanity, and therefore by definition, God.
  • I learned about the need to stand up and speak up for my beliefs from every friendly, approachable, confident, funny, down-to-earth St Pat’s boy during my time at the school. The boys who had an ability to speak their mind in their own way, and the knowledge and desire to use that voice to speak up for other young people who were not as lucky as them, were an absolute joy to interact with. The images of our Detention for Detention campaigns will remain with me forever.

The lessons I have learned about fighting THE good fight, about fighting MY good fight, will stay with me long after I leave St Pat’s, and for that, I am very grateful. On reflection though, maybe it is up to each of us to discover what it is that we are willing to fight for? What is THE good fight? To find out, all you need to do is walk around St Pat’s each day, listen, talk to people, laugh, look after each other, and keep learning. The good fight will show itself, and it will be worth fighting for.

Thanks everyone. I have enjoyed my stay. The time for my departure is near, and while my race may not be quite finished, the St Pat’s leg is. I wish you all the very best.

Fight the good fight.

Mr Matthew Hawkins - Dean of Identity