The Lenten season began on Ash Wednesday (1 March). Lent is a significant time for our faith. It traditionally begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. The official liturgical color for the season of Lent is violet. This is evident through the Church decorations and garments worn by the priest. The Lenten period lasts for a period of forty days and Catholics are asked to undertake some form of abstinence, prayer and penitence during this time. Lent is also observed as the start of the Easter celebrations. The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. We express this belief each Sunday when we recite the creed during Mass. During Easter we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. This time is very significant.

The observance of Lent is often considered by many as the start of the celebration of Easter. The word derives from the Middle English word Lenten, meaning springtime – the time of lengthening days. There is biblical support for doing penance, but the season of Lent, like all Catholic liturgical seasons, developed over time. In its early three-week form, Lent was the period of intense spiritual and liturgical preparation for catechumens before they were baptized at Easter. Many members of the community imitated this time of preparation with the catechumens (preparation for baptism). By the fourth century (when Christianity was legalised) Lent had developed into its current length of forty days, the length of the fast and temptation of Jesus in the desert (cf. Luke 4:1-13). Recently, research has suggested that the development of Lent was also influenced by the forty-day span of fasting practiced by many in the early Church (especially monks). Once most people were Christian and baptizedas infants, Lent lost the connection to the preparation of catechumens and the themes of repentance and fasting became dominant.

Jesus’s time in the desert was marked by forty days of temptation and resistance. His resistance to the temptations was because of his strong faith and belief. In our own lives, the forty days of lent could also be used to reflect upon how we live our own lives and what part our faith plays in this. Members of the Catholic faith have traditionally been taught as children to “give up something” for Lent. The sacrifices in Lent are really penance. Throughout our history, Christians have found prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to be an important part of repentance and renewal. Hence the introduction of the “Project Compassion” collection boxes during this time. Many of us can remember I am sure when we were asked to give something up and place the money that was saved into Project Compassion Boxes. This form of abstinence and almsgiving is still a traditional part of lent today.

On another level, this time of reflection can also be used to decide what we might want to remove from our lives. This might be a habit, practice, attitude or way of thinking or looking at others. The time of lent can then be used to form a “new life” or ways of doing things that make us a better person. It is not necessary to “give up something” but it would be a tragedy to do nothing.

Over the past three days, I have had the pleasure of participating in a School Improvement workshop. The workshop was held at the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) office in Melbourne. I was invited to participate as ACER have done an audit on St Patrick’s in September 2013 using their National School Improvement Tool. The workshop allowed us to look at updates with this tool and become very familiar with how the tool works and how to interpret the feedback that it can give to a school. It was also a time to review what we have done with the recommendations from the feedback.

The National School Improvement Tool was developed in 2012 by Prof Geoff Masters. It was originally done at the request from the Anna Bligh government in Queensland to assist EQ schools to deal with the poor NAPLAN results across the state. After its success in Queensland, Masters fine-tuned the tool and it was accepted by all of the federal education ministers as a way to drive national school improvement. The tool was put together after much research was done across a variety of schools across all sectors in Australia. In his research, Masters identified nine very clear domains that were well developed in highly effective schools. These domains are:

  1. An explicit improvement agenda
  2. Analysis and discussion of data
  3. A culture that promotes learning
  4. Targeted use of school resources
  5. An expert teaching team
  6. Systematic curriculum delivery
  7. Differentiated teaching and learning
  8. Effective pedagogical practices
  9. School-community partnerships.

The tool is a significant way for schools to review their practices within these domains with a clear and narrow goal of improving student outcomes. As a school community, St Patrick’s started to implement the recommendations of the feedback in 2014 and we are continuously looking at ways that we can use this feedback to further improve our practices as a school. It is our intention to have another audit from ACER in the near future. The process takes over three days and all members of the community have an opportunity to have some input into it.

On Monday our Swimming Team competed in the AIC Swimming Championships at the Chandler Pool. All of our young men gave it their best and many achieved their Personal Best (PB) in their event(s). I would like to thank each of our College representatives in the swimming team and the coaching staff for their efforts throughout the season. I also thought that our support, particularly from the senior students, was outstanding and a good example to rival schools. The leaders of the Paddy’s Battalion were excellent.

Next Friday, is not only St Patrick’s Day, but also the occasion when our Christian Brother’s Building gets officially blessed and opened. This will be done through the celebration of a special Mass by Archbishop Coleridge. We will have many special guests joining us for this occasion. I am particularly pleased that a good number of past Christian Brothers who worked at the College since 1952 are able to join us. Unfortunately due to numbers, we are unable to extend this invitation to the general parent body. We will run the annual Great Morven Race straight after the Mass.

I hope that everyone enjoys another great week ahead!

God Bless!

Mr Chris Mayes - College Principal