On Wednesday, we celebrated Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. As a Catholic community, this day is one of the most important holy days in our liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter Sunday and opens the season of Lent which is a season of fasting and prayer. Ash Wednesday has its roots from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting which also included the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolise the dust from which God made us. As the ashes are applied to a person's forehead, the following phases are used: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" or "Repent and believe in the Gospel." Within the tradition, Ashes also symbolise grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God. Historically, writings have been found from the Second-century Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a sign of penance. As a part of the ritual, the ashes are made from blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year's Palm Sunday Mass at the various Parish Churches.

The three most significant pillars of our faith are the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Lenten season leads us into the Easter period whereby Jesus was crucified, died and resurrected. Consequently, it is a time of reflection for us as individuals and as a broader Church to look at our own behaviors and consider ways to change to repent from certain behaviors that we feel we want to change. This year, Archbishop Coleridge has called upon the broader Church in our diocese to reflect upon the actions of the Church regarding the outcomes of the recent Royal Commission into child sexual abuse and to pray for the victims of such abuse. The coming years will be very confronting for our Church and the first steps in this journey must be to accept what has happened and to ensure that systems are in place so that it never happens again.

From a personal perspective, this time of reflection can also allow us to look upon our own lives to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” From a pragmatic perspective, this can entail looking at the habits or things that we do that we feel we could change or include to make us a better person. In our faith, being a better person comes from the messages and values that are espoused in the Gospels. At St Patrick’s, we talk a lot about being loving to one another. One of my challenges to our young men over this period will be for them to look at their own words and actions and remove things that pull down a person rather than build them up. If they can do this over the Lenten period, there is no reason why it can’t be continued.

Many of you are aware, through our recent Parent Information evenings that the reporting processes will change this year. Now that we have introduced REALM as our Learning Management System, we have the ability to use “live” marking and feedback to students. This will mean that students can submit their work on-line and parents will also be able to review their son’s work in draft and final form as well as see the teacher comments and marking. Consequently, there will not be a need for a formal Term 1 Report as in previous years. We are also working to ensure that our summative reports at the end of each semester are more student and family friendly in terms of information and comments. This was some very clear information that we received from parents during the first semester last year, when we published the discussion paper to parents regarding student reporting. I will forward a communication to parents later this term to give clear instructions for reviewing the marked work and new reporting procedures for the term.

During last Tuesday’s College Assembly, we celebrated two very special occasions for St Patrick’s. Firstly, we recognised the tenth anniversary of Australian government’s Apology to the Stolen Generation. During the Assembly, I mentioned to our young men that it is one of our priorities over this year to do what we can at our own school assemblies to understand more about the history and rituals of our first Australians. We often witness such rituals and speak of Welcome to Country or the different clans but have little understanding of their significance or history. Over the course of this year and into the future, we will look for ways to inform our young men more about these things.

We also launched our Men of Action week during the Assembly. This is traditionally done by the senior student and is very closely connected to the College anti-bullying campaign. You may have noticed that the screensaver on our electronic communications throughout this week has shown the slogan: Rise Up – “Take a stand, lend a hand.” This is the theme for this year’s anti-bullying program. I must congratulate our student leaders who led the entire Year 12 cohort through a very powerful presentation to the rest of the College during the assembly. As a community, we now need to work hard to make sure that we are true to this theme and stamp out any form of bullying.

At the end of last year, we forwarded a communication regarding Board membership for the College Board and the College Foundation Board. We will hold a meeting of interested people in Waterford on Thursday 1 March to give information about what being a board member entails within these boards. If you are interested in attending, please contact Mrs Jackie Upton.

Our Swimming Carnival was held at the Lawnton Aquatic Centre this year to allow us to have all our students in the one venue at the same time. The new venue also offers far more shaded spaces. The change of venue did necessitate some changes to our carnival program, but from my observations, the young men seemed to enjoy themselves. I would particularly like to recognise the work of Doug Locke and his team, as well as Darren Kearney and all the House Deans for their preparation and facilitation of the day. These events allow our young men the opportunity to be a part of a House Team and demonstrate their skills and efforts in a different environment than the norm at school.

This weekend, we complete against fellow EREA school, St Laurence’s College (SLC), in Volleyball and Vricket on Saturday. Our Year 5-8 teams will compete at the SLC grounds whilst our Year 9-12 teams will host SLC in our own home games. These games are always spirited and competitive and I hope that everyone has an enjoyable day.

We will hold our first College Dance for this year on Saturday night. The dance is for students in Years 9-12. I would particularly like to thank the number of staff and parents who volunteered to allow this social event to occur for our young men.

Live Jesus in our Hearts!

Mr Chris Mayes - College Principal