On Thursday morning, I attended the funeral of Br Fergus Gagen. Fergus was the College Principal at St Patrick’s in the era of 1985-1990. After listening to his eulogy, one could not help but feel that Fergus was a very caring and compassionate man who gave his life to his faith and the brotherhood. Fergus entered the Christian Brothers in 1948. He initially worked in Sydney at schools in Balmain, Strathfield, Lewisham and Rozelle. He then moved to work in Papua New Guinea for a period of 19 years. Fergus returned to Australia and taught at St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace, St Edmund’s Ipswich before being appointed as College Principal at St Patrick’s for six years. After leaving Shorncliffe, Fergus was appointed Principal at St Mary’s Toowoomba, the school that he attended as a child. After completing three years in Toowoomba, Fergus returned as teacher and Community Superior of the Brothers at Gregory Terrace before retiring at the end of 2001. In “retirement”, Fergus took the role of archivist and magazine editor at Gregory Terrace until the end of 2010. Fergus’s health started to fade from 2013.

Perhaps the final word about Br Fergus should go to Mrs Jan Thompson from our staff. This excerpt from Jan was mentioned Fergus’s eulogy.

From those years, Mrs Jan Thompson, now Personal Assistant to Shorncliffe College Principal, recalls: “Br Gagen was Principal when the eldest of our three sons started at St Pat’s Shorncliffe. We remember him as a man who had a real understanding of boys and the teaching of boys. Times were tough at St Patrick’s, but Fergus was always jolly and loved a good laugh. When talking to past students and Br Gagen is mentioned, ‘Papa Smurf’ and his little yellow ‘smurf mobile’ car are always remembered very fondly. He was a true gentleman.”

Over the past two weeks, we have been completing our Year 5 (2020) interviews. I always find these interviews to be quite energising as I listen to the future hopes and aspirations of the parents and boys in front of me. It is also quite humbling to know that they believe that St Patrick’s can support and nurture them to reach these hopes and aspirations. During the conversation, we also often speak about working together to form the boys into good young men when they leave St Patrick’s. This means much more than simply educating the young men for the “world of work” or “moving into the big world”. Rather it is about what a holistic education tries to do apart from simply growing the intellectual capacity of a student.

Each week, the staff at our College receive a publication named Vital Staff Newsletter. This publication includes many interesting articles that draw us to reflect on our own personal lives or matters of our own professional practice. In last week’s newsletter, there was a very interesting article citing information from research around Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). The author suggested that this learning is a critical and underestimated element of school life. It suggests that school communities can build SEL by building human connections. They argue that this can be done through five keys to what they describe as “Proactive Well-being”. These keys include the following:

  • Gratitude – the affirmation of goodness where relationships are strengthened by working to build goodness in each other and the community;
  • Empathy – Understanding the needs of people around us and try to treat them as they wish you would treat them. Empathetic people are not judgemental and try to be aware of the needs of those around them as much as their own;
  • Altruism (selflessness) – promoting the welfare of others without expectation of any reward.
  • Compassion – sympathy and a sense of understanding of the misfortunes, sufferings and challenges faced by others;
  • Forgiveness – bringing peace of mind to individuals and communities by letting go of corrosive emotions that lead to vengefulness, bitterness, resentment and unhappiness.

Th author suggests that these are social skills that can be offered to and formed into our young men that will assist them to lead a satisfying and productive life. They are certainly aspirations of our holistic education at St Patrick’s.

Last weekend, we had 13 assembles, choirs and bands performing at the Queensland Catholic Schools Music Festival. The large number of participants is, I believe, because of the large growth that we have seen within the music program over the past few years. I also believe that the standard of performance has grown during this time thanks to the great work of Geoff Samuels, Kane McNally, Kate Albury, Kelly Jensen, Monique Matthews, Claire Devine and Nic Consiglio from our staff. This year, our young men managed to achieve 6 Gold medals, 5 Silver medals and 2 Bronze medals. These results are testimony to the improvement and high standards of performance that they are demonstrating each time that they perform.

During this week, our Year 9 students have been involved in their camp and retreat program. Both these experiences are aligned to the Rite Journey program that they are undertaking this year. It is a very reflective time for them and I appreciate that this is not always easy to do for a young adolescent man. I am sure that they would have found the experience to be beneficial.

We have many students and teams competing over this weekend. Our Basketball and Tennis teams are competing against Marist College Ashgrove, whilst we have senior Mooting Team competing in the State final of the QUT Mooting competition against Sommerville House on Saturday evening. Our Chemical Titration team is also competing in the National finals on Saturday, 1 Setpember at the University of Queensland. This gives a clear indication of the diversity of opportunities that our young men are offered thanks to the time and expertise of our staff members. I hope that it is an enjoyable weekend for everyone.

Live Jesus in our Hearts!

Mr Chris Mayes – College Principal