Happy Champagnat Week to everyone in our Marist community.
Today, (the 6th of June) we welcomed families and friends to our Champagnat Day Mass. We were very fortunate to have Father Epeli Qimaqima celebrating Mass with us today. Father Epeli was a Marist student growing up in Fiji. He spoke so eloquently and with obvious joy of his connections to the Marist family and the profound impact his education had on him as well as sharing his wonderful insights of Marcellin and the Marist story.
I take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in making today and this week so special. Mr Moussa, Mr Scanlon, Ms Andrews and Mr Paton were here from 6:30am this morning. I thank Mr Paton for his organisation of Mass. Ms Andrews and our band and musicians, most of whom are Year 12 for the wonderful music this morning. The Tech Crew and Mrs Lyons for ensuring everything went smoothly and to Mrs Ledesma and the support staff for their work behind the scenes.
I share with you my address to the College community today:
As Champagnat Day was approaching, I began to think what is Champagnat Day really about. Why do we celebrate our founder Marcellin Champagnat every year. It is not like we are unaware of who Marcellin was, his story. We are often reminded of Marcellin, his values, his attributes, his courage, wisdom, his struggles and challenges, his leadership, commitment and hard work, how he planted the seed of Marist education that has flourished and spread across the world. At the start of Year 7 we learn his story, our story. Our new staff participate in Footsteps, learning about what it means to be Marist and a Marist educator. In fact, for each of us every day, here at the College, we are reminded by the visual representations around us, in our words and our actions, we are purposefully Marist. There is no doubt Marcellin was visionary, a person of deep faith, that challenged the norms, his words and letters still make sense and are relevant in education over 200 years later. We celebrate our story every day in the way we live out our story.
At the same time, I was attending the NSW Catholic Schools Principals conference, where we gathered for Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral. As we waited quietly, sitting in a pew and my eyes wondered, what a truly beautiful church, the stain glass windows, the architecture, there was a lovely feeling of peace, a real sense of God’s presence, this incredible sense of it's rich history. I began to think about all the people that had sat in the same spot that I was sitting.
How many people have sat in the spot, what were their stories, why were they there, in what part of Australian, Sydney history did they live in? So many people have passed through the doors of St Mary’s. Regular Mass goers, lunch visitors, tourists, visitors for ordinations, weddings, funerals. Each of these people make up the story of St Mary’s, of Sydney, part of the Australian story. When we celebrate Australia day, we are not celebrating an event, we are celebrating our story as a nation, the story of all people, in all its glory, but also in it’s failures, how we have learnt and moved forward. In the same way the Marist story is a people story, not a person story, not one person’s story, everyone Marist has contributed to the story, to our story.
When we celebrate our annual Champagnat Day at St Patrick’s Marist, for me, for us all, it is arguably the most important day in the College’s year. A day when we remember the founder of all Marist Schools and the brother’s who began our school at Harrington Street in the Rocks: we value greatly their legacy. We are indebted to the men who had the vision that led to the creation of the school back in 1872, and all those men and women who have contributed to the leadership and vision of the school since.
None of the education for which the school has become known would have happened without the foresight of Marcellin and the leaders of our school, who set out with the express intention of developing a school which provided an excellent faith based education originally for boys and then for boys and girls, an education that seeks to lead people in the way of Mary, to make Jesus known and loved, to help every person grow to their full potential. We owe them a great debt of gratitude. Without them this outstanding school simply would not exist and this is why we must honour them on Champagnat Day each year.
We should never take Champagnat Day for granted, or see it is just simply another school event. It is extremely important for the school for a number of reasons: it is a day on which every Marist worldwide celebrates who we are, our origins and our journeys. It is a wonderful feeling of solidarity, all part of the same family tree, of the connections to our Marist brothers and sisters everywhere. It is a day in which we celebrate achievement. Our many achievements, individual and collective throughout our history; it is an important occasion for the whole school to be together, to do things together, and to remember that we are an important and strong community. The whole is stronger than the sum of its parts. We celebrate every single person, every student, every teacher, every staff member, parents, families and friends who have been part of our school’s history from 1872 until today. Every moment, the good and the bad, have created our ever evolving story.
Today we recognised those members of our community that have demonstrated the qualities we seek in all Marists. I congratulate all the staff and students who received the Marist Service Award and our Year 9 Junior Leadership team.