The signs of winter are clearly about – cold and frosty mornings, shorter days……..along with the pace of semester-end assessments and exam schedules! It would be wrong to dismiss these as ‘first world’ issues and yet, as we consider the implications of tragic events unfolding on news media with increasing frequency, for many young people across our world, such routines and expectations would seem utter bliss.
But how we do live within such a sharp juxtaposition, maintaining a peaceful time for learning at school yet mindful of and responding to global conflicts and social mayhem? The challenge for us as educators and parents is to prepare our students for their future adult roles in a balanced and supportive yet authentic way.
Perhaps this season of Pentecost provides a clue. Imagine the chaos amongst the apostles, now seeming a sad and sorry lot, confused and without direction. Yet coming together in prayer enabled them to recognise the Holy Spirit, the Creator God still with them, inspiring and invigorating their hearts and souls, providing strength so that they could continue the mission work of Jesus, to ‘go forth and preach the Good News across all nations.’ Although speaking in different ways, they were united through the Holy Spirit to give witness to Jesus’ teachings and spread His message of love, hope and forgiveness.
Our daily challenge remains to live the gospel, to love one another, to heal and forgive. Making headway in the light of recent world events can seem almost impossible. The task easily overwhelms when considering the complex nature of resolving Indigenous rights, of protecting our planet for future generations, of challenging stereotypes and disadvantage, of providing meaningful employment, of supporting those who suffer ill health, of distributing the world’s resources fairly and equitably, of caring for and sharing with refugees and displaced peoples across our world and finally of participating in a fractured Church. How can we help? How can we make any sort of meaningful difference? How do we live and contribute as followers of Jesus?
Across our world right now, there is a high alert in the face of terrorist acts and the heightened threat of such. How do we stay calm, safe and yet continue to challenge violence, greed and prejudice? Jesus would suggest that we hold firm, trust in God’s love and act always with and from love. In the midst of the storm, Jesus chastised those apostles in the boat, telling them to have faith and trust in their God. He also tells us that “whenever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” We need to call on the Holy Spirit to inspire and give us courage in these difficult times, to ground us in the essential Christian values of faith, hope and love so that we can teach our students to play their part in life. Joan Chittister entreats us to hold fast to dreams, and especially that “we must pledge ourselves to do what the humanity of the whole globe and all its peoples requires of us.”
Our students might like to consider a recent example offered by 16 year old Melbourne student, Aretha Stewart-Brown, ready to play her part in the evolving story of national reconciliation. Aretha, elected last month as the first female PM at the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, is becoming a familiar yet confident voice for Indigenous communities. She holds no illusions as to the complexity of reconciliation processes, and yet is ready to work as an emerging leader, building faith in a positive relationship between the government and Indigenous Australians. To do this effectively, she wants “to see more Indigenous politicians in foreign affairs and education and trade and science and all those areas.”
Other inspiring role models for emerging leaders from within our current College community are evident in the pathways of social justice endeavours undertaken by many former Mater Christi College students. Without doubt this represents the Holy Spirit in action, through their lives, inspiring and giving courage to the building of better communities and peaceful relations. As parents and educators, we need to continue to foster and nurture the growth of the key Christian values of faith, hope and love in our students, especially so that they will join with us in bringing about a better world. It would seem the only way to create a way out of our wintry discontent.
Mary Fitz-Gerald, Principal