It has been a significant week for our Year 12 students as they have finished their schooling and have important examinations looming. We have also celebrated a highly successful Art Exhibition and conducted a Year 11 Music Recital this week.
At our final Year 12 assembly I related the following story:
“Good morning and welcome to everyone present on this special occasion. Graduation marks a very important and significant time in a young person’s life. It is especially fitting that parents are present here today to share in the celebration of this occasion.
Our Year 12s are probably feeling a mixture of emotions. For some of our graduating class, John XXIII College has been a brilliant school and you have had a wonderful experience throughout your time at the College. For others, there have been significant ups and downs and you have mixed emotions leaving today. If John XXIII has not reached your expectations then I am genuinely sorry.
We are all very interested in ATAR scores and future pathways for our students. However, the real success of your education at John XXIII College lies in the type of young women and men that you become in future years. For the class of 2017, that judgment can only be made in 10, 15, 20 years from now.
So how are you going to define that success in life? Is it about fame and fortune? Or are there other measures of success?
Let me relate a quick story. At the beginning of 2011 my family moved to Queensland. It was the beginning of an adventure and both exciting and nerve-racking.
We decided to rent a property in Brisbane close to the city but also within reasonable proximity to my workplace at Ipswich Grammar School. It was a lovely house on the river.
During my second day at my new school (prior to students returning) I noticed that it was raining heavily outside. However, I just assumed that it was a typical Brisbane summer storm.
Just before lunch I had a knock on my office door. One of our staff suggested that I should head home as shortly the rain would mean that roads would be flooded.
On a couple of occasions on the way home, I had to park on the side of the road as visibility was so poor that I could not see cars ahead of me.
Once home we monitored the rains via our television. It was far more serious than we thought. Flooding was occurring west of Brisbane and lives had been lost as cars had been swept off roads or people had become stranded.
That night we went to sleep knowing that we may have to evacuate next morning. At 5:00am we received a knock on the door with a neighbour advising we should leave our property. We packed up the family and drove off road to a higher vantage point. Many Brisbane residents were doing the same thing.
It was quite traumatic particularly given the graphic news coverage we had been viewing and the dangers people were facing. We hastily arranged alternative accommodation not knowing if our house and contents would survive possible flooding.
We were also aware that most insurance policies would not cover flood damage so we would potentially lose all our valuables.
I recall saying to my wife:
“We are all safe and that is all that matters. If we lose possessions we will deal with it.”
Our street lost six homes to the flood. We were lucky – the waters covered our letterbox but fortunately did not go any higher.
I thought of this story when I recently met up with three students from my graduating class from Aquinas College. We all turn 55 this year so it has been nearly four decades since we finished school. I have only seen the other three men sporadically so it was a genuine reunion.
So what do you talk about after nearly four decades? Essentially, we talked about people. We shared stories on the Aquinians we were in contact with and their lives.
There was plenty of conversation about families, travels and adventures. These stories were entwined with more sombre tales of classmates who had experienced illness, grief and death.
It is also interesting to consider what we didn’t talk about…… Money was not a topic of conversation; there was no reference to material things; no discussion around how many bedrooms our houses contained; what cars we drove; what financial investments had been made.
It was all about the people. Perhaps that is a good message for the graduating class of 2017.
The words of Saint Mother Teresa are enlightening:
“God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”
“A life not lived for others is not a life.” ― Mother Teresa
Your schooling at John XXIII College is the start of your life. Your growing independence is a source of great pride for your families and your school. Congratulations and best wishes for the future.
Together, let us seek justice.