Opening of school year , St Mary’s College Ipswich

Students, staff and families of St Mary’s College, Ipswich gathered in St Marys Church Ipswich on Friday 5 February to celebrate Eucharist and pray together for a blessing on this year ahead, to commission the Student Leaders and each Year 12 student to her leadership role within the community during 2016. Celebrant was college Chaplain, Fr. Chukwudi Chinaka.  In this Jubilee Year of Mercy the College has taken as its Theme “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall receive mercy.” Below is the address given by Principal, Judith Finan.

“Can I start my address by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we gather here today.

I would like to especially recognize our dear Sisters of Mercy, who represent the 153 years of educating young women in the Catholic and Mercy traditions here at St Mary’s College, Ipswich.  How wonderful that they could join us today – Sr Mary Pescott, Sr Christine Gabbett, Sr Mary Lawson….welcome.

Other invited guests, parents, family members, students, staff and in particular the 2016 Student leaders….welcome.

This is an important occasion for St Mary’s College for many reasons:

  • This is the first time we have met as an extended community for the year
  • This is the first time our Year 7’s and new students have joined us in this holy celebration of community, love and mercy.
  • It is also a significant milestone for our seniors of 2016, as it marks the start of a year.  I hope -through their faithfulness and integrity – they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Door of Mercy

This is a door – a special door.  It is large wooden door. It’s very ornate, carved and decorated. This is a holy door. It can be found in St Peter’s Basicilica in Rome.  On the Tuesday 8 December, 2015, this door was opened for the first time in 15 years.  Yes, 15 years…..from that day until Sunday 20 November this year, the Church, and especially Pope Francis, invites Catholics and non-Catholics alike to encounter God’s grace during an extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

God’s mercy, of course, is ever-present and ever-abundant. A Year of Mercy doesn’t make God more merciful or more inclined to forgive. God can’t change. But we can ... and must.

The Year of Mercy is meant to be one of those times — a season for us to think about others compassionately and differently.  It is possible to love our enemies. The key that unlocks this love is mercy. God asks us to be merciful and to bring mercy into situations where it is absent. Mercy does not give up on those who are bad, troubled or broken. Mercy helps us to see in them more than just the negative. Mercy changes our attitude and actions. Mercy helps us to look at people differently. We look at people with eyes of mercy and suddenly, we see more in them. Mercy is about looking with compassion, with understanding and not being judgemental. Mercy is about giving another chance.  Imagine a world where we lived mercifully.

But Mercy isn’t free. We always pay for it. Not with money, but with effort. Mercy, says Pope Francis (who by the way is my hero), requires “dedication and sacrifice”; it requires that we reject sin, selfishness and destructive desires.

During this Year of Mercy all the Holy Doors in Rome and around the world will be flung open. Everyone who walks through them will have the opportunity to embrace this significant year, to see themselves as people of hope.  St Mary’s Church has been nominated to participate in this symbolic opening of doors…this is very,very special for us as a Parish school.

This is happening on Saturday 13 February at 10:00am – I know that Fr Chukwudi, Fr Peter and I would love to have a large representative for the St Mary’s College Community – remember we are a Mercy College - I think that this year is our chance to show it.

For our leaders this year, I see the door, as a symbol.  A door can be kept closed.  It can be seen as an obstacle, a barrier, something barring our way.  It can kept us safe and comfortable.   HOWEVER………….A door has the potential to open us up to new things– if we have the courage to open the door….to see within.  What lies behind the door..…is opportunity…….is education….is learning…about self, others, creation and God.  As leaders of the College you are charged with a duty – to put others first, to walk in their shoes, to lead with integrity, empathy and understanding, and to be guided by the Gospel values and the Mercy traditions of Catherine McAuley.

Seniors of 2016, my greatest hope for you is that you will open the door to servant leadership, to Mercy and to all the endless opportunities this year can bring.”

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