Last week I attended the confirmation of my dear friends’ daughter. She had chosen Saint Mary Mackillop of the Cross as her confirmation name. We spoke a little bit about why she chose her and the inspiration which she has gained from the example of Australia’s first saint. She referred to wanting to help people and to following Mary Mackillop’s example of doing something when she can see the need. She told me that this is what she always wants to be able to do – to help others and especially children. Quite an insightful reflection for a child of seven years.
As I sat through a confirmation ceremony so full of symbolism and witnessed the new beginning in this young child’s own faith life, I thought of and prayed for our Year 12 students as they head into the last few weeks as students of Loreto Normanhurst. The connection they have with Loreto Normanhurst will never end. As they move into the beginning of a new and unimaginably exciting phase of life we know that they have much to take from their Loreto education and the relationships they have formed here at school. The rituals and ceremonies of the next two weeks will mark the end of Year 12’s school years and will symbolise the rite of passage between one phase of life and another.
“Oh, how I wish we would only remember that we are but travellers here. With this thought ever in our minds, how easy would the daily trials of life become to us…” These words of Saint Mother Mary Mackillop provide Year 12 with some guidance as they head into this next phase. She recognised in her young years that we all pass through experiences of life; nothing is permanent and we move on, encountering people and opportunities, struggles and joys, all of which shape us through our years. Mary Mackillop’s story is one that resonates so strongly with the model of Jesus as a leader. She pushed boundaries and reached out to those marginalised by society. Throughout his ministry, Jesus embraced his enemies and this is precisely what both Mary Mackillop and Mary Ward did during their lives. In doing so they give us a most powerful model of what it means to lead in times of uncertainty, of how to behave in our relationships with others, of how to pursue justice relentlessly. Both were, and remain, women for all people. Even in times of the harshest adversity, they remained forever faithful to God. They led without compromise and with conviction.
Mary Ward understood that she was a part of a rapidly changing culture that offered both opportunities and challenges. This remains true for us today. We must sift through what is truly good from what diminishes us as individuals and as a society. She challenged us to appreciate that we must live and impart the gospel values of Jesus. If society or individuals deny this, then we are not living the truth. That truth is that humanity is revealed in many different ways and Jesus himself called us to be like him, to be counter-cultural, however unpopular that may be.
As Year 12 students step bravely into a future unknown, I pray that they will continue to live in the light of Christ, guided by the teachings of Jesus and inspired by the lives of Mary Ward, Gonzaga Barry, Teresa Ball and Mary Mackillop. I know that they will continue to stand for what is sincere, true and just and that as Mother Gonzaga Barry said, our world will be much richer for their having lived in it.
Ms Marina Ugonotti