Welcome to all families for the start of 2019 and to what I know will be a wonderful year of growth and joy. I also extend a very warm welcome to our new families who have joined our beautiful school and are now part of our Loreto story.
New beginnings are always accompanied by a mixed bag of emotions – nervousness, excitement, apprehension, curiosity – and I shared these feelings with the staff and students who have started the first chapter of their story at Loreto Normanhurst this year. I spoke to Years 5 and 6 about the ‘butterflies’ that had paid me a little visit this week, being early days of this new chapter for me in my role as Principal. My butterflies were settled by the first day squeals and hugs as the girls greeted each other around the Mary Ward statue. They were further settled by the genuine interest with which girls asked me how my holidays were, the bright spark which lit girls’ faces as they smiled and said hello, and the sincerity with which they asked me about “day one as Principal” when we saw each other at the gates at the end of the day. It is our relationships with one another, relationships marked by trust and respect, which give us the freedom and courage to be our own natural selves and thereby strengthen the richness of the whole community to which we belong.
The arrival of our students over the last couple of days has returned the heartbeat and pulse of our school. Our boarders have settled in well to their ‘home away from home’ since their return and our new boarders continue to embrace boarding life and all the opportunities it brings. I look forward to joining the boarding community for their Commitment Weekend.
After having welcomed Years 5 and 6 and their families on Thursday morning, we sensed immediately that our community was whole again. Sometimes we see each other more than once in a day and I love that each time we do, we greet each other with a smile, with ‘hello’, with some acknowledgement that each one of us creates the oneness of our community – that we bring our unique gifts, backgrounds, perspectives and stories – those of our families and those of our growing selves – to the whole.
A lot has happened since we were together as one community. For some of our families it has also been a time of hardship and sadness. If there is any way that the school can support you through these times, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. On Monday afternoon I was speaking with many boarder families and they told me of the impact which the extreme heat conditions and ongoing drought are having in local communities and families, including some areas having Level 4 water restrictions which will escalate to Level 5 (reliance on bore water) by March should there not be a significant change in conditions. Please continue to keep our boarder families and communities in your prayers.
In our local communities, nations and world we have been challenged by stories of children and people who remain in offshore detention, of violence against women, reports of power struggles and conflict, and shocking images of the state of our rivers and waterways. Sometimes we can be dragged down so quickly by the dark shadow cast by these images and words. One blessing of being surrounded by young people is that this sort of darkness is very brightly overshadowed by future-focus and hope through the very fact of their youth and by their courage to act out of love and not fear. One example of this is that given by the group of Year 11 students who took part in the Yarrabah immersion experience just after school ended in December. I commend these girls for their generosity of spirit, humility and grace and give thanks that they showed the wider community what it means to be young women for others. I also sincerely thank Ms Samarasinghe and Ms Morosin who accompanied the girls on the journey.
This year, along with all Loreto schools in Australia, we are celebrating the value of Sincerity and what that means for us as a community. As we commemorated ‘Mary Ward Week’ which commenced on the day of Mary Ward’s birth, 23 January, and ended on the day of her death, 30 January, it was timely to reflect on what we can learn from her life as we focus on Sincerity. Throughout her life, Mary Ward strove to act in response to the deep stirrings of her heart and spirit, by listening fully and openly to God. Mary listened to her own heart, and through the process of discernment came to fully embrace the gift of who she was. Like Mary Ward, we remind ourselves that it is through our own self-knowledge that we are able to have authentic relationships with ourselves and with others.
I write my reflections this week having just returned from our first Friday Morning Communion Service, so beautifully led by our Year 12 Eucharistic Ministers. Joining in this celebration this morning, being nourished by the Eucharist and the reflection of our Year 12 leaders who thoughtfully broke open today’s Gospel, it really did affirm that we are ‘back’ and ready to take on a new year with grit and grace.
I share with you the Opening Prayer from this morning’s Communion Service as a blessing as we begin this new year together.
We open our hearts and our minds to let your loving presence bless us this morning.
At the beginning of this new year, let your warmth and support guide us into a year of joy, kindness, and importantly the value for this year, Sincerity.
We pray that you give us strength to be resilient and passionate in our faith and our trust in you.
Teach us to be honest to ourselves and to those around us in order to create truthful and sincere relationships in the year ahead.
This we pray, through Christ Our Lord.
Ms Marina Ugonotti