Strengthened by the truth, we live with courage and purpose.
Welcome to all members of our community to the start of the 2020 school year. I extend a very warm welcome to our new families and staff who have joined the ‘Open Circle’ of our beautiful school and are now part of our Loreto story. I hope that the extended student holiday period allowed our families to enjoy some equal time for rest and play, whether at home or away. I was fortunate to do a bit of both myself and as I allowed my body to rest and my spirit and mind to catch up, I was reminded of just how important balance is for us all – balance between stillness and movement; busyness and quiet; the natural world and the human made world and what a delicate balancing act it always is.
A lot has happened since we were together as one community. For some of our families, it has 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. I call on all in our community to please continue to keep our boarder families and rural communities who remain in drought in your prayers.
We have also been confronted – adults and young people alike – by all that has happened in our nation and world since school ended in 2019. If you have not been touched directly by the ongoing impact of the drought, the frightening dust storms or the devastation of bushfires and floods, I have no doubt that these last few months have nonetheless been challenging for everyone. Whether in city, town or bush, on the coast, in the highlands or out in the broad and open plains, as Loreto people we must be people of our times; we must be part of our world and respond to it. I found myself quite restless and nervous over the break, driving through familiar landscape and finding burnt skeletal trees, longing for the blue sky to return and for the sounds of nature to once again fill the landscape. I appreciate that I have experienced this mainly from afar, never with my life, those I love, or my livelihood and property being under threat. I cannot even fathom what that would be like. I have sat in that restlessness, despite not yet finding full understanding. The events of the last few months have caused me to appreciate the fragile balance of Creation, the human experience of our natural world and how interconnected we all are to one another and to our natural world, to question what is true and just, and to give thanks for what unites us: our common humanity, goodness and kindness.
To make sense of all of this, to seek truth in debate, to hear the truth with respect and humility, and to speak the truth with compassion and integrity, is what is called of us as people of faith, gifted with our Catholic tradition that is founded in hope and love, and formed in our Loreto values of freedom, justice, sincerity, verity and felicity.
This year, as we do each year in Loreto schools, we will examine one of the Loreto values and this year we will reflect on Verity or truth. This is a difficult value to understand as we all believe our own personal truth to be the one truth and this can sometimes guide us to have misconceptions about what is the real source of truth. Mary Ward’s idea of truth was about what God wanted. She spoke of the mystery of God and the challenge in giving all things to God when we recognise his words, “I am the way the truth and the life”. The quote above, “Strengthened by the truth, we live with courage and purpose”, is the theme for the year which the Class of 2020 discerned for our community in Term 4 last year. May it remain a guiding compass for us as the days, weeks and terms unfold.
Beginning a new school year is also a wonderful opportunity to re-engage with how the values of our school shape and form us each day, including how our rich tradition and values have shaped the Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model and the FACE (Faith, Academic, Community and Extra-Curricular) Curriculum and the way we understand and ‘do’ learning at Loreto Normanhurst. If we do both, as parents and staff, we will assist our young women to grow and do just as Mary Ward wanted 400 years ago – “to take their place in the world”. One way in which parents can do this is through the “It takes a Village…” Parent Engagement and Education Program which you would have received information about recently. I highly commend the full program to you, and highlight for your attention the first offering of the program with the presentations by Dr Judith Locke on February 10 and 11. Please see more information about these presentations here.
Whilst many were relaxing and enjoying your holidays some girls were training hard in their chosen sports and our rowers were working hard to prepare for the second half of the rowing season and the Schoolgirls’ Head of the River Regatta. We wish the rowers well as they continue to work hard for great results and say a big congratulations to two girls in Year 12 who reached commendable goals in their sports. Congratulations to Abby Hartshorne won two bronze medals in the Women’s 17 Years & Over races for 100m Butterfly and 200m Freestyle. In doing so, she has now qualified to compete in three events at the Australian Swimming Team Olympic Trials which are to be held in June in Adelaide. Congratulations also to Juliet Lahood for being recently named by the Australian Institute of Sport as an emerging athlete in taekwondo. Juliet was one of only four athletes selected from NSW for inclusion in this highly competitive program. Well done to both Abby and Juliet.
Throughout our global Loreto network, we have just concluded ‘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. Of course, Mary Ward’s charism and her influence touch our hearts and lives every day. The focus of her life throughout this week has allowed us to go that little deeper into what we can learn from her life as we embark on this Year of Verity, to consider how Mary Ward listened to the whisperings of her heart and her certainty in God’s love and desire for her, and what this may mean for us today.
Mary Ward dared to not listen to the social and religious conventions of the time, conventions which considered women to be weak and fickle. She had a deep relationship with God and she found quiet time every day to reflect on her actions, relationships, decisions, values and commitments. This is what led her to dare to found an order of religious women free from religious enclosure and ready to be part of the world, in direct service of others. When we hear Ash Barty, World Number 1 in Women’s Tennis, retell of how she was told from a young age that she was too short to play tennis, or when we read commentary that tells environmental activist Greta Thunberg that she is too young to be listened to, we know that Mary Ward’s approach to listening deeply to God’s dream for her remains forever relevant for us and our girls to this day as they grow in to courageous and compassionate women who are seekers of truth and doers of justice.
God of hope,
You are close to us as we begin a new school year.
Like Mary Ward, help us to talk to you and to listen to you.
As we celebrate Mary Ward in a special way this week, may we:
use our minds to think clearly and carefully;
use our hearts to love deeply;
use our words to value others;
use our hands to serve those in need; and
use our feet to walk toward new adventures.
May we find God in the good and not-so-wonderful parts of our lives.
In Jesus’ name,
I wish all families a wonderful start to the 2020 school year. Please enjoy issue one of the 2020 school newsletter, which is now a fortnightly publication, and I encourage you to connect with the School through the many communication channels available for our community.
Ms Marina Ugonotti