Principal's Blog - 1 December 2016
Dear members of the Marcellin College Family,
There are moments in the life of any community which test it's character and even defines it's identity. This past week at Marcellin has been one such moment. This week I have been privileged to witness the character and identity of our community in action following the sudden and tragic passing of one of own beautiful boys, Matthew Wilkins. He was a member of the Class of 2016 who died from the indiscriminate and insidious virus of meningococcal meningitis.
I have witnessed the Marcellin community come together in a thousand different ways with two aims in mind. Firstly, to provide support, both tangible and spiritual, to Matthew’s parents Gianna and Steve and his brother James as they experience the unimaginable grief and sadness at the loss of their son and brother. And secondly, to take care of each other as we all try to navigate our way through our own personal grief at the loss of a student, classmate, friend and brother.
There were many moments throughout the week that helped to ease some of our grief and which inspired us all in the midst of this tragedy. I wish you could have been there.
I wish you could have been there on Sunday evening when the Senior Leadership of our College gathered at Marcellin to prepare for the week ahead in the raw moments following news of this tragedy to ensure that the net of support would be cast in such a way as to capture the needs of all in our community.
I wish you could all have been there on Monday to witness the strength of character and dignity of our boys as they gathered in the quadrangle in solidarity with each other and Matthew’s family. I wish you could have seen the amazing maturity and stoicism of our Senior Student Leaders as they led a solemn prayer service in memory of one of their own. I wish you could have been a witness to the dedicated, professional, generous and gracious staff of Marcellin who stood with our boys and supported, nurtured and cared for them in the midst of their own personal grief. These same people continued to teach classes with the same level of professionalism and skill as they would on any other day.
I wish you could have been there on Tuesday when families of past students gathered at our annual Mass For The Deceased past members of the Marcellin family. I wish you could have been there to witness the outpouring of love and prayers for Matthew, his family and our community from people whose own grief at the loss of loved ones remains palpable many years on.
On Tuesday and Wednesday evening I wish you could have been at the first of our House Graduations to hear people speak of their sadness at the news of Matthew’s passing and the many words of encouragement and comfort they expressed to me. I was particularly moved by the beautiful words of Daniel Wightman, the House Co-ordinator of Matthew's beloved Mannes House as he spoke about Matthew as a dedicated and supportive contributor to the life of his House.
On Thursday I wish you could have been there to witness 100 boys from the Class of 2016 along with students and staff from Our Lady of Mercy and Our Lady of Sion College, including Julie Ryan, Principal at OLMC, who gathered with staff and students from Mannes House to pray in silent solidarity for Matthew and who sang the Sub Tuum and Power of your Love with the same passion and love for their school as they did only a month ago at their Valedictory mass.
I wish you could have seen the dozens and dozens of Floral tributes which arrived at our College throughout the week from Catholic, State and Independent schools across the country, along with the countless emails, texts and phone calls I received from my colleague Principals offering not only words of condolence but also practical expressions of support from counselling support to teaching staff. I am particularly grateful to Kate Fogarty and the staff of fellow Marist school Assumption College, who generously provided our staff with a beautiful afternoon tea on Wednesday.
I was gratified also to hear from the President of the Marcellin College Community Association, Teresa Michelangeli who has organised, along with the generous support of many families, the refreshments and afternoon tea following the funeral this week.
I am grateful to the many staff who have visited the family to provide practical support at this time. Including Rose Chapple, College Counsellor, Dora Karas, Careers Practitioner, Carolyn Young, Assistant Principal (Mission), Daniel Wightman, Mannes House Co-ordinator, Robert Aston and Laura Fordham, Pastoral Leaders and Grace Florio, Ministry Assistant.
I said to the boys at our memorial service on Monday that often we feel helpless at these times. We wonder what we could possibly do or say to bring comfort to people in their moments of pain and grief. I suggested that sometimes there are only two things we can do; pray and be there as a comforting presence for each other. In speaking with Matthew's father Steve throughout the week, he told me how overwhelmed and grateful his family is for the outpouring of love, support and prayers they have received. Nothing can take away the heartache and grief of this time but our gestures of support have given the family great comfort in their hour of need.
We continue to pray for Matthew and his family as well as the broader Marcellin Community at this time taking comfort in the words of Isaiah who said...that God will never forget us for he has carved each of our names on the palms of his hands.
I know that as parents you will continue to monitor your sons during this difficult and often confusing time. If you have any concerns for their wellbeing please contact your son’s Pastoral Leader or House Co-ordinator for support.
Thank you all and God Bless you,