Principal's Blog - 23 February 2017
Dear members of the Marcellin College Family,
Do you ever experience moments of serendipity? Those times when providence and coincidence collide and you think, I was meant to be here in this place at this time? I had just such a moment a few Sundays ago in a little country church, St Mary’s Star of the Sea, on Phillip Island. The engaging and enthusiastic Priest of this Parish, Fr Malcom Hewitt always presents interesting and thoughtful homilies and this occasion was no exception. However, it was the subject of his homily which most grabbed my attention.
In his homily Fr Malcom related a story about a doctor he once met. He was an eye surgeon named Dr Gannon. Dr Gannon spoke to our priest about a time, many years ago, when he completed his medical studies. He decided that before he commenced his practice he wished to travel to a developing country where he could use his skills in support of people who would not normally have access to good medical care. He wrote to Mother Teresa in Calcutta who invited him to join the staff of her hospital in that challenged part of the world.
On arrival Dr Gannon was met by Mother Teresa who greeted him and then proceeded to write something on a piece of paper. She then gave it to him and told him to hand it to Sr Priscilla who would tell him what to do. Dr Gannon located Sr Priscilla who smirked knowingly at the note and proceeded to take him through the hospital. As they walked through the corridor, Dr Gannon was shocked at the conditions the staff and patients worked and were treated in. In his mind he immediately began to develop a plan as to how he could fix many of the problems and issues of sanitation and medical care that he witnessed. Sr Priscilla took him through the hospital wards and out into the kitchen. The doctor thought that the Sister was going to get him something to eat. Instead she took him out the back door of the hospital into a large area filled with piles of rotting garbage. Sr Priscilla handed Dr Gannon a shovel and told him that Mother Teresa wanted him to move the piles of rubbish away from the hospital as it may cause infection to the patients.
At first Dr Gannon was incensed at what he had been asked to do. He had the skills and training to cure people yet he was being told to shovel garbage. Later though as he reflected more deeply he realized the wisdom in Mother Teresa’s decision. He understood that not only was this seemingly menial task vitally important for saving the lives of the patients but it was also an act of humility and service. More than this, Dr Gannon realized how arrogant he had been in thinking that one glance at a hospital could possibly make him an expert on how to fix all its problems. He said that he learnt that sometimes you need to start at the bottom, to shovel garbage as it were, to truly understand the needs of a community and more importantly the real reason for you being there in the first place – to serve.
Why was this moment serendipitous? Because Fr Malcom told us that Dr Gannon was a Marcellin Boy. A person who had been formed in the charism of Champagnat. A person whose desire it was to support those in greatest need in our world. This story gave me some encouragement in terms of the work we do with the young men of Marcellin and the opportunities we provide with regards to Christian Service.
I often challenge myself with the question: What makes a Catholic School different from other schools? We don’t have a monopoly on good values or morals. We are not the only schools who reach out to those on the margins of our society. The difference I think lay in the why and the how rather than the what of our actions. We do these things not just from some humanistic motive to serve others but to bring about the kingdom of God through following the example of Jesus. The how of our actions can be best represented in the gospel of Matthew we heard last Sunday - …if someone hits you on the right cheek, offer him your left as well…if someone wants to take your shirt offer him your cloak as well. A pretty tough ask, but one which Jesus tells us will bring us closer to what it means to serve as he did.
I leave you with a prayer written by Mother Teresa which I believe best represents what, in my own clumsy way, I am trying to suggest as a challenge for all of us in the Marcellin family.