Principal's Blog - 7 December 2016
Dear members of the Marcellin College family,
The events of the last couple of weeks have been some of the saddest but also most uplifting and inspiring of my time at Marcellin. Matthew’s death has touched so many in our community in different ways and as a College community we continue to grieve his loss. I am indescribably grateful to all in the Marcellin family and the broader Marist, Catholic, Independent and State educational communities across Australia for the incredible outpouring of support, prayers and concern which have flooded our College. To list them all in this space would be impossible. In some ways to name individuals or groups would diminish the response of the whole however I would like to point out four groups in particular.
Firstly, to our students. Thank you for being an uplifting presence. You have truly displayed the Marist value of simplicity in the way you have done good quietly supporting each other, the family and your teachers in many ways. In particular I would like to pay tribute to the Year 12 graduating Class of 2016. From the boys who came to the funeral and those who spoke so beautifully and with great dignity and respect for Matthew, to those who gathered at various locations around the country to stop and honour their mate.
Secondly, to our parents. When I walked into the hall following the funeral I was overwhelmed by the presence of countless mums supported by our MCCA and College Foundation who came to offer their time, their food but mostly their love to the Wilkins family in their hour of greatest need.
Thirdly to our staff. I said at our recent House Graduations that the most difficult request I have to make to staff is for them to walk into a classroom in the midst of their own grief and sadness and support their students in their grief. All the while maintaining their professionalism and maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Our staff did all this and much more in providing comfort and support to their students and the Wilkins family.
Finally I would like to pay tribute to the Wilkins family. To Steve, Gianna and James; I thank you for allowing our community into your lives at this most difficult and personal of times. You allowed us to grieve with you, you allowed us to participate in celebrating Matthew’s life and you inspired us with your strength and love of your sons.
As a community we will continue to provide support for each other and Matthew’s family in the months and years ahead. I stress again that if any boy in our community is finding this time particularly difficult to seek out the support of our College.
Over the last couple of weeks we have acknowledged the efforts and achievements of our students at our yearly House Graduation evenings. These wonderful celebrations of our boys continue to develop and improve every year. I am very grateful to all those who show great respect to our boys through their meticulous planning of these evenings ensuring that the accomplishments of each boy is recognised and celebrated. I would like to thank our hard working House Coordinators and Pastoral Leaders and assistants for their presence at and support of these significant occasions. I would also like to thank Wendy Lagos, Leadership Secretary, for her work carrying out the many tasks needed to ensure the smooth running and success of these nights.
Below I have printed the Eulogy I presented at Matthew’s funeral on behalf of the College.
A Tribute to Matthew Wilkin’s – Class of 2016
From the Marcellin College Family
Good morning. My name is Mark Murphy and I am the Principal of Marcellin College. I am honoured to have been asked by Steve, Gianna and James to speak about Matthew today. I do so on behalf of the entire Marcellin family whose tributes and insights into Matthew the Marcellin boy and graduate of the Class of 2016 are the guiding force behind my words to you today.
Before I begin I want you to know James that you are a much loved valued and respected member of the Marcellin College family. Our community stands with you in solidarity both today and always.
Virtute Ad Altissima, with virtue and courage to strive for the highest is the motto of our College. They are words we use to guide us in all we aspire to be at Marcellin. They are words which Matthew would have heard as he commenced his education at Marcellin as a Year 7 boy in 2011. Perhaps at the time he may not have fully understood what those words meant. However, over the following six years he exemplified and lived them through each interaction with our College community.
It takes great virtue and courage to be the classmate and friend Matthew was to many in our school. It takes virtue and courage to be a young man who stayed true to himself and his values. Values which had obviously been instilled in him by his parents Steve and Gianna - which he used as the moral compass to guide him throughout his time at Marcellin.
It takes virtue and courage to always do the right thing even when we might feel the pressure to take the easier path. At the Mannes House Graduation last week House Coordinator Daniel Wightman reminded us that Matthew never put a foot wrong as a student at Marcellin. He reminded us that the teachers of this self-motivated, organized and diligent young man had never written or said anything negative about Matthew. Matthew was recognized for his outstanding attitude to work by receiving many Altissma awards for excellence throughout the last six years. With the granting of all these accolades, Matthew could have been forgiven for being a little smug and self-important. But again Daniel reminds us that he didn’t seek the limelight. He says “Matthew didn’t seem to want to linger when I tried to talk with him about how well he was doing in English and how much I’d enjoyed reading his essays.”
Matthews own mates admired him for his conscientiousness. One of Matthew’s friends wrote… “he was super hard working; he had that attitude where he tried his utmost with everything in order to have no regrets in the future. He motivated me throughout the years and his attitude inspired me to put in 120% with everything. He was someone everyone looked up to, someone you would always try to impress.”
It takes virtue and courage to look beyond your own needs and be active in supporting others. One of the Year 7 members of Matthew’s Pastoral Group, Daniel Lagan, wrote this tribute to his Year 12 big brother.
When I started Year 7 I was in Matthews pastoral and he was my locker buddy. His locker was on top of mine. At Marcellin the unwritten law is - first in best dressed. Meaning if you are there first you can use the locker and the other person either underneath or on top of you has to wait for you to finish. But Matthew was the kind of person who would step out of the way and let you in. This may be a small act of kindness but it meant a lot to me.
Other boys from Matthew’s Pastoral group also had great admiration for their classmate. When asked to describe their Pastoral brother they used words such as Respected, Kind, Friendly, Beloved, Humble, Empathetic, Caring, Quiet and Calm. One boy said… Not once in my five years with Wilks did I hear him say a bad word to anyone…. Whilst another suggested that… Wilko was a hard worker and role model to younger students.
Hearing these heartfelt tributes to Matthew by his teachers and peers I began to ask myself the question. Was this virtue and courage so clearly exemplified by Matthew in his day to day interactions with our community some innate quality that he possessed? Or was it something more thoughtful and deliberate. The answer came to me from Matthew himself. In an essay Matthew wrote for his Year 12 English teacher Liz Sullivan titled “The power of the group is often the cause of us losing our identity” he wrote the following…
Humans are not static life forms, and are therefore susceptible to the influence of others, however strength and belief in one’s inner self determines the extent to which this will occur.
Strength and belief in oneself determines the extent to which we allow ourselves to be altered by others. Some of us will value our sense of self to a high degree, and will therefore be unwilling to allow it to be altered by others, thus remaining true to ourselves.
Mathew goes on to say…
In Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”, he states that “I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”, and in William Henley’s poem “Invictus”, he affirms that “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. This reveals how we, as humans, have the ability to choose the path we take, and therefore how some of us will remain true to ourselves despite the pressures of the groups that surround us.
Well Matthew, I thank you for taking the path less travelled. For being a model of our vision for the young men of Marcellin College; for showing them what it truly means to be a man of integrity and honour. To be what St Marcellin Champagnat would describe as a good Christian and a Good citizen.
I often say once a Marcellin boy always a Marcellin boy. Matthew will remain always a member of the Marcellin College family. He will always be loved and he will always be remembered. Virtute Ad Altissima.
At Marcellin we often recite our College prayer at assemblies and in our Pastoral groups. Many Marcellin students have truly lived the words of this prayer, none more so than Matthew Wilkins. As I conclude I ask each Marcellin student here today, both past and present to stand in Solidarity with Matthew’s family and recite this prayer with me as a tribute to a young man who lived it.
Teach me oh Lord to aim high and not to be content with Mediocrity;
To set my sights on noble goals;
To have a brave heart, a clear vision;
To prize the things that are worthwhile;
To always have the courage to choose what is right,
To despise what is petty,
To shun all selfishness,
To have a heart that is strong and brave;
Pure and happy,
Docile yet courageous,
So that under your guidance and with your grace
I may always and in all things have as my motto.
Virtute Ad Altissima