Principal's Blog - 16 March 2017

14 Mar 2017

Dear members of the Marcellin Family,

I believe one of the most significant needs for us as human beings, beyond the physical needs of food, shelter, water, etc, is the need to belong. I think we all crave a sense of connectedness to something. Whether it be family, a sporting club, a parish or an interest group, we all need to feel a sense of belonging.  It can give our life purpose and meaning and provide us with a sense of security and support, particularly when we are feeling alone and at our most vulnerable.

At Marcellin we strive every day to support our boys to feel that sense of security, care and even love, which can only be found when we feel that we belong. This objective is most acutely focused on as a student or staff member enters our College community for the first time. We all know what it feels like to be the new kid on the block. Sayings like fish out of water or out of my comfort zone feel most apt to us as we attempt to navigate our way through unknown territory.

For some, these feelings are as brief as our personality lends itself to making connections with people and places quickly and easily. For others, it can take longer and occasionally for others, they may never truly feel they are part of particular community. I often reflect on our ability here at Marcellin to support new members of our College family to feel that they belong here. There are, of course, tangible events and programs which the College has deliberately put in place to meet this aim. Things like induction programs, pastoral systems, sporting opportunities, welcoming masses and liturgies, camps, social gatherings, information nights, to mention only a few.

It is easy to take comfort from these events and programs and think that through these actions we have met our obligation to provide those new to Marcellin opportunities to feel connected to our school. However, I think we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that our obligation and commitment to supporting these people ended there.

Every day, each one of us at Marcellin is provided with a myriad of opportunities to open our arms and embrace those new to our community. Small acts of kindness and empathy can often be far more powerful than major events and initiatives. I would like to provide two simple examples.

Over the past two weeks we have held House liturgies to welcome new students to Marcellin, pray for our Year 12 students as they embark on their important final year at school and generally to strengthen the sense of belonging and connection boys feel toward their house. At one such gathering, I watched as the Year 12 students came forward to present the new Year 7 boys with their house badge. The Year 12 boys handed out the badges and then stood behind their new young friends.  I noticed one Year 7 boy looking a bit uncomfortable and awkward as he stood in front of the group. His Year 12 buddy obviously noticed this discomfort and quietly and gently placed his hand on the boys shoulder. The demeanour of the Year 7 boy shifted noticeably. He began to smile and he stood taller and more confidently.

The second example came from Year 7 camp.  I mentioned in this space last week about the flying fox and how it can be an exciting prospect for some and an intimidating moment for others. Before attempting this activity, each boy is kitted up with their harness and then they sit on a bench in a row waiting for their turn. I observed one boy sitting on the bench looking a little pale and nervous.  The boy sitting next to him may have recognised this too. He turned to the boy and said “Hi, I’m Jordan.  What’s your name?”. Immediately the nervous young man seemed to relax a little and the two shared a conversation.

Now maybe I am reading more into these encounters than was truly present in the minds of those young men who reached out to another. Regardless, both interactions, whatever the motivation, were wonderful examples of how a small gesture can become a powerful antidote for those who feel uncertain, scared or simply like they don’t belong. 

Every action we take towards another in this community can have powerful effects and consequences, both positively and negatively. Each time we reach out in support and solidarity with another, we can do good beyond our imaginings. At the same time the opposite is true when we demonstrate thoughtlessness, selfishness and disregard for the feelings and dignity of another.

Jesus speaks of the need to love each other as he loves us. A tall order but one that would be important for each of us to consider as we journey through our time in this community. It is the essence of this love that binds us and gives us that sense that we belong.  It is the absence of it that can divide, disconnect and tear at the fabric of our Marcellin family.

Mark Murphy