Posted by Ria Greene
on 4 September 2019
On Friday 23rd August, over 500 staff from the four Lasallian Colleges in Melbourne (De La Salle College Malvern, St Bede's College Mentone, St John's College Dandenong and St James' College East Bentleigh) gathered to celebrate the Tercentenary Staff Retreat Day. Brothers from the Malvern and Mentone Communities also joined the Retreat, along with Brothers from Sydney their presence was greatly appreciated by all in attendance. In addition, Br David Hawke, Visitor, was our guest of honour.
Br Gerard Rummery, fsc and Dr Rose-Marie Prosser gave the keynote addresses and provided input to animate the theme of the Retreat: "One Heart One Commitment One Life", (the official Tercentenary theme).
Br Gerard highlighted some key moments in the Lasallian story; spanning the trajectory from the innovative origins by St John Baptist de La Salle and the commitment of the first Brothers, through to the present day that he best described as a 'shared mission'. Br Gerard affirmed the efforts of Lasallian Partners who carry forward the Lasallian charism to the young people entrusted to us by God. Br Gerard said that, "the challenge is to all those willing to ensure that the 300 years is not an end but a new beginning."
Dr Rose-Marie Prosser followed Br Gerard's address and situated the Lasallian 'educational project' within the Australian context. When asked to reflect on the retreat day Dr Rose-Marie stated:
"I was very honoured to be a keynote speaker with Br Gerard Rummery at the Lasallian Retreat day at St Bede's on Aug 23rd, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Jean Baptiste de La Salle's death. I had not met Gerard previously but had known of his important research over many years into Catholic schools and the successes of the Catholic education enterprise. In his presentation he described the success of the De La Salle Brothers in many countries over the years and the changes they had to make as they faced new contexts. Given the diminishment in the number of Brothers available for active ministry in education in Australia, Gerard asked the school communities how they were intentionally continuing to live out the Lasallian charism.
My presentation gave some details about the current Australian context with many students, parents and even teachers experiencing the process of detraditionalisation from the Catholic institutional church. But evidence would show that many of these people are interested in spirituality rather than being actively involved in church practice. Pope Francis sees this time as an opportunity to renew our knowledge of and commitment to the person of Jesus as he acknowledges that young people especially are attracted to the life of Jesus and the countercultural movement that followed after his death and resurrection.
My invitation was to all staff to see their responsibility in the spiritual education of the young people in their schools, in helping them to become more open to the presence of God's in creation, beauty and relationships so that they all leave school being compassionate and caring people who are inclusive and respectful to all they meet."
After a morning of very stimulating and critical input, staff participated in a series of creative workshops including weaving, chess, meditation, yoga, a beach walk (Camino), Celtic harper, table tennis, ukulele, a feature film, and more.
Shared meals gave staff opportunities to mix and share perspectives on their work in Lasallian schools. One staff member commented on his gratitude to connect with someone who did his exact role at another college; he looks forward to the work that they will be able to collaborate on in the future. Other staff commented on their joy of being able to pause for a day and to connect with colleagues who share the same vision for students. The shared retreat day gave many a sense of mission that is characterised by faith, service and community! This shared purpose and life affirming message affirmed and challenged all who attended.
In summary, Br David Hawke, our guest of honour, stated: "at the beginning of the day you were asked: "what would John Baptist de La Salle say if he were sitting next to you today?"
At the end of the day, I returned to that same question commenting that De La Salle would never have imagined that the seed sown by him over three hundred years ago would have blossomed into what all experienced at St Bede's during the retreat day. De La Salle would take great pride in the fact that the "human and Christian education" of young people is so alive in the four Lasallian schools in Melbourne.
Both presenters attested to the generosity of men and women who have contributed to Catholic education across Australia. That same generosity was so evident among the five hundred and forty people who attended the retreat day. One of the reflections at the end of the day indicated a definitive commitment to continue Catholic Schools in the Lasallian tradition across Melbourne well into the future. The retreat day attested to that.
The celebration of the Tercentenary Year in Melbourne has been celebrated "together and by association" by the four schools working in solidarity organising key events inclusive of staff, students and the wider Lasallian family.
Congratulations to all."
Gratitude was expressed throughout the day to the host community, St Bede's College, the Principals of the four Melbourne Colleges (Peter Houlihan, John Finn, Tim Hogan and Stephen Pooley) and the Planning Committee (Marty Callanan, John Rhynehart, Rana Brogan, Br Tony Cummins and Ria Greene).
Suggestions were made by many that an event of this nature should be repeated in the future. We look forward to such opportunities 'together and by association' to live what we sang at the beginning and the end of the say, that is to live Jesus in our hearts forever!