Edmund Rice Education Australia has four touchstones that define their colleges & what they do. The colleges and their touchstones are fundamental to their commitment to being a catholic school in the Edmund Rice Tradition. They help set the direction and define goals as following:
i. Liberating Education
We open hearts and minds, through quality teaching and learning experiences, so that through critical reflection and engagement each person is hope-filled and free to build a better world for all.
ii. Inclusive Community
Our community is accepting and welcoming, fostering right relationship and committed to the common good.
iii. Gospel Spirituality
We invite all people into the story of Jesus and strive to make his message of compassion, justice and peace a living reality within our community.
iv. Justice and Solidarity
We are committed to justice and peace for all, grounded in a spirituality of action and reflection that calls us to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalised and the Earth itself.
The stated above is nice theory and might remain as such unless someone gets the chance to experience reality as it is, and that was Liz Mwangi (Ruben Centre Program Manager) and I (Br. Frank O’Shea) last Friday May 17th at St. Bernard’s College Essendon.
Every two weeks the college has an assembly for all the 1,500 secondary students and the hope is that this will be an opportunity to deepen the understanding of the vision and mission of the college within both students and staff.
We were guests of the College and attended the assembly. The theme was celebrating diversity and the guest to explore the meaning of this was four Muslim students (both male and female) and one senior staff member.
The program brilliantly lived up to its billing, beginning with both a Christian and Muslim prayers, that included prayers for the those slaughtered in the Christchurch shootings, and ending with mutual sharing of gifts.
The students explained the tenants of the Muslim faith but also included the common misunderstandings so real in media and general community perceptions.
After this they focused on their very real experience that unfortunately includes verbal and physical abuses and of being a minority religion in a largely secular society.
The Visiting students and their teachers were very grateful for the opportunity to have a voice and to inform the students about what the Muslim faith is.
I was gobsmacked by their courage and professionalism as well as the total respect that was given to them by the students and I was left to dream of a world where diversity can be truly celebrated. It was clear to me that ignorance begets fear and when combined, these things isolate those who are a minority and who are different from the main stream.
As I was listening I reflected on the vision and mission of this great Catholic College and it struck me that all of the above Four Touch stones were being lived this day.
Hearts and minds were engaged, welcoming and fostering of right relationships, the message of compassion, justice and peace were all happening here right in our midst. Ignorance, fear, and prejudice were evaporating right there and then and it was truly inspiring and it was, “definitely good to be there moment. “
The assembly ended with Principal saying , “Live Jesus In Our hearts’ and all boys in full voice answering … “Amen “