Welcome all to the commencement of the 2021 school year. I hope that you had a wonderful summer, full of rest, rejuvenation, family time and, possibly, adventure. I also trust that all are ready for:
- a fresh beginning,
- to be open to new experiences and
- are looking to continue your journey to human growth and fullness of being in 2021.
What are beginnings?
One of my favourite poets, TS Eliot once wrote, “Every moment is a fresh beginning.”
Last week I watched an incredible young talent, Amanda Gorman, celebrate, through her art, a new beginning for her country, the United States of America. I wanted to share some lines from her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” because they are perfect for us, in this moment of time, in time of beginning:
…yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
… one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
… The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it
If only we're brave enough to be it
Amanda Gorman’s words and spirit reinforce our theme for this year: Dare to Dream. With vision, courage and love we can be the “light”.
The warmth of the welcome I am receiving as I join the Merici community certainly reinforces the uniqueness of the present. I feel deeply blessed and privileged to have begun my role as Principal in the bright newness of 2021.
Who am I?
I am the proud mother of three adult children: Bridget, Lucy and James and a puppy called Ruffus. My husband of 33 years, Gus is also a fellow educator. Family, community and learning are lifelong passions of mine. Water sports, film and theatre are also important to me. I love to read.
I’ve lived and worked in many schools and system roles and love what I do. Some words that have always inspired and energized me are from St John’s Gospel:
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
I am proud to have the opportunity to lead a community shaped by the charism of St Angela Merici and the founding orders of our wonderful school. Saint Angela saw that the heartbeat of Jesus is to be found at our core, in those we meet, in every decision we make, in the day-to-day and in all that God has created. She wrote “Do something, get moving, risk new things, stick with it, get on your knees then be ready for great surprises.” We all are indeed blessed that we have the freedom to act and shape our lives, to dream knowing that we are loved unconditionally by God and so are open and ready for “great surprises”.
What are my dreams for Merici College?
I hope that our young women, YOU, will grow into women of intelligence and integrity who strive to make a positive contribution to the world. I hope to see “seekers of truth and a doers of justice”.
I want Merici to be a joy-filled and energetic community intent on building upon the heritage founded by all that have come before us. A heritage that seeks to liberate, empower and motivate young women to use their gifts with confidence, creativity, generosity and in the loving service of others.
I dream that Merici College is a school of excellence, a school that continues to grow each and every individual spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally through a balance of rich opportunities. A special place that educates, inspires and nurtures girls so that they feel empowered to impact on their world through the use of their skills and talents.
I want Merici to be a school that fosters global, outward looking young people who safely navigate their world, live faithfully, authentically and so act with wisdom.
My immediate, personal dreams for 2021 are:
- To listen and learn
- To immerse myself in the culture, life and charism of our school.
- To establish relationships with the School and wider Diocesan community
- To honour the past, cherish the present and work collaboratively with all to take us into an exciting future
Amanda Gorman, all of 22, became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at age 16 in 2014 and the first national youth poet laureate last week. She is the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration, following in the considerably more experienced footsteps of Maya Angelou and Robert Frost.
Amanda has big dreams and has already achieved some of them. Yet, she has to work on her confidence as a public speaker, anxiety about the quality of her work and, like her predecessor Angelou and the new US president, also grapples with a speech impediment. Yet, she says:
“But I don’t look at my disability as a weakness…It’s made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be.” Amanda Gorman dares to dream.
I challenge all to take up the challenge to dare, to dream, to, as another poet, Pamela Vaull Starr, has written:
Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
Mrs Anna Masters, Principal
The College also welcomed Merici’s Spirituality Captain, Mila Bandle who reflected on the work of our Patron Saint, Angela Merici. St Angela Merici would have been delighted with this year’s College theme “Dare to Dream” with its overarching symbol of the STAR. Historically we know that stars were like a map, a road in the sky assisting different cultures to move from place to place.
Angela Merici, herself, was
- a dreamer,
- a stargazer,
- a seeker and
- a Pilgrim Traveller.
However, Angela Merici never travelled alone. Her close and constant “star in her heart” was Jesus Christ whom she met in the Gospels.
From its beginning Merici College was built on the strong foundations established by the six communities of Wisdom Women whose founders also DARED TO DREAM. Today we are called to Dare To Dream, both individually but also as a Merici community.
College Captains, Heather Bravo and Caitlyn Crick spoke to the students about their interpretation of this year’s theme. “We encourage every single one of you to dream big this year. Whether that be handing in all of your homework and assignments on time, or setting goals for your grades this semester, or figuring out what you want to do after high school, we implore you, not only dream, but work towards making those dreams a reality. Try new things. Break old bad habits. Make new, better ones. Find people you like and stick with them because one of the best things we find in high school are the friends we make and sisterhood we share at Merici.
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what it truly means to ‘Dare to Dream’, which is why our patron saint, Angela Merici, is such an integral part of our College community. Orphaned at 10 years old, she pushed through a series of personal tragedies and the strong misogynistic attitudes of 16th Century Italy to lead her religious order, the Company of St Ursula, to promote and educate women.
We can also look to our College alumni for inspiration. For example, Caitlin Figueiredo, a Merici girl like all of us who now works with and leads United Nations Task Forces, with her work in women’s equality now spanning across five continents. For some of our older students, you might remember the self-defence classes we did in PE brought to us by Jasiri, a company advocating and teaching self-defence for women founded by Caitlin.
In reality, there are countless examples of Merici girls who have gone on to do amazing things, like Anna Pino - Class of 1980, the current CEO of Lighthouse, Claire Smart - class of 2014 - who climbed the Great Wall of China to raise money and awareness for Parkinson's disease, and Tracy Keeley - class of 1982 - a local entrepreneur who started multiple hospitality businesses, such as the cafes in the National Library and Botanical Gardens.
All of these amazing women had the same beginnings as all of us, right here at Merici; and all share the same key pieces of advice - take every opportunity, believe in yourself, ask for help and allow yourself to dare to make your wildest dreams a reality - nothing is impossible.
We want you to always remember that we are all here for each other – helping each other grow and build the foundations we need to make this year a successful one for all of us. Last year was rough, but let’s dare to move beyond our hardships and comfort zones to push forward into the school year together as the current dreamers of Merici College.
During the Assembly, the Colleges six House Captains Grace, Daisy, Lucy, Georgia, Charlotte and Nazeeya, were invited to come forward to officially receive their House prayer cloths which were ordered at the conclusion of 2020. The cloths were ordered from contemporary Aboriginal artist, Wendy Rix and will be used at House liturgies and school masses. Each prayer cloth has a different artwork and meaning:
Balgo - Faith
Brescia - Praise
Ningil – Never Alone
Penola – Meeting Place
Seiwa – He (as in God) called me his friend
Tullow – Fellowship
As a special welcome to our incoming Year 7 cohort, the graduating Class of 2026, Year 12 students presented each Year 7 student with a rose as a reminder of the continuing presence of St Angela Merici in your hearts and minds. The students will also receive another rose during your Year 12 Graduation Mass in 2026 as a reminder that they will forever be a member of our Merici family as we nurture, care for and support each other, we, too, can flourish and grow like the St Angela Merici rose planted in our Merici garden.
The Assembly concluded with all students and staff singing our College song with great pride.
Full image gallery here.