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From the Principal

As I look back over this past term, there have been many moments where I have been inspired by members of the Siena community, both past and present.  On Saturday, 1 September, the College Hall was filled with the buzz of conversation as alumnae from the Class of 1978 and Class of 1988 gathered to celebrate decade reunions.  We welcomed back past Principal, Sr Rosemary Lewins who concluded her time at Siena in 1978.  There was much reminiscing, a tour of the College and an enthusiastic rendition of an old school song about Siena Convent girls.

Congratulations and thanks are extended to Director of Music, Kerryn McGillen and all involved in the Siena Music Concert, Sisterhood.  It was lovely to see the pride and range of emotions on the faces of the students who performed and I thank everyone involved for the expertise and hours of effort invested in the evening and in all the preparation that preceded it.   Once again, it was a real reflection of our 2018 College theme, ‘One Body, Many Parts’, with each contribution so important to the final outcome.  Events such as this bring our community together and the evening was much appreciated by proud parents and grandparents too.

On Wednesday, 5 September, I was inspired by the finalists in the 2018 Antonio de Montesinos Award for Public Speaking.  Four students entered the competition: Micayla Victor of Year 7, Jade Devlin in Year 11, Year 12 student, Ella Frausing and Amanda Marasco of Year 9.  All spoke with passion and eloquence on the College theme ‘One Body, Many Parts’, making associations with topics of concern to them.  They addressed issues including recycling of plastics, the need to focus on our shared humanity rather than difference, the perceptions of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and on belonging and acceptance.  Annelise Skliros, the Debating and Public Speaking Vice Captain, did an outstanding job in hosting the evening.  Congratulations are extended to Amanda Marasco who was given the Encouragement Award and Jade Devlin who was the 2018 recipient of this prestigious award.   My thanks are extended to Alan Anderson for encouraging and supporting our students in their public speaking endeavours this year, and to the adjudicators who were faced with a very difficult because of the excellent standard of the speeches. 

The Siena public speaking award is named after Dominican Friar, Antonio de Montesinos who, over five hundred years ago, preached a powerful sermon on behalf of his community that challenged the Spanish rulers in the Dominican Republic at the time about their treatment of the local indigenous people.   His powerful words continue to challenge us as we engage with the issues of our time: ‘… by what right and by what justice do you keep these Indians in such cruel and horrible servitude?… Are they not human?... Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves?’  As members of a Dominican College, we too are called preach the Gospel by the way we live our lives, by what we say, what we write and what we do.  

There are many stories of Dominicans in South America and their role in preaching justice.  On Friday, 7 September, I am heading off on an immersion program offered by the Principals’ Association of Victorian Catholic Secondary Schools. The focus is on spiritual enrichment, Catholic Social Teaching and the role of the Principal as Faith Leader.  In 2018, the program has added appeal for me because of the Dominican history in South America and the stories of the early Dominicans like Antonio De Montesinos and his community.  The immersion will be lead by Dr James Nickoloff who is the Associate Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and by Jesuit, Fr Tom Martin who will be the Spiritual Director.  

The program will include time with a group called CRISPAZ, Christians for Peace in El Salvador.  The information provided by CRISPAZ states the following: ‘The CRISPAZ El Salvador Encounter is for people who are willing to have their lives touched and forever changed. …To participate in an El Salvador Encounter is to enter into an ongoing dialogue which we hope will challenge and change your heart, mind, and spirit.’  I will have the opportunity to meet with Salvadorans, hear their stories, and accompany them for a short time in their daily lives. Other countries visited include Bolivia and Peru that are at the heart of the Liberation Theology movement in the Catholic Church and the forming of people such as Archbishop Oscar Romero, Gustavo Gutierrez who is a Dominican Priest and Pope Francis.   I will visit Dominican Centres as well as Jesuit Missions in Bolivia.  

I will be away from the College from September 8 until October 3 during which time, Bernadette Donnelly will be Acting Principal.  I thank Bernadette for taking on these additional responsibilities.  

Just prior to my departure, I attended a breakfast together with eight of our Year 12 Politics students, Catherine Judd and Patricia Cowling who is the Deputy Chair of the Siena College Board. The breakfast was hosted by the Honourable Member for Kooyong and new Treasurer, Josh Frydenburg, and the new Education Minister, Dan Tehan,   We were pleased to be invited and to be able to advocate for a better funding deal for Catholic schools like Siena College.

While I am away in South America and as the term draws to a close, I will be thinking of the Siena community and the Year 12s in particular.  I will light a few candles and say a few prayers for everyone at places of special significance. I look forward to sharing my experiences on my return.  


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