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I’d love to follow in the footsteps of Melania Trump, and to read you all a speech that belonged to someone else. I’d love to read to you the famous script of one Tiernan O’Brien, whose reflection at our House Mass was outstanding. I’d love to read a mere passage from the great Rory Dempsey, whose voice once echoed within these walls.
However, that would only capture glimpses of each of these individuals and their Xavier/Ignatius experience. The truth is each student and member of staff within this great House has their own story to tell, so tonight I’d like to share a little bit of my own story.
It begins back in Year 4 even before I started at Kostka Hall. Me, a 10-year-old youth sat paralysed in the then Kostka Hall Headmaster Mr Finn’s office. This was my very first Xavier experience, as it was my interview to be accepted into the school. My only vivid memory was being asked the intellectually crushing question “what will you bring to the school?” ….and that 10-year-old boy replied with… “My lunch box”
Kostka Hall was a small and tight knit community. It was a place where every face was a familiar one, and operated like one big family. This made the transition into year 9 a bit daunting for many of us, me included…. It was a period of time which us 40 or so boys would join a much larger cohort from Bourke Hall, and it is here that my Ignatius story begins.
We were told the House system would support us at the bigger Kew campus, but little did we know it would quickly become more than a House; it would be our Ignatius Home. It was here where we would form friendships with the once rival school and boys in years 10, 11 and 12. It was here where we would gain much pride in the both reputation and responsibility of being Ignatius at the School. And It was here where we would come to know the love and support of Miss Allan. This is seen every day in the miraculous amount of time and energy she spends ensuring the well-being and safety of us all.
For me personally, it is where this year I have been lucky enough to have family members (Harry Ralph & Tom and Will Bryce) representing Ignatius across Years 9-12, and where I have been given the opportunity to lead this House (which obviously I jumped at).
The truth is Xavier itself is one big family and a family we are so proud to be a part of in all our activities and on the bigger scale.
Activities for me has seen a heavy commitment to sport and in particular to rowing and football. Representing Xavier in these areas has been a privilege. Being involved in teams that mightn’t have the most talent, we had to learn to rely on each other. Teamwork and friendship are paramount, which I believe has been fostered from the teachings of the College. I’ve also been challenged in roles of leadership in both sports and learnt the importance of working with and for others; that true leadership involves influencing others to be at their best.
On the bigger picture, we can be proud of this our school and what it stands for. Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to witness the blessing of the new memorial for the sexual abuse victims of the past. For some former students, this blessing was the first time they had entered the gates of Xavier since finishing their time here, as it would prior to this day be only be a reminder of their misfortunes. I was also informed on the day that this was the first memorial of its kind in the southern hemisphere. I was proud of my school that day, and the way that we, as a community, took accountability for something that was clearly unacceptable and embrace people who were victims of that abuse. There is a lesson for us students here and that it is important to acknowledge your failures and seek to address those in a productive way.
So if look back all those years ago to that meeting with Mr Finn, I think I would answer his question somewhat differently. I feel as though my time here hasn’t been about what I could offer or bring to the school, rather what this place has offered me and all of the boys here tonight. Xavier has offered us all the opportunity to be courageous; to take on our own personal challenges and development. Each boy will leave not only as a young man, but their own young man knowing they have the ongoing support network that is Ignatius and Xavier.
Much like Mathew’s Gospel, there will always be times when “the winds are against you” and like Peter we can lose faith. However Xavier, much like Jesus, will challenge us but also offers us that helping hand. We are encouraged to take all opportunities and to test the waters. We couldn’t have found a better place to be challenged, than our own D-Level home.