Farewell to Helen Chaffer
Helen Chaffer is a true Mercy woman who has dedicated much of her life to the College. She has been a role model to many and is held in high regard by staff, students and parents.
Helen taught in two other states before moving to Western Australia. She then worked in two Mel Maria primary schools before transitioning to secondary school teaching at Santa Maria College.
Helen has held many positions during her years at the College. In the 80s she was a teacher in the areas of Special Needs and Religious Education and then went on to become Special Needs Coordinator.
During the 1990s, Helen was a Year 8 and a Year 9 Coordinator, and O’Reilly House Coordinator. Her love of sport was evident as a hockey coach and a cross country coach. She can boast having coached several successful interschool teams!
In the 2000s, Helen competently took on the roles of Head of Boarding and Acting Principal. In 2010 Helen became the Deputy Principal Mission which enabled her to demonstrate her many strengths and passion in this area.
We will always remember Helen for:
Being a Faith Leader
Helen has lived our Mercy values and epitomised all that Catherine McAuley would have hoped for in a staff member and faith leader of a Mercy school. She has brought so much to the spiritual life of the College, including our Year 12 Retreat program, our Reflection Days and our College Masses and Liturgies.
In her farewell speech, Michelle Carrick said, “Helen has been a cherished member of the Religious Education teaching team for many years. Her collegial approach in meetings makes those around her feel included and valued. She has also been courageous in presenting the Gospel message to staff and students in relevant and meaningful ways.”
Our Service Program
Our culture of Service and our Service Learning Program have grown from humble beginnings to become pillars of the College. In recent years our service program has won a Catholic Education Western Australia LEAD award. Much of this was due to Helen’s passion for service.
The Immersions Programs
Helen has lead our immersion programs to Punmu and developed the Immersion program to Cambodia. These experiences changed the lives of so many.
The Sisters of Mercy adore Helen, and she is a friend to many of them. She has always been a wonderful link between the Sisters and the College and they will miss her.
Her Knowledge of the Santa Maria College Community
Helen had an encyclopaedic knowledge of our families. She also has an excellent memory for names and faces of our Old Girls Association and their historical connections. If a past student’s name is mentioned, Helen is very likely to tell you, not just which year the student was in, but five of her friends’ names as well.
Being Perceptive of Others
Helen is highly perceptive and she is conscious of others’ needs. As Michelle Carrick noted, “Many in our community have received what Catherine McAuley termed “The kind word, the gentle, compassionate look, and the patient hearing of their sorrows” in their dealings with Helen.
Her Love for O’Reilly
Helen was O’Reilly House through and through. O’Donnell House Coordinator Ben Court said, “I am sad to say that O’Reilly House will never be the same without you Helen. You were their loudest and proudest, and not even the impartiality of your role as Deputy Principal could hide the green that I know still runs through those veins. From your days as O’Reilly House Coordinator to your days as an O’Reilly mother, to your days as an O’Reilly grandmother, you have always been an avid supporter of the Green Machine, despite never taking out the Shield.”
Her Zest for Life
We will always remember Helen’s zest for life. She is an action woman who never sits still and at Santa Maria College she brought passion and commitment to all her endeavours. Helen could juggle so many roles, events, and activities and always delivered to such a high standard.’
At Helen’s farewell, two students from the class of 2018, Bronte Brandis (Liturgy Captain) and Ruby Maverick (Service Captain) spoke of the influence Helen had on their education, how wonderful she was as their teacher and how highly regarded she was by all students at the College.
Our Year 10 Music students farewelled Helen with two songs, concluding with the beautiful A Gaelic Blessing to wish her safely on her way.
The impact Helen has had on the lives of so many students, staff and families is extraordinary. She leaves her role, but not our community, as she moves into the next stage of her life, that of retirement. Helen will always be a very special part of Santa Maria College.
Good-bye, and God bless Helen.