Santa Maria College Opening Mass – Jennifer Oaten
A warm balmy night, magnificent views and chirping birds set the scene for our Opening Mass. The beautiful voices of our choir, particularly their singing of “The Lord is My Shepherd”, was a very special way to commence our year as a faith community. New beginnings are always exciting, full of promise and hope, particularly for those who are new to our college.
The theme of our Mass was our Mercy value for 2020, Compassion. Our celebrant, Father Sean, was welcomed back to our community and explained the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan making clear connections with our Mercy value.
As part of my speech, I spoke about compassion saying:
There are two parts to compassion. We could call them the heart and the hands of compassion. Compassion includes both: feeling the emotions of a person who is suffering (our heart) and the act of helping others in their time of need (with our hands). Reaching out to others in the spirit of Mercy.
We often feel for others, but do we do something to help? Do we take action?
That is compassion in the true sense, to feel for someone and to take action to assist or relieve their suffering. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the power to change someone else’s life.
Many may ask why we commence the year with Mass when our world is so secular? Celebrating the Eucharist is an important part of what makes a school a Catholic school. Jesus is at the heart of everything we do, and this time enables us to be open to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
The Eucharist (another name for the Mass) is a Greek word that simply means ‘giving thanks’. It provides an opportunity for students, staff and parents to celebrate our community and to give thanks for how privileged we are. The Eucharist enables us to feel and understand the presence of God, through song, through our beautiful environment and through the words of the Gospel. God journeys with us through the year and is with us through our challenges and our joys.
The celebration of the Eucharist is also a way that we can see the connection between our Mercy values and the Gospel values, which are shared in the readings. If we know and understand Jesus through the Gospels, we are better able to live our lives based on these values.
Our Opening Mass also provides time, for us to reflect on the wonderful legacy that Catherine McAuley and the sisters have left us. Catherine was a compassionate woman who used her talents and knowledge to help others. Catherine decided to use the money she inherited to fulfill a lifelong dream of empowering poor and homeless girls and women in Dublin, Ireland. She knew it was not enough to give handouts of her money to the poor. She knew the best way to help others was to provide them with an opportunity to go to school and be educated. She concentrated on developing the dignity and self-belief in people to enable them to lift themselves out of poverty for good.
The faith journey of each person varies greatly and will go in different directions, at different times in our lives. 42 Year 12 students showed an openness to Jesus and a commitment to their faith through their willingness to be commissioned as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. We encourage all our girls to be open to Jesus and to see the strong link between spirituality and our health and wellbeing.
We pray that Jesus will watch over our community, our girls and their families and all our staff through the year.
Thank you to all involved in making our Opening Mass such a special occasion.