You don’t find leaders, you form them!

The Adelaide Catholic Diocesan Assembly was held last weekend and concluded on Thursday night with a summary of the recommendations from the voices of those who attended. Just over 300 representatives from parishes, schools, clergy, religious orders, Catholic agencies and organisations and the youth gathered on Friday night and Saturday last weekend to discuss in small groups a range of key issues and themes such as Inclusion and Healing, Leadership and Leadership Formation, Faith Formation and Spiritual Development, Parish Life and Liturgy, A Church that Responds to the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor, Outreach and Accompaniment with Children, Families and Young People.

I got a wonderful insight into the diversity of our Adelaide Catholic community and also the wonderful alignment of our lived experience in terms of school and parish life. It reinforced for me that we share a similar journey filled with great energy but also challenges. Over 260 recommendations were presented across the themes and a detailed summary of the Diocesan Assembly and Recommendations will be available at:

What I heard at the assembly was that as a Catholic church we needed a more proactive focus and authentic living of our six Catholic social teachings especially our stewardship for our environment and our earth, our focus as a family-centred church in faith with rich formation and spiritual direction, strengthening our social justice stance and reaching out to those who are most marginalised. That we need to acknowledge the hurt and rejection experienced in our church and life and look to genuine reconciliation and compassion. There was a strong voice for the lay leadership and specifically an authentic and genuine role for women in our church. I heard the voices seeking greater collaboration between parishes and schools and working towards sharing resources and supporting young people in their faith journey. That the church acknowledges and works towards strengthening our cultural diversity and looks to celebrate the many gifts and achievements that these communities bring to our parish and school life. A real focus on looking at the liturgy to seek opportunities for our community to feel more included and connected and indeed for our church to be inclusive in all aspects. Lastly, I heard a cry for a real commitment to seeking new models of service.

The opportunity to be part of this assembly prompted me to reflect on what was happening at Cardijn College. On Wednesday night the School Board was involved in a process of reflecting on the cornerstones and pillars of our school in the Southern Vales community. What is the heartbeat of the school, what makes Cardijn College? There were many similarities named on Wednesday night to what I experienced at the Diocesan Assembly, and it reassures me that our journey is similar across other Catholic school communities. I aspire to see greater voice or agency in making sure that the Cardijn community has a strong responsibility as custodians of our pillars on which this great school rests. I am sure that the school board will engage the community in this work and provide this agency to you. I was very proud that three key leaders at the Diocesan Assembly were old scholars of Cardijn College. Gabby Connolly (Class of 2020 and Mission Captain), Sisilina Saukuru (Class of 2018 and School Captain) and Holly Roberts (Class of 2014 and Mission Captain).

As the term concludes we are reminded how the heartbeat of Cardijn continues to be strong and purposeful. Our students demonstrate this every day, in each encounter and opportunity. Over the last two weeks we have seen this with students at Marcellin involved in their work experience and placements. A significant number of our students have already secured their school-based apprenticeships from their recent placements. Our employers and industries want a Marcellin student because they have the right formation and attributes. At our Galilee campus, our students have been busy preparing for “Market Day”. They have been making and preparing many goods and are excited about showing their products and joining with the community to celebrate. On Wednesday night, our Galilee students performed at the Catholic Schools Music Festival at the Entertainment Centre as part of the Catholic primary school mass choir. They sang beautifully and I know our families and staff were very proud of their performance. Our Cardijn music students performed as a supporting act on Monday night and sang the amazing song “The Prayer”. Our Cardijn sporting teams competed on Wednesday in the tri-schools cup against Woodcroft and Tatachilla Colleges. They were outstanding in their sportsmanship and hospitality. This week our Year 9 students attended their outdoor pursuits camps and were involved in many activities including mountain bike riding, kayaking and bushwalking. All this in just the last two weeks. As we conclude Term 3 today, we reflect on a rich and exciting term that was full of great achievements and wonderful memories.

At the start of Term 4 we have a few significant changes with our senior leadership structure. Mr Patrick Harmer will begin his new role as Executive Deputy Principal working closely with me to lead our complex organisation of three campuses, 1750 students and 240 staff. Ms Danielle Greig will assume the role of Acting Head of Campus – Cardijn and Mr Ben Dray, Acting Deputy Head of Campus – Cardijn. Other staff who held an acting role in Term 3 will continue in their role for Term 4.

As the term ends, we are mindful that this also brings a close to the formal study for our Year 12 students. They are now in their final weeks to finalise their assessments and exams before we formally farewell them from Cardijn and commission them to go forth and be young citizens charged to make a difference to this world.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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