Cardijn College Principal’s Valedictory Speech

(Words from our Year 10, 11 and 12 Valedictory and Awards – 1 December 2021)
Good evening and welcome to all our students, staff and families and a special welcome to our families and friends watching this valedictory on our livestream. It is good that you can be part of this celebration.

A special welcome to Fr Josy Sebastian, Parish Priest and President of the Cardijn College School Board, Mr John Mula OAM, Deputy Director of Catholic Education SA, Mr Dave Edwards – School Performance Leader – South Region, Mr Chris Picton MP, Member for Kaurna, Ms Katrine Hildyard MP, Member for Reynell, Mr Simon McMahon, Deputy Mayor of the City of Onkaparinga, Mr Tim Ryan, Chair of the Cardijn College School Board, Mr Anthony Garton, Principal of Antonio School, members of our school board and invited guests.

It is just 25 days to Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This day is acknowledged universally and for Christians marks the importance of faith, the presence of joy and the presence of hope. There is no question that now is a time for hope and joy. Hope, that we see the positives in our lives, hope for the opportunities waiting to be seized, hope that we can get through this global pandemic, hope that we can strengthen our desire to be united as a community, hope that we can see the end of misery for many people across the world who are left homeless, stateless, living in poverty and in fear of persecution. Joy, that Christmas can bring a smile to people’s lives, joy at the feeling of being loved, joy for the feeling of belonging and feeling that people in the world care and are united in solidarity.

However, Christmas will bring many challenges for people across the world and indeed our own community. The four weeks leading up to Christmas, which we name Advent, is a time for us to prepare for this great event. Pope Francis reminded us to use the power of prayer as a means to be awake and to be aware of what is happening around us. At a time when we are so busy and subsumed by work and the lead-up to Christmas, there is often a time to be negative and to be overwhelmed by the bad news of the day. Prayer allows us to pause, to reflect, to take a breath and to be still. To centre the mind and soul and to be open to receive the wisdom of the spirit.

Across Australia, schools in the Marist tradition will draw a close to the theme “Breathe, the Spirit of Life”. During the year we have come to learn the importance of being connected, because being disconnected is one of the great tragedies of this world. Nothing draws us more connected than the breath we take each second. It is an important function of our body, it sustains our life, our breathing is fundamental as it nourishes us and gives us life, but at the same time as we draw breath, we are also compelled to breathe out, to let go. Symbolically to breathe out is to give life to others. Pope Francis was ahead in his time as he invited us to be stewards of this planet and guardians of our creation. Importantly, to live as brothers and sisters in humanity. Perhaps more so than ever, we are all called to face together the growing concerns of this global pandemic, which has left us with social isolation, loneliness, snowballing anxiety and economic uncertainty and for some, loss of livelihood and life.

In a recent survey of young people, they were asked what their greatest fears might be. The top two are loneliness and being forgotten. Next year the theme for all Marist schools is “Known and Loved – Dignity for All”. As a direct response to those greatest fears amongst our young people, our students will always be known and loved and loved equally. The well-known researcher Hugh Mackay claims that “Everyone’s deepest desire is to be heard”. As human beings, we long to be connected and to share in our humanity. Therefore we want to be listened to, to have a sense of belonging and to be accepted. In following on from this year’s theme our challenge will be a genuine and deep sense of connecting and listening to our students, our families and our staff. St Marcellin Champagnat left us with a simple message – “Let everyone be known and loved, loved equally“.

As the year draws to a close, we are grateful for the many life-giving moments we experienced at Cardijn. It has been a very busy year across our three campuses. With a total student enrolment of over 1750 students from Reception to Year 12, 280 staff, 1400 families and well over 6000 alumni, you can just imagine the rich life of this Cardijn community. We are grateful that we have been spared from long term lockdowns and the need to access learning remotely.

At all times, I have been in awe of how our students have adapted and responded to the challenges. At no point have students complained that this pandemic has robbed them of important events or activities. Instead, I have heard nothing but a deep sense of gratitude for what we have been able to achieve. The last two years will be remembered for social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing face masks, remote learning, and potential lockdowns. Daily news on television focused on COVID cases and infections, community transmission, border closures, QR coding and vaccination rates. We have had to live with this and unfortunately, we will have to live with this for a while longer. Life has changed so much, but in true Cardijn style, we have always made the most of opportunities. As a school, we continue to grow in numbers and we will do things differently into the future – that is a fact and a sign of the times.

Next year will bring new opportunities. Our new building will bring something new for everyone, from a new cafeteria, new technology, science/STEM and visual arts, design areas with access to our virtual reality and 360-degree cinema. We will bring life back to the heart of our school in our new student central area.
We will also welcome a new House to join our existing seven houses.

I am delighted to announce that the name for our new House and House patron endorsed by the Archbishop of Adelaide is Jeanne-Marie CHAVOIN – Chavoin, (pronounced chav-waan) despite her own personal lack of education, valued learning highly. In her formative years, she learnt concern and compassion for others, particularly those less fortunate. Jeanne-Marie founded the first community of the Marist Sisters. Her vision for the Sisters was to live a hidden life in the world, acting as apostles in a community and educating children with limited opportunities.

The Marist Sisters in Australia brought a Marist education to young women in Sydney in 1909. As our new House patron Chavoin connects us with “being Marist” and a focus on the importance of education.

The colour chosen for this new house is a Marist pink.

Let’s acknowledge the birth of this new house and ask God’s blessing on all those who begin their journey with Chavoin House.

Today we acknowledge award winners in academic achievement and House character and leadership. For those who are recipients, congratulations, we are proud of your achievement and celebrate with you. Your teachers work very hard to support you, your teachers dream for you to thrive and rise to the very top of your own dreams. Nothing is more satisfying in the work of a teacher but to see you blossom in your learning and wellbeing.

I would like to acknowledge the deep partnership we have and the support we receive from the Catholic Education Office and I am delighted to see Mr John Mula OAM here tonight and Mr Dave Edwards, our SPL leader. I deeply value the partnerships we have with our local catholic primary schools and am grateful for the support, collegiality and friendship of our principal group and I extend my thanks to Mr Anthony Garton for his presence as a great sign of our united commitment to our region.

Thank you to our members of parliament in Mr Chris Picton and Ms Katrine Hildyard, great friends of Cardijn, deeply passionate for the people of the south always present and supportive in our endeavours. Your commitment to our community is deeply treasured. Thank you to the Deputy Mayor Simon McMahon, our partnership with the Onkaparinga Council has always been solid as we continue to work together with impact and influence on the quality of life in our region.

The school board under the leadership of Mr Tim Ryan, himself an Old Scholar and former School Captain of Cardijn College – we extend our deep appreciation for the guidance, wisdom and support from the School Board.

Mr Paul Roberts, School Board member, member of the finance committee and recent recipient of the Amanda Rishworth Award for Service to the Community is retiring after six years. Paul has been a strong supporter of the school, always looking to ensure that we are thinking about the best for our students, how we can support our families and what the Board can do to support the staff. We congratulate Paul for his service to Cardijn College and wish him well in life after Cardijn.

The College executive leadership team has been outstanding in their leadership to ensure that our school continues to thrive, our students are well looked after and that we manage and lead a good school. They have been outstanding at this difficult task during this uncertain time and journey navigating this pandemic. Thank you to Patrick Harmer Executive Deputy Principal, Nick Wright Head of Galilee, Danielle Greig Head of Cardijn Campus, Chris Burrows, Head of Marcellin Campus, Joseph Catania, APRIM, Johnny Ioannou, Business Manager and Mel Bratovic Assistant Principal School and Staff Development. To the teachers and ESOs across all campuses, some 240+ staff, thank you for your commitment to the Cardijn community, you are extraordinary.

As we officially finish our school year Friday week, let us be reminded that we are in the season of advent. It is a time for faith, hope and joy, so let’s make the most of these last days and be joyful, by bringing a smile to someone’s face, making them feel special and above all being grateful for everything we have at Cardijn.
Blessings to everyone for a holy Christmas and a wonderful start to 2022.

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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