From the Principal

It is with sadness that the Salesian College Chadstone community welcomes the start of Term 2. As announced, Miss Jenny Ford, a well-respected and much loved staff member passed away peacefully last Thursday evening. Jenny passed after an eighteen month battle with cancer. Our school community has been deeply saddened by her death.

Jenny was a long-serving member of staff, joining the College in 2001. She was a dedicated and passionate Music teacher who taught instrumental and classroom music as well as leading many bands and ensembles. Jenny served as Assistant to the Head of Performing Arts and was also, for an extended period of time, our Instrumental Music Coordinator. In the latter role, Jenny exercised responsibility for our entire bands program which, in most years, involved the coordination of more than 300 boys and a large number of teachers. Jenny will also be remembered as a fine Homeroom Mentor and a dedicated Sport teacher. Jenny had many friends on staff who are feeling her loss very keenly.

Jenny’s death will bring about many and varied feelings of sadness for those in our community and may trigger memories of loss or act as a reminder to some in our community who are coming to terms with their own or someone else’s mortality. For those of us who have experienced loss, we know that these times can challenge us. It is important not to shy away from these challenges. We must allow our loss to become part of the world that emerges from our experience. And we must remember that our experiences, however difficult, reveal an ever deepening understanding of ourselves, and our relationship to the cycles of life and death.

Difficult times can provide us with valuable life lessons and perhaps the greatest lesson loss provides is the learning that things do not always turn out the way we thought or hoped they would. Coming to terms with this fact is a challenge for all of us. Things simply are as they are. Not as we would have liked them to be. It is important to meet this fact simply and honestly. The lesson to be learnt from loss is whilst we are not in control of what is happening, we begin to understand that we do have control over how we react to what is happening.

Grief and loss show us we have much less control over events than we like to admit. When an overwhelming loss occurs, it can shatter life as we know it. Our ability to maintain beliefs and images of our world in the face of adversity is confronted. We can feel disoriented and confused. We may believe that we are unable to cope with the events life has thrown at us. Yet, if we allow ourselves to reflect on life’s challenges, we begin to experience ourselves in an entirely new way. As we move through our destabilization, and disorientation, we come to know the world in a new way. As we reflect on our experiences and try to understand them, we can begin to regain equilibrium. As difficult as these experiences are, they open us to ourselves and challenge us to know who we are in relationship to the mysteries of life and death in a new way. One of the gifts that loss provides is that it encourages us to encounter the world in a new way as we set out on a quest to re-orient ourselves to the world that emerges out of the experience of loss.

Every person has his or her own unique experience of grief. We must allow ourselves the full and complete exploration of our grief, free from the judgments or expectations of others. No one else can really know what our own grief holds for us. And even we cannot know what it holds for us if we do not allow ourselves to follow this path without the weight of our own expectations about how we should or ought to be with our loss. Reactions may include denial, anger, depression, hatred, jealousy, rage, despair, hopelessness or powerlessness. It is important to explore what our true reactions are without judgment or prejudice.

As Christians, we believe that God loves us personally and deeply. We believe that God is with us through our mourning and our loss. We believe that God will never fail to hold us until his comfort seeps in through the darkness of our pain.  Our God is not distant, he loves us so thoroughly that he gave us his only son. Christ took on all the weakness and pain of humanity. He too, wept at the loss of his friend Lazarus. He gave himself on the cross that we might rejoice with our loved ones at the heavenly banquet where every tear will be wiped away. The love of Christ has triumphed over every evil, even the evil of death. Even as we can perhaps see that hope for the future, we also know that Christ does not stop there. While we have to wait here in our sorrow, Christ accompanies us, holds us in his loving arms, and brings us strength and consolation. We shouldn’t forget that we too are the Body of Christ, and as a community, we can be Christ’s hands to wipe away tears and his arms to hold one another in loving embrace. When our hearts break, when we cannot make sense of what has happened, in times of grief and loss, it is important to come together before our loving God. As a community of faith – whether that be hundreds of students or two close friends – we can hold one another up in faith and hope.

A number of our boys will, have been affected by the news of Jenny’s death. Young people respond to death in many ways. It is generally acknowledged that, at a time of loss, it is important to listen, reassure, allow and validate feelings. If you are concerned about your son’s wellbeing in coping with the news of Miss Ford’s death, please do not hesitate to contact us at the school.

The arrangements for Miss Jenny Ford’s funeral are as follows.
Thursday April 23, 3.15pm
Boyd Chapel
Springvale Botanical Cemetery
600 Princess Hwy
Springvale 3171

The College Chadstone warmly invites staff, students, parents/guardians, old scholars and community members to join in a short prayer reflection for staff member, Ms Jenny Ford, tomorrow Wednesday 22 April at 3:30pm in the Bosco Chapel (Bosco Campus). The opportunity to gather in the Staff Room afterwards for light refreshments will be available for those who are able to attend.

Through the sadness that Jenny’s death has brought to our community we have learned much about ourselves and we can be truly proud of the relationships we share and the willingness of all in the community to rally in support of those who need it. We all keep Jenny and her family, her friends and her students in our thoughts and prayers at this very sad time.

May God bless all in the community especially those who are experiencing difficult times.

Rob Brennan