From the Principal

As we enter into the last two weeks of the school year and look forward to a well-earned rest, I believe we can look back on the year with a great deal of pride. Whilst our Junior students have their final exams in front of them and must continue to work diligently to finish the year off as best they can, the rest of the student body have already finished their year, or will do so this coming Friday. They can now sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor over the year. The vast majority of the boys have completed a very positive year, they have worked hard, played hard and done themselves and their school proud during the year. As a school we continued our journey with a number of positive achievements – including the opening of the Naylon Arts Wing, increasing our enrolments for 2017, and enjoying some sporting success. Now we wait in anticipation for our VCE results in the next couple of weeks. All in all, it has been a good year, in spite of some sad moments.

On Thursday evening of last week the College hosted 200 boys and their families who are to join us in Year 7 in 2017. We had in excess of 600 people gather for a barbeque to officially mark the beginning of a journey, which for most of the boys, will last six years. It was a wonderful gathering with all in attendance leaving with a sense of joy and excitement as they look forward to being part of the Salesian community. Parents spoke of the warmth of the welcome and the night being very informative. We look forward to working with these fine young men and their families in the coming years. I would like to thank all of the staff involved in this delightful gathering, in particular, Mrs Mary Menz, Mr Byron Chen, Mr Chris Hayes, and all of the Year 7 Oratory leaders for all their work and preparation.

As we go about finalising the end of the year here at the College, staff are finishing off courses, feverously correcting exams, and finalising results, to ensure we finish the year off well and the boys receive the feedback on their learning which has taken place over the year. At home, I’m sure families will be preparing family schedules, frantically shopping in the lead up to Christmas, preparing menus for the festivities, and fulfilling all the commitments on calendars that come at this time of the year, including meetings, parties, concerts and all the other obligations that can often control our lives in the lead up to Christmas.

At this time of the year it is very easy to find ourselves busier than at any other time of the year, to the point we lose focus on the important things in life, the things we should be taking the time to enjoy. With this in mind, I bring to your attention two things.

This weekend marks the beginning of Advent, a very special part of the liturgical year for the Catholic Church. It is a time of preparation, of readying oneself for Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus. I encourage all in our community to take time out from shopping, looking for car parks, decking the halls, making lists and the general madness that comes in the lead up to Christmas, to take a quiet moment to allow ourselves some peace and stillness. I encourage everyone to slow down and reflect on the importance of this time of the year.

During Advent we must take some quiet time to reflect on all that is happening around us and focus on the important things in our lives, our family and friends, people less fortunate than ourselves, in particular those afflicted by war and conflict, and those people for whom Christmas is a lonely or stressful time, and offer our thoughts and our prayers that they too may enjoy this wonderful time of the year. We hope and pray that all in our community will be contemplating using the upcoming Christmas break to spend some valuable time with their families, enjoying each other’s company and letting each other know how much they love them.

Advent gives us a chance to reflect on our lives and shows us the possibilities of life. Advent provides a time to look back to the first coming of Christ at Bethlehem, as well as looking to the future when Christ will come again. As we reflect on these two events we can find meaning for our life.

The incarnation, Jesus Christ showed us what it means to be fully human, He demonstrated what life can and should be. He gave us true and valid principles and values to live by. His Spirit remains with us in community, lived out through the Church, the sacraments, the Scriptures and each other keeping his vision of life before us. Advent is our time to become more involved, more caught up in the meaning and the possibilities of life as a community. Thus we are not only preparing for Christmas, rather trying to make our world a better place.

My second point comes after reading a blog entitled ‘The Secrets to a Happy Life, From a Harvard Study’ by Anahad O’Connor, written on March 23, 2016. In his article Anahad ponders the question, what does it take to live a good life?

He refers to something many of us who have been around for long enough already know. The common mistake many of us make as young adults is believing that obtaining wealth and fame are keys to a happy life. This belief has been contradicted by many experts and studies over the years, including the long-running study out of Harvard that suggests that one of the most important predictors of whether you age well and live a long and happy life, is not the amount of money you amass or notoriety you receive. A much more important barometer of long term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.

This Harvard study, which commenced in 1938, has closely tracked and examined the lives of more than 700 men, and in some cases their spouses. The study has revealed some surprising – and some not so surprising – factors that determine whether people are likely to age happily and healthily, or descend into loneliness, sickness and mental decline.

Through the years, the study has produced many notable findings, including that to age well physically, the single most important thing you could do was to avoid smoking. It found that alcohol was the primary cause of divorce among men in the study, and that alcohol abuse often preceded depression (rather than the other way around).

As the researchers looked at the factors throughout the years that strongly influenced health and well-being, they found that relationships with friends, and especially spouses, were a major one. The people in the strongest relationships were protected against chronic disease, mental illness and memory decline – even if those relationships had many ups and downs.

So what does this all mean to us, especially at this time of the year? One must come to the conclusion that our relationships with family and friends are vitally important to us, not only now but into the future for our health and wellbeing. So I make a couple of simple suggestions we might wish to do to strengthen our relationships. We could do something as simple as replacing screen time with people time, make time to catch up with family and friends, or perhaps it could be as simple as when we are together with family and friends that we make sure we are truly present to them. Things that are more easily said than done.

I wish you all the best in the run up to the end of the year, and encourage you all to use this wonderful time of the year to build on your relationships.

May the joy of Christmas be with you and your families! Wishing you a happy and safe holiday, and I look forward to a wonderful 2017 for the Salesian College Chadstone Community.

Mr Rob Brennan