Home' Maristian Magazine : Maristian July 2013 Contents From The Headmaster
Dear Marist Family,
As you will read elsewhere in these
pages, we farewelled Russ Johnson at
the end of Term One. He was first
employed by the late Br Othmar to start
at the beginning of 1975 and has been
a member of our staff since then, a total
of 37 years and one term of unbroken
It will be for others to document the
extraordinary variety of roles that Russ
filled at the College and his influence
over many areas of College life. I want to use this opportunity to make
some observations about particular qualities I admired in him and his
My own family background has given me an appreciation for people who
leave their country of birth to make a life and a career in a foreign land;
the pull to “home” and family is never far from the person’s mind and can
easily become a brake on effort. That was never the case with Russ; he
took up the challenges of a new country and brought to Australia some
of the qualities and attributes – and, I understand, the cultural and
sporting customs - of his own country. He may not have seen himself as
an ambassador for Canada, but it is true that more than 7 000 Canberra
boys learned something about that country from the example he gave.
It is extremely rare in these times of short contracts and shorter memories
to find someone who stays in the same employment for all but a few
years of their professional career. In Russ’s case, I believe that it tells of a
strong loyalty, a conviction about the mission of the school and its role in
producing good Christians and good citizens. At his staff farewell, a
number of people spoke of his work ethic, of the demands he made on
the boys and the staff, and the example that he himself gave of
determination to do one’s best and make full use of the opportunities
one is given in life.
I am conscious that many of those who will read these words are Old Boys
of the College. Since Russ started the same year that the first class
graduated from Year 12, every one of you knew him and many of you had
experience of his work as a teacher, coach, tutor, House Dean, mentor. I
believe that I speak for you all in wishing him every fulfilment in his
I want to pay tribute too to Mrs Sandy Dixon who also retired at the end
of the first term. For 26 years, she has been the laboratory assistant in the
science department, a role she carried out with professionalism. In some
ways, hers was a hidden service; she was in the background, preparing
materials for science classes and ensuring the smooth running of the
department. But the many boys who have gone on to study science at
university are testimony to the strength of the science department at
Marist; it is something of which the College is proud.
To Russ Johnson and to Sandy Dixon: well done, faithful servants. We wish
you a happy and fulfilled retirement.
As I was writing these few words, we heard of the sudden death of Steve
Kennedy, another long-serving member of staff. It was news that shocked
the school community - boys, staff and parents. As well as being a
dedicated classroom teacher, Steve’s work over many years as part of
retreat teams with the senior students was a contribution to their
development into adulthood that is known only to themselves and their
On behalf of all parents, students and Old Boys, I offer our sympathy to his
wife Annie, his children and his brother Mick, a long time member of our
grounds staff. May he rest in peace.
The school community was
shocked to hear of the sudden
death of Steve Kennedy on April
7. Steve had been 23 years at the
school, having previously taught
at Parramatta Marist. The school
received many phonecalls, emails
and letters of fering sympathy.
We quote here from a portion of an
email sent by Deputy Headmaster
Chris Morrissey from Vietnam
where he had spent months as
a mentor to staff at the Hoi An
RIP STEVE KENNEDY
“I was devastated to hear of Steve Kennedy’s death yesterday morning
and wish to convey my condolences to his family, friends and to members
of the Marist community.
I have known Steve for a long time from when we both worked at Eddies
in the late 70s. I also taught his younger brother at Eddies and got to know
his family during that time.
Steve and I started at Marist around the same time and have worked
closely together in a number of areas over the last 20+ years. I always
found him to be amenable, professional and ever ready to share a joke or
discuss sport. I have worked alongside him on many retreats, in both the
design and delivery of programs. He was very easy to work with, insightful
and creative; anyone who was present when he shared his stories during
a retreat, would be impressed by his depth of faith and his compassion.
From a pastoral perspective, Steve was a solid supporter of our House
system and over the last few years has specialised as a ‘Rover’ in Othmar
House. His helpful nature made him a natural in this role.
I would like to recognise and acknowledge Steve’s enormous and
generous contributions to the College, staff and students over many years
and offer my condolences to everyone affected by his sudden and early
death. He was a man of high calibre who will be missed dearly by his
family and friends.”
Our Commencement Mass was held
on Thursday 21 February 2013. It
proved once again to be a beautiful
event for our College.
Fr Peter Day, an old boy of the
College, celebrated the mass.
Afterwards, College leaders from
Year 4 to 7 as well as the Seniors
were presented with their badges.
It was also an historic occasion,
with the whole College community
gathering to celebrate this
important event for the first time in
The Headmaster’s address from
the Commencement Mass follows
The College theme this year is “I Believe”. It focusses on the value of faith.
While this theme is a focus for the whole Church in 2013 it is one which
fits very neatly with Marist College Canberra, a school whose own motto is
Servo Fidem, Keep the Faith.
For us as Marists we have a wonderful example of how to be people of faith
by looking to St Marcellin Champagnat the founder of the Marist Brothers.
Marcellin achieved great things, though at the time of his death the success
of the Marist project was very much in the balance, in fact there was a strong
possibility that it could easily collapse. There is a temptation to think that
the effort by Marcellin to found an order of teaching Brothers was some easy
task that just happened one day. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact Marcellin’s difficulties and challenges began during his seminary
studies, where he struggled and was lucky to even pass. The struggles
continued after ordination where he had many obstacles to overcome:
some from within the Church, some from his fellow priests, who ridiculed
him as “that fool Champagnat”, some from the local Government and
French government authorities. Lesser people than Marcellin would have
surrendered. He didn’t. He confronted the challenges, he was persistent and
never gave up, he took risks and he kept at it. Marcellin’s drive was fuelled
by faith, a deep faith – faith in himself, in his vision and in the belief that his
work was God’s work and God wouldn’t let it fail.
Here today in our school we cherish our motto Servo Fidem and use it
with pride on our crest and in our symbols. Like Marcellin we as individuals
also have our own challenges and difficulties. We are called to be faithful
to ourselves, to our personal values, to God and to believe that good
overcomes evil, right overcomes wrong and God will sustain us in both the
easy times and in the hard.
So it is for us as a Marist family. In recent years the College has been
confronted with painful and tragic incidents of sexual abuse in our history.
When those events came to light we were shocked and hurt: Brothers, staff,
parents, boys, old boys. We prevailed, not in a triumphant way, rather the
events of sexual abuse humbled us and tested us; they tested our faith. Some
of you were here then – thankfully you stood by Marist College as we dealt
with the painful issues. You showed faith in Marist as it is now. In coming
months and possibly years we will again be tested as a College family with
the sexual abuse issue again being raised in the Royal Commission. I’m
confident that together, united, in faith, we will deal with what comes our
way. It will be very hard: we will be tested and we will feel shamed by the
acts of a few from our past. It is in such times, when we are weakest that we
need to look to God and live out our motto, Servo Fidem, We Keep the Faith.
Raising this issue tonight on such an occasion of celebration will attract
criticism from some of you. I understand that. But I have done so purposely
to make the point in this the largest gathering of our College family in 2013
that faith is no cute warm and fuzzy concept. True faith, faith in ourselves,
faith in our school, faith in God, all require risk and courage. We will do it. We
can do it. We will keep the faith.
Tonight let us pray for each other and especially for our boys. Let us ask
Jesus, and Mary our Good Mother and St Marcellin to bless us and guide
us in the year ahead as we work together to keep the faith in ourselves, in
Marist, in God.
The Maristian June 2013
The Maristian June 2013
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