School Captains' Welcome

Louisa McCarthy, Passage from Inaugural Mass speech, 30 January 2020

The first reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans gave us a mountain of a challenge: “to live in harmony with one another.” But before we even begin to consider how we do this; how do we overcome the fear of judgement and worries about aspirations?

I believe the very first step in creating a community like All Hallows’, that so capably creates change, is having that community be one where people feel welcome and safe.

Lack of respect is a global problem, but what we can do is address it on a local level – if everyone in our community can respect each other and themselves our impact on the world will be far greater.

So, we know there can be difficulty in beginnings but there is also the beauty of excitement. The favourite part of many girls’ day, Homeroom, marks the true beginning of our day at All Hallows’. Our Homerooms are microcosm of the wider world in that there are girls of different ages, strengths, weaknesses, all experiencing different triumphs and challenges. What makes Homerooms work though, is that there is a strong sense of respect which binds them together. The respect we practice takes form in listening to each other, appreciating each other, and embracing each other wholeheartedly.

It comes down to recognising the humanity in yourself and others; realising that nobody is perfect, but everyone has something to offer. That something won’t be the same for everyone but it’s the difference that creates a community.

Our 2020 school theme: Respect Always, Love Deeply gives us the tools we need to slowly achieve this goal. So, my challenge to you and to all AHSisters, individually and together as community, what are we going to do this year to deliver on that promise of respect? In action, not mere words.

Respecting always, respecting unconditionally is a huge challenge because it calls us to oppose the prejudice we hear and see – as hard as it may be. It’s equally about calling yourself out for the prejudice you project onto others and being aware that each time you are compelled to judge, you are not affording others, your neighbours, the same respect you expect for yourself.

Overcoming judgement is not meant to be an easy task. Jesus showed us that we shouldn’t only respect those who are like us, but everyone we meet. He welcomed with open arms lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes – always standing by respecting others even if that was unconventional.

If we all make the choice to respect one another, and I mean truly respect each other, even beginning in our Homerooms or the wider All Hallows’ community we will create an empowered community. And I guarantee you, an empowered community, can and will achieve anything.

Hannah Stevens, Passage from Inaugural Mass speech, 30 January 2020

In John 15:12-17, Jesus says “love one another as I have loved you”. We know that Jesus’ love for us is selfless, unconditional, genuine and fair, so from this we can understand that to truly love one another, we need to draw on our Christian values such as compassion, kindness and honesty to love everyone: equally and always.

Building on this, in Paul’s letter to the Romans, the very first line we hear is “love must be sincere” then, later in their letter, the Romans are called to also “bless those who persecute” them. So, rather than contributing to the cycle of hatred and anger fuelled by others, we’re encouraged to instead mitigate animosity with genuine love and patience.

The messages emphasised in these scriptures can and should guide us in our practice of love but showing sincere and selfless love can sometimes be tricky, particularly when it’s toward people who treat us poorly or unfairly. This is when I think the inclusion of word deeply after love in our 2020 school theme plays a really critical role in that it reminds us of the importance of maintaining a love for others so genuine and profound that it cannot only withstand, but drown out, any adversity.

So, with all these ideas in mind, I think that, essentially, the ‘love deeply’ in the school theme isn’t just calling us to love, it’s challenging us to is practice love ALL of the time, especially when it’s difficult, because often that’s when an act of love is needed most.

This means having a mentality of love so sincere that you’re able to practice it even toward those who don’t necessarily show the same kindness or generosity to you. It’s consistently promoting love in not just good times but, importantly, in bad times. It’s about employing love, even when confronted with hatred or surrounded by hostility.

Although all of this seems so daunting, we are given so many opportunities, every single day to practice it. Generally, acts of love can be as simple as smiling at someone you don’t know that well as they walk past, or maybe offering some of your lunch to someone who’s lost theirs to an ibis. Other times, it might be more challenging, such as making that extra effort to reach out to someone at Mercy Action, working harmoniously in a team with someone who isn’t acting like a team player, or having the courage to stand up for a friend.

So, for 2020, let’s each commit to taking each of these opportunities to spread love, especially when faced with hatred or hostility, because even though it seems hard, that is when your acts of deep love are needed most.

Over our respective seven and five year journeys at All Hallows' School, we've both been fortunate enough to witness firsthand the remarkable power of the AHSisterhood. Whether it’s the sense of community fostered in sports teams and ensembles, the inter-Year level bonds formed in home group, or simply the unrivalled support of the Spirit Squad at Catholic Secondary Schoolgirls' Sports Association (CaSSSA) events; the undeniable sense of ‘Sisterhood’ treasured at All Hallows' School certainly prevails all year long and is just as prominent now as ever.