Good morning, Graduates, Mr Noonan Crowe, President of the Aquinas Old Boys’ Association, Board members, Staff, Our College Captain, Prefects, Students and our most honoured guests the parents of the year 12 students.

I would like to welcome all here today, and in particular parents, for taking the time to be present at your son’s graduation from college.

I have been asked to speak this morning on behalf of The College to farewell the graduating class of 2020. May I commence by paying tribute to each of the Year 12 students. The achievements of this class have been many. There are some excellent musicians, sportsmen and scholars among today’s graduates.

My pride in the class of 2020 is not however because of the outstanding achievements but because of the values, they demonstrated in their decisions to participate in the life of the College. / It’s the choices we make today that determine the character of tomorrow. This is true for both child and country. So congratulations.

Despite the disruptions and disappointments from COVID 19, the Class of 2020 has proven time again to be dedicated people, who have contributed enormously to the quality of life at the college. This is particularly true of our College Captain Kynan Ganza, the College and School Prefects. To each one of the graduates of the class of 2020, I thank you for your work and your support for the community over the years. It has been very much appreciated.

Much of education cannot happen without the keen interest of others – staff in particular. I know today’s young men have the perception in life to see the role that an enthusiastic teacher plays. May I thank on behalf of the students and parents all the teachers and staff at the college, especially those here today and recognise the wonderful role they have performed in your education.

I would also like to address the parents for a few moments. Can I congratulate you on the milestone of having achieved getting your son through secondary school. As a parent myself, I am aware it is no mean achievement and I am sure it has come with a few bumps on the road. Even Mary and Joseph had a small crisis.

Apart from their talent, your sons have always shown themselves to be young men with generous hearts who are at once friendly and warm in their dealings with others. Such qualities stem from the home and not the classroom. So thank you parents for doing such a fine job.

May I also thank parents for your generous support of the College. Schools like Aquinas depend not just on the fees you pay but also on the time and effort you put into supporting school activities. The hours are countless but without such help, school life would be the poorer. On behalf of the College may I take this moment to thank you.

I would like to conclude by speaking to the young men who are leaving us today. Gentlemen, when you walked across the stage today and received your Graduation Certificate- I want each of you to know the staff are proud of you, we are proud of your accomplishments and we wish you well. However, know that the results you receive at the end of the year do not define or limit you. Your true vocation in life is too sacred to be determined by exam results or qualification. The majority of people’s lives bear witness to the fact that how we fare at school is not necessarily how we fare in life. So what really matters, what really counts is not your success at school. But how you live your life now. It is the choices you make as a graduate from Aquinas College, as a young man of Christ that counts.

And it is not just about big decisions of life, it’s more to do with the seemingly small things in life. The way you greet people, the way you affirm and speak to them, the way you care for other people and encourage them. Understand that a truly meaningful life is made up of a series of daily small acts of decency and kindness, which, ironically, add up to something truly great over the course of a lifetime. So what principles or guidelines can we recommend to you to help in making your choices in life? There are many however I will limit to five:

  • One: Reject versions of the world that define success solely in terms of money, accumulation of things and over-emphasis on status and security. Resist shallow definitions of what constitutes a worthwhile and valuable life. Remember the wise words of the comedienne Lily Tomlin who once said: The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat!
  • Two: Be happy but know that lasting happiness is always closer to contentment and inner peace than it is to sensual pleasure, which can be fleeting and unsustainable; know that true happiness abides in an open and compassionate heart that continually gives simple acts of kindness.
  • Three: In a world that can be toxic to self-directed thinking, follow your inner moral compass and never let go of your dreams. Resist being pushed around by peer pressure, from prejudices and false truths. Look at society through the prism of your values and be of good character; strong in your convictions, based on the very best wisdom of the ages. Know that you need not be perfect. Learn from your mistakes and grow through your failures. Not perfect but always authentic and with integrity.
  • Four: Be resilient and never give up on the truly important things. In a world awash with constant chatter and endless noise, discover presence and stillness in your life. Take the time to know silence. Much of the world has a vested interest in keeping us restless, craving for more and unknowing of when enough is enough.
  • Five: Accept our Gospel’s claims about the way in which human beings should engage in our world, about justice, and the dignity of every human life, whatever their colour, culture or creed.

Know that in the end, it is not what we have done in our lives that is of ultimate importance. Rather, has it made a positive difference in the lives of others? If you hear the cry of the otherwise unheard and choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you liberate the poor and choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence but the many people whose reality you have helped change. I wish you strength in your choices that lie ahead.

I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at eighteen. May life never crush your dreams and may you keep the little boy alive inside you and the friends you shared that boy with. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble. At my graduation we were bound by enormous affection for each other, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photos that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us became too successful.

It is time for the college to bid farewell to the class of 2020.

The statue of teenage Christ and Mary installed in the Chapel quadrangle celebrates the time of Christ’s and all young men departure from their mothers. Today marks a moment in that time of departure.

At the foot of the statue lies a plaque with the words from a poem by CD Lewis written to mark the memory of his son’s departure: It reads

I have had worse partings, but none that so gnaws at my mind still.

Perhaps it is roughly saying what God alone could perfectly show –

how selfhood begins with a walking away

and love is proved in the letting go.

Gentlemen as we let go, know you were loved. May God bless you on your journey. Goodbye.

David McFadden, Headmaster