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  • I am Who I Am 

    This is the fourth article I will have written for Catholic Life since commencing in the Diocese of Sale, as Director, back in November.  It has been an interesting and unusual experience writing for a mainly unknown audience.  The very fact of writing for Catholic Life was not necessarily a choice. I just picked up where previous Directors left off and assumed this was a "given" and came with the territory of being the Director of Catholic Education.  Any writing I had done in my former roles was always for a known audience, mainly principals and teachers and occasionally for priests and bishops. 

    Being new to both the role and this Diocese I have made a point of trying to get around to the schools and colleges here and to mix and listen and learn. I have recently told a group of graduate teachers that one of the most important elements of being a teacher is the capacity to be reflective - on their practice and on their own personal reactions and felt responses, as they engage with this craft of teaching and develop their skills and competencies. As an educator, I like to practise what I preach and so my visits to schools have involved that same reflective behaviour. The opportunity to write about those early experiences gave a medium for sharing the reflections. I had felt that this was an appropriate way of doing justice to both the role and hopefully the audience. I assumed that anyone reading an article written by a Director of Catholic Education would perhaps want to know about the educational institutions and how they have been experienced by a newcomer.  

    Along with writing, I have lately had cause to do a fair bit of reading about myself! Believe it or not this is a relatively new experience. One gets accustomed to reading the standard biographical notes that are prepared for introductions to speeches and the like, but these recent experiences have been quite different.  The website of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the management of sexual abuse within organisations has been one such arena, where work I have done for the Archdiocese of Melbourne has been picked over, commented on and reported in a range of different ways. It doesn't make for easy reading but reading difficult things was part of what went with the territory of my previous position. 

    None of those entries shocked me because I understood the context of that subject. What did, for a brief period, take me aback, was the attack that appeared in the local publication "Into the Deep". I would have missed the significance of it and probably skipped over it, as the heading (Fairy Floss!) was not something that would normally attract my attention.  However, a well-meaning colleague thought I should have a look and to my surprise I found it was about my articles in Catholic Life.   

    It would seem that a Director of Catholic Education, new to a Diocese, whose primary role it is to provide support, encouragement and healthy leadership to a group of priests, principals, teachers, students, parents and Catholic Education Office staff cannot possibly be taken seriously if she has the gall to actually find some positives and things to celebrate in the schools and colleges she is visiting for the first time. Apparently, according to the unknown person who penned the article, the main indicator of whether or not these schools are real Catholic schools, and therefore to be commended, is if there are multitudinous young faces at Mass on Sundays! By daring to suggest that our schools and colleges are places of warmth and hospitality, with young people who are welcoming and lively and engaging; who can speak with confidence about their school, their experiences and can actually explain and describe the religious icons that are visible around them (many of which are the results of their own work) leaves quite a lot to be desired. It left me wondering which Jesus figure the author of the article was emulating in the attempt to undermine and demean an authentic leader in the Diocese, not to mention the many fine young people and educators she was congratulating. 

    God's words to Moses at the burning bush, in naming Himself, "I am who I am", has always resonated with me in its simplicity of statement. We all come to know who we are through our experience of others and their responses to us. It takes some resilience not to be adversely affected by the negativity so often directed our way. As a teacher of many years standing I have always held to the view that we assist in the growth and development of healthy, confident and happy individuals by modelling joy and confidence and humour and giving young people as much positive  and affirming feedback as possible.  

    (PS  - My family of several brothers, a husband and son all had a great laugh at the Fairy Floss bit and it has become preferred nomenclature for the warrior princess with whom they are accustomed to dealing!)