“Be shepherds with the smell of sheep.”
These are the words of Pope Francis that Michael Pate, Principal, Xavier College, Llandilo, gave the new 2019/2020 student leaders during their commissioning ceremony on Wednesday 18 September 2019.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, was the special guest as the new College Captains, Vice Captains, and members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) were installed before their teachers, family and friends.
“To the students sitting here, this is a privileged opportunity for you as you embrace not only the formal title of leader, but the profound responsibility to serve the Xavier community,” Lee McCrorie, Director of Student Growth and Administration, said during the welcome.
Bishop Vincent was joined at the ceremony by Assistant Principal Greg Malone, and Fr Chris Antwi-Boasiako, parish priest of Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook, and school chaplain.
Before the presentation ceremony, Fr Chris read the Parable of the Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke (Lk 10: 25-38).
In his reflection, Bishop Vincent expressed his connection to the school’s patron saint St Francis Xavier, explaining that his birthday falls on the feast day of St Francis Xavier. Bishop Vincent then shared how the leadership team should act in the Christian understanding of leadership.
“Friends, it is a great joy for me to be here this morning and to induct our students in the role of leadership for 2019 and 2020.
“There is a great sense of mission here at Xavier College, where the spirit of the Gospel comes alive, not just in the images that remind us of the presence of God, but also in the way that we relate to one another, in a way that we exercise the gift of servant leadership in the style of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for others.
“That magnificent parable that Jesus told evokes in us that sense of risk-taking. The Good Samaritan was someone who was prepared to take a risk for the sake of another. That is fundamentally the Christian understanding of leadership.
“The leader, according to the Christian understanding, is one who goes out of his way in order to embrace another, especially a person who is sidelined, who is disregarded or stigmatised by others.
“In instituting these fellow students of ours into the role of leadership, we pray for them to have that gift of generosity, of courage, of solidarity, so that they serve in the way that brings the community together. That they pay special attention to the ones in need, the ones who are not fully integrated into the community, that they are people who envision the community based on the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“May the Good Lord, who is our role model, bring the endeavour of the leadership team of 2020 to fulfilment and that this community continues to reflect the spirit of the Gospel among us,” Bishop Vincent said.
Bishop Vincent blessed the student leadership badges before presenting them to the house leaders, special responsibility leaders and college captains.
Captains Sophie-Anne Brebner and David Dawson, and Vice-Captains Matilda Dib and Majd Turk were also presented with their honour blazers from the 2018/2019 leadership team.
Greg Malone, acting on behalf of the Principal, gave the Principal’s Address, telling the new student leaders that they should see themselves as shepherds, as Pope Francis described.
“Our present Pope is keen on using the image of the shepherd when he talks about leadership. A shepherd who, as Pope Francis says, lives with the ‘smell of his sheep’.
“Francis goes on, this is why being shepherds also means being ready to walk amidst the flock, capable of hearing the silent story of those who suffer and sustaining the steps of those who are afraid of not making it, careful to lift up, to reassure, and to inspire hope.
“This is a leadership to which he is calling us all. This is a leadership your college community is calling on you to enter and is the goal of every parent here to see their children as people full of hope.
“Leadership must have a common touch, walking amongst the sheep, sleeves-rolled-up leadership, servant leadership – that’s the leadership we want at Xavier College,” Greg said.
College Captain Sophie-Anne told Catholic Outlook that leadership, to her, “means the empowerment and building up of others to achieve goals and each their God-given potential. I believe leadership is not about dominance, but rather, real leadership is an honour that is bestowed upon a person by followers who are willing to place their trust in them.”
College Captain David explained that over the next year he aims to “effectively represent and lead Xavier with the Ignatian values held by our college. I hope that the collaborative work between my fellow captains, house captains and the whole SRC will bring change to our school that will only further strengthen our community.”
Vice-Captain Matilda hopes to encourage students throughout her leadership. “I aim to encourage students to achieve their best and to participate in not only other leadership roles, but be active in the planning of school events, and external events. Many juniors lack confidence within themselves and their ability, however, I believe with the right encouragement, they learn that they are all able to achieve anything.”
Vice-Captain Majd explained his appointment as “euphoric”. “Leadership is inspiration as the thought of communicating clearly in a team where all of our ideas and words are converted into actions and coming into fruition is itself energising. The sense of belonging fills me with courage and strengthens my confidence and reinforces my sense of being indeed in the right place at the right time, in a place where we all can call our ‘home’.
“I want every single member of our community to resonate with our school’s vision and find a home for themselves in the heart of others, allowing us as a community to grow and nurture our imagination, and breaking the chains that limit our potential,” he said.