Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice.

Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

(Philippians 4: 4-7)

As our St Joseph’s students make their transition into their new classes for 2023, they have been excitedly waiting to discover which classes they will be in, which subjects they will have on their timetable and importantly who will they be learning with as they begin their two weeks of their Head Start program. A fantastic way to prepare for the year ahead, anew with hope, calming nerves, getting organised and building new relationships.

Our teaching staff have been working hard to be prepared to create a positive start with their new classes which will all begin by reflecting on either the Waterford, Westcourt or Mt Sion Learning and Behavioural Norms which all staff and students are encouraged to follow. We believe that we achieve our academic best through the development of positive, respectful relationships with our teachers and classmates. We believe in having high expectations and a consistent approach to learning in all subjects. We are encouraged to adopt a growth mindset and agency when it comes to our learning.

Relationships are central to the success of any student transition, especially in secondary school. Head Start allows new classes to create a sense of belonging for the year ahead as students’ transition from focusing on completing their exams and assessment tasks to quickly developing a new sense of belonging with their 2023 Homeroom and House teachers.

Head Start coincides with the first week of Advent. Advent, which begins the Church’s new liturgical year. Advent encompasses the four Sundays and weekdays leading up to the celebration of Christmas. The Advent season is a time of preparation for our hearts and minds for the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. As with all new beginnings, this season is intended to renew our joy, hope, faith and love.

As we journey together over the remaining weeks of Advent and our school year may we follow the words of Philippians 4: 4-7 to, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.’

We need to live each day well by being respectful and loving towards each other so that we walk in God’s light. Let us be awake and on the lookout for the God who comes to us in the everyday happenings: in the sunset we see; the kind words we hear; the fresh air we breathe; the faces of the people we love; the feelings we experience knowing that we are accepted and valued.

As a community we live out the Touchstones of Gospel Spirituality, Inclusive Community, Liberating Education and Justice and Solidarity while living out the spirit of Blessed Edmund Rice. During this Advent season our Year 12 Head Start students will be invited to take part in a House Car Wash challenge in Week 9 to raise funds for Catholic Missions. The #wearestillhere, a 2022 campaign reflecting on the role of being a missionary. “Being missionary means to give hope to those who have lost hope, and to work together with the community to continue building a better, more just, world for everyone.” The Car Wash House Competition gives points up for grabs for the 2023 Adam Bryant Shield. The House with the most cars washed gets the top points followed by the second third and fourth ranked House.

Our staff are also contributing to the annual Vinnies Christmas Appeal. As our Parish churches launch the annual 2022 Vinnies Christmas Appeal this weekend, we think about how we can support our local Geelong families in need to have a beautiful Christmas meal with their loved ones. We would like to make their Christmas joyful and therefore we will assist Vinnies by contributing a staff hamper for those in need.

Some staff are volunteering to support the The Barwon Health Foundation by wrapping Christmas presents at Waurn Ponds Shopping Centre to raise funds for the ‘Wish Upon a Star Christmas Appeal.’

Other staff members are purchasing a Christmas gift to support the amazing carers of our local Bellarine Support group for Kinship Carers who support and assist kinship carers who are people caring full time for their grandchildren or other relatives. Kinship care is the care provided to a child by relatives or a member of the child’s social network when the child cannot live with their parents.

I conclude with a verse from a beautiful Advent prayer I like to use at our staff end of Year Mass.

Ring out the bells!!

Ring out the bells of love.

Good and loving God,

We pray for greater love in our world;

Peace between nations, trust and good will between religions.

During this season of Advent, we pray particularly for our families in our St Joseph’s community.

May we take the time to listen carefully,

And to appreciate just how much other people mean to us.

May we find words to say how much we love those around us,

And sincerely work through any problems we might have with them.

Ring out the bells of love!

(Ritual Prayer 2008 Erica Marshall)