For the past three years, the newly elected student captains of each of our Australian Salesian colleges have gathered together to share the core of what peer leadership means within Don Bosco’s model of education.
Unlike many other province events which are always centred on Melbourne, the school leaders come together in a different State and different school each year. The first was in Victoria, the second in South Australia, this year happened in New South Wales and next year Tasmania will play host. This enables the travelling leaders to experience a new school, the somewhat different style between state systems and have time to see some of the sights of a new city. It also helps the local students and staff see that they belong to a much wider network of Salesian works around the country.
This December, the gathering of 19 leaders and 11 staff was hosted by St John Bosco College in Engadine, on the southern end of the Sydney metropolitan area. The captains gave presentations of what key activities happen in each of their own schools and in a series of seminars and discussions shared what it means to be a Salesian leader. Somewhat reminiscent of WYD 08, the middle day was given over to a bus and foot tour around some of the key sights of Sydney extending from the cathedral up to the Sydney Tower Eye, a wandering lunch near the Opera House and a ferry ride under the Harbour Bridge and into Darling Harbour. Following opportunity for a surf (or photo with a TV lifeguard) at Sydney’s iconic Bondi beach, we returned home for a lingering dinner, reflective Good Night and even more lingering chat circle before sleep arrived. The final morning allowed a guest appearance at Bosco’s morning full school assembly and a tour and discussion at next door’s Boys’ Town Dunlea Centre where the wider Salesian outreach to disengaged kids was experienced. The three days concluded with mass in the college chapel where, appropriately enough, these newly born leaders remembered the birth of Don Bosco’s educational mission at the celebration of the Immaculate Conception.
It was wonderful and inspiring over these days to see a collection of otherwise former strangers meld together as new friends in a group enjoying shared ideals. So often in their presentations and discussions, they discovered they had so much in common; that there is a core Salesian dream and way of doing things which unites us and encourages us through shared fun and faith. No doubt Facebook and the like will continue the link and the future will have possibilities to meet and share some more.
Fr Pete Carroll sdb