IN THE DAYS LONG AGO when Christian Brothers wore long black
cassocks around the school yard, our nickname for them was
"the beaks". The origin of the descriptor probably
has something to with the fact that they looked like penguins
on parade, particularly when they were strutting back and
forth inline across the Quadrangle chanting the Rosary together.
Aaaah you can almost smell the nostalgia in the air.
The expression was used by the lookouts when boarders were
inhaling nicotine and doing other frowned upon things and
the whisper would go out: "psst ... watch out ...
the beaks are coming!"
newsletter brings some good news because it looks as though
they are "on the move" again. It's not with any
sense of the dread we had as boarders all those years ago
though. There's optimism in the ranks with a rise in vocations
around the world and confidence in new vocations and spiritual
discernment initiatives in the Western world, including here
in Holy Spirit Province. Walk into any of the Edmund Rice
schools around the Province today and one picks up a feeling
of confidence amongst the staff and students. At a recent
sundowner held at Trinity College where the Brothers thanked
leaders in the more than two dozen Edmund Rice Ministries
operating in the province, there was an air of optimism in
the air. We've been in some "sea-change" territory
for a few years possibly even from as far back as the 1996
Chapter of the Congregation. Province Leader, Br Kevin Ryan,
speaks about some of these changes in his address of thanks
to the Ministries, the full text of which is published in
this newsletter. We've taken the theme for this edition, Open
for Business, from one of the lines in his address.
As this newsletter demonstrates perhaps more
clearly than any other single newsletter I've had to put together
in the years I've been observing the goings on in the Edmund
Rice Network and trying to make sense of it journalistically,
there is a new "spirit" in the air. There's a sense
of confidence as old responsibilities are surrendered, as
in the hand-over of management responsibility for schools.
But there is a telling sense of optimism and confidence in
the new initiatives that are opening up like the enthusiasm
I've detected in conversations I've recently had with two
brothers who are heading off overseas. Laurie Negus has recently
departed for Africa and Andrew McBeath is heading off to Papua
New Guinea. They're both heading back into the front line
work of what Christian Brothers have always done.
But I also find infectious enthusiasm listening
to Bernard White and the new endeavour he and John Webb are
involved in with vocations and spiritual discernment. I found
a sense of enthusiasm also in the people I interviewed down
at the newly independent Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice
in Fremantle. There is a sense of achievement and quiet pride
in the work of Ministries like Fame, Peter Thrupp's workshop
for disadvantaged kids, in what's been going on for Refugees
through the Edmund Rice Centre at Mirrabooka, not to mention
the enormous sense of achievement that Ollie Pickett and his
volunteers bring to all of us with any association whatsoever
with the works of Edmund Rice in this corner of the world.
And there is even a sense of awe that despite all the Brothers
have been through in the last few decades, this work today
extends literally from Africa to Papua, and from the remote
Kimberley to Adelaide and Perth. There are few corporate enterprises
that can boast of a spread and influence like that
and Holy Spirit Province is but a microcosm of the whole.