Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP,
19 Jul 2017

St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

In the Star Wars film Attack of the Clones, the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi is confronted with a rather unusual problem: he's lost an entire planet! He knows on reliable authority that the planet exists, but it does not show up in the Jedi Archives which are supposed to be a complete record of the whole galaxy. Perplexed, Obi-Wan takes the problem to Master Yoda, the wisest of the Jedi knights. Rather than trying to solve the problem himself, Yoda hands it over to a group of children he has been teaching. Quick as a flash one of the kids says that someone must have erased the record of the planet. Master Yoda, chuckling, agrees and says, in his usual inverted word order, "Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is".

Of course, the child's answer wasn't rocket science: you might even say it was fairly obvious. But because erasing something from the practically infallible Jedi records was so difficult, and the idea of erasing a record so obvious, Obi-Wan had rejected it without really considering it. The child, on the other hand, was unperturbed by supposed irregularities and impossibilities and immediately grasped the solution.

A similar contrast is at the heart of our Gospel tonight: that between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of Christ; the wisdom accessible to the self-reliant clever people of this world and the wisdom God chooses to share with 'mere children' (Mt 11:25-27). So much of what Christ teaches, in fact, interrogates and subverts our everyday thinking and assumptions. He challenges the me-me-me thinking, the self-absorption, the ungenerosity, the harbouring of anger and resentments, the valorising of sex, money and power over people, relationships and true happiness. He defies so much else that our damaged human natures and the culture we grow up in incline us to take for granted. To say Christ is wisdom itself - Wisdom Himself - is to recognise that we need an alternative wisdom to that we get on the internet, the TV and the other supposed depositories of all knowledge like the Jedi database.

What have Jedi knights and their defective databases to do with the 135th anniversary of a Sydney school? Well, one obvious link is the children, who can at times disarm us with their left-of-field, often surprisingly mature, insights. Another link is in the search for a wisdom beyond the ordinary. Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart is proud of its recent record as one of the highest ranked non-selective schools in New South Wales, regularly amongst the highest achievers in the HSC in core disciplines and in Distinguished Achievers mentions, with the majority of last year's cohort achieving an ATAR over 90 and the Head Girl receiving the highest ATAR in the state at 99.95. There is no question, then, that this Yoda-aged school is looking for - and achieving - more than just the ordinary for its children.

But ATARs, even if they sound like sci-fi products, are not everything in life. The vision of education proposed by St Madeleine Sophie Barat, enacted by her daughters, and lived in this school is one of striving for "cor unum et anima una in corde Jesu" (being of one heart and mind in the Heart of Jesus). Sacred Heart education today unpacks this as five goals: the spiritual goal of "a personal and active faith in God", the academic goal of "a deep respect for intellectual values", the affective goal of "building community", the social goal of an "awareness which impels to action" and the moral goal of "personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom". There's a whole lot more packed into those five goals than just HSC results and university entrance.

How do we achieve this? When Yoda asked his class to solve Obi-Wan's problem, he was following Jesus' thought that unless we become child-like we will never enter God's kingdom (Mt 18:2-4). Uncluttered by preconceptions, the eyes of a child can see things as they are. Unbiased by learnt prejudices, they can trust in those who are trustworthy. Undamaged by cynicism, a child can embrace the unexpected. Unobsessed by results, they can make space for prayer and for play. Much in our culture today erases our memory of that most reliable planet, our lodestar, "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Ex 3:1-12), the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of our ancestors. But in their innocence, openness, idealism, the young can Moses-like prompt us once more to apprehend and reverence the awesomeness of God and the things of God. As St Madeleine Sophie and her daughters emerged from Jansenist France with its distant, merciless god, and from Revolutionary France with its immanent merciless godlessness, they championed a warmer spirituality of God's sacred heart and loving closeness that we hope every child knows in their home and school.

Paradoxically, then, adults only achieve their full potential by recovering some of the characteristics of young people. We can be so tired, habitual or uninspired that we no longer say "Wow", with our whole hearts and minds, when we see things like the view from Rose Bay, when we encounter a newborn child or longer-established friend, when we consider the great mysteries of God, the world and ourselves. We need young people to teach us afresh how to be wowed, how to see creation as a literally awesome, wonder-full place, and our Creator even more so.

Tonight we give thanks for a hundred and thirty-five years of the Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart helping young people grow to their full potential through cultivating one heart and mind in Christ. With Master Yoda, we chuckle and say, "Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is".

Grant us, Lord, the grace to be worthy of those who have gone before us, those presently entrusted to our care, and those yet to come. May young women and boys emerge from our school building on "their personal strengths, passions and talents", increasingly "independent and resilient, lifelong learners", with a "deep empathy with others", and secure in the knowledge that they can change the world for the better. Grant that in gaining the knowledge, experience and wisdom of our Year 12s they do not lose the innocence, awe and trust of our Year 1s!

St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

Welcome to tonight's Mass, as we celebrate the foundation of Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart. If a 25th anniversary is a silver anniversary, a 50th golden, a 60th diamond, I'm not sure what you'd call a 135th anniversary: perhaps a meteorite anniversary.

On this meteoric occasion I acknowledge: past principals Sister Anne McGrath RSCJ and Mr Christopher Faisandier; the Chair of School Board Mr Bryan Curtin and previous Chair Dr Bernadette Tobin, and other members of the Board; the several members of the School Leadership Team; Head Girl Georgia Boonen and the other members of the student leadership team; the Cor Unum leaders, and all the members of the school staff and student body. Welcome, also, to any alumnae and parents with us tonight, all the members of the Kincoppal-Rose Bay family. I am also very pleased to recognise the Provincial, Sr Lynette Toohey RSCJ, and all members of the Society of the Sacred Heart, whose association with the school goes all the way back to the five Sisters who founded the school in 1882. I also acknowledge Councillor Susan Wynne, Deputy Mayor of Woollahra, and Ms Elizabeth O'Carrigan, Director of Eastern Region, Sydney Catholic Schools.

Finally, let me acknowledge in particular the School Principal, Mrs Hilary Johnston-Croke. Contrary to what some of our smaller kids might imagine, Mrs Johnston-Croke has not been the Principal since the School started 135 years ago! Nonetheless, when she leaves Kincoppal-Rose Bay at the end of this year, she will be saying goodbye to Year 12 students who started kindergarten at the school the same year she became head and so she is the only principal they have ever known! After three decades' experience as a teacher and educational leader she took up the challenge here and has led the School forward ever since with her inspiring educational vision. She has also exercised leadership in the Heads of Independent Girls Schools organisation and the Asian Educational Foundation. We celebrate her service tonight as well as the many achievements of the college over 135 years.