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Nau mai, haere mai, talofa lava, malo e lelei, bula vinaka, kia orana, warm greetings

As we arrive at the end of another year, it is time for reflection, connection and gratitude. As I reflect on another challenging year I couldn’t be prouder of the staff, students and whanau who make up our community. On a daily basis I witness a community of people working together to help our rangatahi fulfil their potential, no matter what curve balls we are faced with.

In what has felt like two years in one, the first half busy, full and engaging in a way that we might view as business as usual, a time where we undertook two successful external reviews, one with ERO and one with the Catholic Education Office, reviewing our special character. Both were fantastic summaries of the culture we are proud of here at St Thomas. During this time we also hosted the Bishop Lyons competition and outstanding production, and hardworking and successful sporting seasons.

The second half of the year felt like a surfing a wave with constant adjustments to ensure we kept on the wave…it was a very big wave! Observing our staff and students overcoming all of the obstacles related to a global pandemic has been inspiring. In times like we are living now presents opportunity to innovate, it is in this arena that I feel we excel. The initiative and innovation our community constantly demonstrates enables our young men to develop and grow beyond their wildest dreams. This is something I am incredibly proud of.

The end of a year traditionally also offers us an opportunity to acknowledge the legacy left from staff who will be leaving our community. It is always with sadness that we farewell members of our community, but it is also with respect and fondness as we acknowledge the incredible service our staff provide.

We farewell Andrea Fray and Harmony Simaile, two of our hardworking teacher aides, as their fixed term contracts come to an end. We thank them for their work in developing and caring for our students. Bronwyn Trewin also completes her fixed term contract, we thank her for her hard work in the science department – we will still have Bronwyn at St Thomas in the capacity of a reliever in Term 1.

This year, we farewell Rachael Fowler as she moves to the Northern Territory, Australia, to be with family and continue her teaching career in another Edmund Rice school. Rachael has been with us for four years, and in that time she has forged a fantastic legacy in the art department, as well in the pastoral care department at St Thomas.

Keri Campbell departs after 18 years of service in a number of roles where he started as a Physical Education teacher, and after re-training for 12 months Keri returned to lead our Maori students as well as teach Te Reo at all levels. During his time Keri also held positions as a dean, and Kahui Ako across school leader. Keri leaves to take a position at Christs College leading Te Ao Maori.

Brian Knopp leaves after 18 years of service as our Guidance Counsellor. Brian has changed the lives of many young men in his care throughout his time. Brian has counselled young men through trauma faced by our Christchurch community. Brian has also had a huge impact in the lives of many staff, we wish him all the best in retirement.

Marty Taylor retires after 25 years service. Marty has changed the lives of so many young men through his many roles as a teacher, dean, sports coach, mentor, and the leader of many international opportunities for our young men. Marty has lived a life as an educator understanding our roles aren’t jobs but vocations. He has selflessly given up thousands of hours coaching, travelling and mentoring our young men. Marty has also mentored many young staff and helped form them into top class educators.

Margaret Guerin retires after over 40 years of dedication and service at St Thomas. She has lived a life of service for young men, in her time leading the library space, teaching English, debating, theatre sports, productions, Bishop Lyons…..the list goes on. Margaret has formed many young men, helping them understand their strengths and talents in order to fulfil their potential. Margaret leaves a legacy that she can be so proud of.

We wish all departing staff the best on the next phase of their lives. As we farewell these wonderful people, we welcome new staff to our community ready to drive their own legacy.

We welcome, David Hooper into the science faculty. David is a recent graduate who is a talented young man, he comes with an experience of all that is needed in a boys school as an old boy of Wellington College. David is multi talented with ability to teach across Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics.

Matt Kippenburger is an experienced science teacher with specialism in Chemistry and Biology. Matt comes to us from Riccarton High School, and is a highly regarded educator who will add to, and grow, our strong culture at St Thomas.

Ruihi Kawenga joins us after four years at Mairehau High School as a Te Reo and Kinesiology teacher. Ruihi will also take up the position as House co-ordinator of McClintock house. Ruihi is also an old boy of St Thomas who is very excited to give back to his school.

Katie Stanton joins us from Linwood College as the Deputy Principal in charge of Pastoral care for the last three years. Katie takes up the role of Director of Pastoral Care at St Thomas, we are very fortunate to have Katie join us as an experienced leader and educator.

Patrick McEntyre joins us as a counsellor. Patrick is a very experienced counsellor who has worked at the Ministry of Education in the trauma response team. We look forward to working with Patrick.

We also welcome Jamie Thompson and Shannon Cottrell on fixed term contracts.

As a community we have been operating at a high level of work output. It is now time to connect with our faith and take time to reflect through prayer the true meaning of this time of year. Christmas is a time of hope and optimism as we celebrate advent. I leave you with this wonderful reflection, I hope you are able to take the time in peace to read it. I look forward to reconnecting in the New Year and wish you all a blessed and restful summer break.

Christmas reflection from Most Reverend Martin W. Currie;

“In the hustle and bustle that leads up to our celebration of Christmas, many of us find ourselves asking, “What’s it all about?” We sometimes wonder in the rush, the stress and the hurry, whether we have somehow missed the real meaning of it all. I have been pondering that question myself as I prepare for Christmas, and I hope that some of my reflections might help you to enter more fully into this celebration of the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Christmas is, first and foremost, about Love, God’s Love. How much does God love us? God loves us so much that God gave us the most precious gift imaginable, Jesus, God’s own Son. That’s the heart of Christmas. This great and wonderful love calls us to love one another. We share love in and through our human relationships. Love isn’t always a warm and cozy feeling; love is a commitment and a decision to stick by others, come what may, through thick and thin, when the going is easy and when the going gets more challenging. The love that we share in our human relationships is a reflection of the love of God, calling us to give of ourselves for others. At Christmas, we remember that Jesus was born in poverty, in a stable among the poorest people and the farm animals. What does this mean for us today? You and I are called to look for the face of Christ in the poor, those at our own door and in places far from here. Love can look like a cup of coffee offered, a hand held, a smile shared, and a story heard. I firmly believe that, in the end, we will be judged by how we care for the poor. And Christmas is also about repentance and forgiveness. Love takes commitment and work, and sometimes we don’t get it right. We’re not perfect. But with God there is mercy and forgiveness, and second chances. And so must we offer those gifts to others. Christmas is a time of renewal, of fresh starts and coming together. We often hear the phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas” and we wonder how to do that. I think that Jesus himself gave us the best insight; if you want to keep Christ in Christmas, look around you, and look for Him. He is here. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, and love your enemies. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”