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

As we come to the end of a very challenging term, I sit writing this newsletter with a massive sense of pride and optimism about the rest of the year. While this term has undoubtedly created many covid related challenges, our ability to support each other and to continue to offer our students many opportunities outside of the classroom has demonstrated to our young people that anything is possible!

There is no doubt in the wider New Zealand context a lot of underlying tension has been simmering away in most people, and at times we have seen this boil over in behaviours that aren’t normal reactions, but reactions that are highly emotional and from a place of constant change, fear and a feeling of loss of control of our daily lives. I have seen and heard of many amazing examples within our community of staff, students and whanau where we have been able to rise above and be the voice of reason, calm and compassion. A wonderful example of what we stand for.

Yesterday we heard of a change to Orange on the CPF which signals a lessening threat of COVID. While it no longer requires students in schools to wear masks, it has been a very important tool in limiting transfer of COVID particularly Omnicron within school environments. It will be a recommendation that, where possible, we encourage our students to continue to wear masks as we enter the winter months. More information is within this newsletter.

As we enter the enrolment season if we have any siblings, family or friends that are intending enrolling at St Thomas, could we encourage them to enrol as soon as possible as we have already had a large number of enrolments. In order to reduce disappointment, early enrolments give the best opportunity of entry into 2023. Enrolments close SUNDAY 31ST JULY and this year, our open morning is Wednesday 18th May. All enrolment information is on our website.

The last few weeks have been filled with optimism, joy and laughter as we have seen our students engaging in many extracurricular activities – basketball, rugby, football, Polyfest, Kapahaka, musical auditions, to name but a few. It is so wonderful to watch our young men engage in their passions.

This week our staff have been accumulating information to predict where our senior students NCEA achievement has progressed throughout Term 1. We are fully aware of the level of Covid disruption. These details will give us the information we need to support our young men to achieve their goals. This information will be communicated back to our community in Term 2.

Within this newsletter is a wonderful Easter reflection from our Director of Special Character, Stephen Kennedy, take some time over Easter to read and reflect.

As we head into our holy week of Easter, I was recently sent this reflection from John Weir SM and a poem from Jan Richardson, which is a perfect illustration of current times.

Have a happy and restful Easter.

Love Called (The Gospel of John 20: 1-9 retold by John Weir SM) What an enormous tragedy!

She loved him deeply. Now he was no longer there. And she was left to grieve alone. The plot of an old ballad, or a romantic novel, or an episode of ‘Neighbours’? No, the essence of the Gospel passage about the visit made by Mary of Magdala to the tomb of Jesus. What a great story! She had come from Galilee to Jerusalem with his mother and some other women so that she could help care for him and his disciples. Even though she loved him deeply she knew that everybody else in the group loved him too – they were all touched by his upwelling compassionate love. Now he was dead. Murdered in the name of the Law. What could she do? Then the thought came to her; she would go to his tomb and grieve for him. It was still dark, but there was just enough light for her to see that the boulder blocking the entrance had been moved. Alarmed, she feared that his enemies had stolen his body. For what purpose? She ran back and told Peter and the others. As a result, Peter and John ran off into the lightening dark and she ran after them. Love called and she had to follow the call. When they reached the tomb she stayed outside weeping while they went in and saw the linen cloths unbound, but no body. That was when, for the first time, they began to understand what he had said – that he would die and rise again. They left, but Mary stayed. Then, after stooping and peering into the tomb, she turned around and saw someone standing there, someone who asked why she was weeping. Imagining him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him.’ It was then that he said to her, ‘Mary!’ and she knew he was Jesus. After a few more words from him, Mary ran back and told the others what had happened. So what did happen? Well, there was a death; then there was a rising. And one of the witnesses of both was Mary of Magdala. Why her? Well, simply because she loved him with a love which answered to his love. In our lifetimes we all endure some moments which feel like little deaths – loss, conflict, suffering, desperation – but then the sun rises again on the next day (or the next) and we rise with it. We are lifted up by unconditional love, by grace. Grace is the flow of the love of another. God’s love for us, perhaps, or the love of friends and family, or even a stranger. Mary wore her heart on her sleeve when she went in search of Jesus. We are called to do the same thing and, in particular, to find Jesus in our own times and places, in some other person who desperately needs our help, someone we know, or someone we don’t know until we know their name. At this moment people whose names we don’t know are dying terrible deaths in many countries. Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Ukraine (and closer to home wherever that may be) – bombed into oblivion, perhaps, or butchered on the ground. We may not be able to help them directly, but we can certainly help the person who is dying physically, emotionally, socially even, before our very eyes. This person may be someone we know, a family member or friend, or it may be a stranger – someone who is a potential friend, a friend in disguise, someone who is waiting to be called by her or his name, as Jesus simply said ‘Mary!’ in reply to her desperate questions. Yes, we can be witnesses to the death of another person – either the small deaths (the problems, anxieties, losses) which a person can die, sometimes several times a week, or the great death for which the small deaths are a necessary preparation. We can also be witnesses to their rising, but only if we have enough love to look for Jesus and find him in them. It was a woman, Mary of Magdala, who showed us the resurrectional power of love. Love is the great change-agent in life and in death.

And Love Will Rise Up and Call Us By Jan Richardson

If we have grown weary in this season. If we have become overwhelmed. If we are living with fear or anxiety or worry about what lies ahead. If the swirl of Holy Week has become intense. If time is moving strangely. If grief has been a traveling companion. If the ground beneath us has given way. If resurrection seems less than certain. . . . Love Will Rise Up and Call Us By Name