Saint Ignatius Loyola never intended to establish a school system. But his best friend, St Francis Xavier, discovered the possibilities of education half a world away in India in the 1540s. By the time Ignatius died, a decade or so later, there were 1,000 Jesuits, most of them involved in 35 colleges. Why? Because schools were privileged ways to build God’s Kingdom. Ignatius believed in “going through the other person’s door to lead them out your own”, and schools were the perfect medium for such a strategy. Here God can be discovered in the classroom as well as the Chapel, on the oval as well as on retreat, in the novel as well as the bible, yes, in sacred icons, but also in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially those most marginalised and voiceless.
Anyone will find Saint Ignatius’ College a very blessed and well-resourced community. But I recently heard a father tell his son here that “Riverview is not a school of privilege, it is a school of obligation”. He had caught the charism well. Not a cosy cocoon but, rather, something of a refiner’s fire to shape character and consciences, to burn away the dross that would impede the full flourishing of Gospel values. Yes, our students, by and large, are graced in background and opportunity. But, as Jesus once reminded us, “from those who have been given much, much more is to be expected.”
Jesuit schools embrace excellence – excellence in all that we do, whether in head, heart or hands. But our schools are always a means to an end. The measure is not just GPS premierships, not NAPLAN results, not even HSC ATARS. Each have their place. An important place. But never the only place. The mission today of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits in all their ministries – including schools – is “the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement”. An absolute requirement. Faith and Justice. That is our mission. A mission that takes us beyond our school gates, beyond this narrow peninsula.
We send our boys out to build a Kingdom.