San Clemente immersion: Walking in the footsteps of those before us

What makes a good leader? The topic of leadership is regularly discussed and debated globally.

Tertiary education offers a multitude of opportunities for studies of leadership and it is a requirement of many institutions that employees gain qualifications in this area in order to progress in their careers.

Clearly leadership qualities are important, not only in the workforce, but also in one’s life journey. Itis essential that schools today recognise the importance of leadership skills and provide opportunities for students in this area. At San Clemente, we place great emphasis on our student leadership program and the school began an annual Sydney immersion in 2013 which took place again recently.

On Wednesday 15 March the 16 members of the San Clemente Student Leadership Team from Year 10 were involved in a two day immersion experience in Sydney. The School Executive, along with Year 10 Coordinator Mrs Denham accompanied them. San Clemente has focused significantly on the notion of student leadership and what this exactly means in a Catholic school setting. Put simply, leadership is about taking notice, connecting with others and giving to the community. Essentially, it is about ‘Servant Leadership’. Too often leadership is associated with a title that does not carry with it responsibility. We want our leaders to be young people of action.

The presence of all Executive staff on this Sydney immersion clearly emphasises the school’s commitment to student leadership at the school. This year particularly is of great importance, as San Clemente proudly celebrates its centenary and 100 years of Dominican education. The Dominican Order of Preachers is 800 years old and as a school, we wish to write our own chapter in this story.

In 2017 we wanted to provide an opportunity for our students to gain a greater depth of understanding of our Dominican heritage. In keeping this in mind, our itinerary included a visit to Santa Sabina College at Strathfield, a school with a rich Dominican history. This was a wonderful opportunity for our students to meet with their leaders and discuss what it really means to be a Dominican school. How do we live out the four pillars: ‘Prayer’, ‘Study’, ‘Service’ and ‘Community’? We were also fortunate to have the very knowledgeable Sr. Elizabeth Hellwig present to us. She spoke about the Dominican history in Australia, including that of our own school, prior to us departing after lunch.

After camping at Cockatoo Island for the night, where we were able to debrief about the day and reflect during a moonlit liturgy by the water, we caught the ferry to Circular Quay for Mass at St Patrick’s Church. St Patrick’s was built in the 1840s, dating back to the beginnings of Catholic life in Australia, and is situated in Sydney’s historic Rocks area.  We arranged to celebrate Mass here, as the Church has a strong link to the Dominicans from when the Sisters first arrived from Ireland 150 years ago. Our students were able to follow in the footsteps of these Dominican Sisters who journeyed from Circular Quay to St Patrick’s to give thanks for their safe journey. We, like these Dominican Sisters, received a blessing from the Priest for our school and its continuing journey.

I now ask the following questions to our Student Leadership Team; “In the School’s Centenary year, in your privileged roles, what actions will you take to best serve your community and enrich the lives of others? As leaders, what legacy do you wish to leave in years to follow and how can you follow in the footsteps of St Dominic who preached the truth 800 years ago?

Our leaders are wonderful ambassadors for our school and I look forward to witnessing their contributions as the year unfolds.

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