As they tucked themselves into the front rows of the Boys’ Chapel on Friday, it probably didn’t occur to the young gentlemen of Rhetoric 2022 that the year they will graduate from Clongowes will see the nation celebrate its centenary. It probably didn’t occur to them as they were far too intent on creating their own little piece of history as the 203rd Elements class to enter Clongowes in this – our third century. Under the benevolent, watchful eye of Mr Frank Kelly, Head of Boarding (and Master of Ceremonies), they looked around in awe and excitement as the historic building was filled with nigh on 400 more students from Rudiments to Rhetoric, the majority returning for another academic year, while a handful shared the Elements Boys’ sense of expectation.
When the students had welcomed the teaching staff and settled themselves the Vice Rector, Fr ‘Barney’ McGuckian began the first School Assembly of the year with an opening prayer. Explaining that the Rector, Fr Michael Sheil, was on duty elsewhere, he asked us to remember in our prayers former Rector and Headmaster, Fr Dermot Murray, who – while remaining a member of the Clongowes Community – will be resident in Cherryfield Lodge in Dublin, while he is unwell.
Re-assess and reset
The newly minted School Captain, Conor Galvin then took to the podium to address the school. Noting the honour that it is to serve in the role he welcomed all the students and urged them to reflect on the previous year (without dwelling too long) before re-assessing their goals of twelve months ago and resetting them if necessary. He outlined the various challenges that would face the pupils at different stages of their journeys, be they the newly arrived Elements, those about to embark on Transition Year or his peers in Rhetoric, who are commencing their last lap in Clongowes. Conor closed by observing that the Jesuit Ethos, so strong in the school, is even more relevant in our increasingly secular society.
Conor gave way to the Headmaster, Mr Chris Lumb, who welcomed students and staff alike and hoped that all had returned with batteries recharged after the lengthy summer vacation. Mr Lumb paid tribute to the catering, grounds and maintenance teams, who had a busy summer hosting the many external groups that used the facilities over the summer. He also thanked the Syntax boys and staff involved in the Duck Push, who raised €70,000 for Crumlin Children’s Hospital and Mr Tom Carroll and the boys, who helped on the Special Children’s Holiday.
Observing that there were over 100 new starters in the school, the headmaster said that we all have a responsibility to welcome the newcomers into the Clongowes family. Mr Lumb went on to thank the new House Leaders for their assistance with helping to settle the new Elements boys and then welcomed the nine new members of staff and the returning Mr Denis Gibbons following a two year career break in the UK.
The headmaster expressed himself delighted with the Leaving Cert results, the majority of which were above the national average. He singled out Sean McMahon, Donnchadh Walsh, Michael Binchy, Andrew Corrigan and Jack Savage for special praise, with Sean about to depart for Cambridge University to study theoretical physics.
Upholding the value of learning
Mr Lumb then turned his thoughts to the year ahead and some of the challenges it contains. Reminding us that – from the beginning – the Jesuits, in their approach to education, have been ahead of their time, upholding the value of learning alongside their students and always striving for excellence. The very best learning, he told us, is about developing a real openness to and curiosity for learning and the challenge is to be creative, confident and inquisitive and to develop an independence which allows each student to take control, and not be solely reliant on teachers.
The headmaster made no apology for stressing the academic life of the school but reminded the students that their education here is about so much more than that. He reminded all of us that we are a vibrant community with a strong sense of our own identity in a society where the idea of ‘community’ is all too often seen as something, which is old fashioned. Mr Lumb charged each member of the school community to play their part to the full in the day-to-day life of the school inside and outside of the classroom.
The headmaster ended by wishing the boys a happy and fruitful year after which, Ms Anita O’Shea closed the assembly with a concluding prayer.
Declan O’Keeffe, Head of Communications