Graeme Mustchin's Farewell Speech To Staff 2015
The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of my favourite books of the Bible. Everything has its season. It has a beginning and an end which in itself begins a new stage in the cycle of life. Today sees the beginning of a new cycle for me. It is part of what Shakespeare called the seventh age in the play “As you like it.”
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
I’ve been a part of Catholic Education in this country since I was in my mother’s womb. Life was about Garden Parties and Raffles and highly illegal Casino nights and working bees to help build new schools and upgrade facilities for the religious who staffed the schools. It was our life in the Hutt Valley towards the end of the Second World War and shortly afterwards. And so it was that by the time I was ten years old I was going to be a Catholic School teacher.
I was born to teach. I had a very strong sense of vocation. Within the Roman Catholic Tradition it meant you were destined to be a priest or a religious. I never did agree with that and still get angry when I hear the earnest plea to pray for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. I do wish the powers that be would get over it. A vocation is a calling. It’s a desire to spend one’s life doing something for which one has gifts and talents for the benefit of others. In that sense everybody has a vocation in life. For me it has been teaching and I’ll do it until I die. What an extraordinary gift to receive.
My journey began in 1958. I went to a training college where enquiry learning was a given. I was primary trained and I will always be grateful for that opportunity. Since that time over a period of 51 years I have worked in 8 different Colleges with 18 different Principals, each College and Principal quite unique. It took me twenty years to get my first degree.
I’ve always loved the classroom. The only time I have ever felt uncomfortable was when I was thrust into Senior Management for ten years. Being able to return to the classroom was my salvation. And that’s another area of strong disagreement for me. Why on earth is success in the teaching profession measured by your ability to be promoted ( I use the term loosely!) into Management. That was the pressure I was constantly under when I was a successful classroom practitioner.
And now as I continue my journey I would like to leave you with these two challenges.
As staff you have at the very least two responsibilities which have always been very dear to my heart:
Mrs. Douglas gave her permission for this College to be named after her son shortly before she died in August 1946. This College is a Memorial. Each of you must make sure that this place continues to be a living memorial and that you know the story. When Archbishop McKeefry opened this college he had this to say:
“This college is dedicated to the memory of a young priest of whose final days you and I know nothing. If from this school there are pupils who, in moments of trial, rise above themselves as Fr. Douglas did, and remain faithful to (their) God, then we shall be able to say that our recognition of his memory by making it tangible in stone has not been in vain.”
My second challenge is this:
The College motto is “Christo Duce”. Everyday we should be aware of this when we have dealings with each other. It should be enshrined in the hearts of every member of our community be they parents, students or staff. It should colour our thinking and enhance our teaching. If neither of these two things happen then I believe that here in this College we are living a lie.
I love this place and this community. You all have my deepest admiration and respect. Each of you in your own unique way has touched my heart and influenced my thinking. I love the people of Taranaki. My own kiwi ancestral origins lie in Inglewood and Tariki even though it wasn’t until 1976 that I first set foot in New Plymouth. Our students are perfectly capable of holding their own anywhere in the world and many of them do. Our job, I believe, is to make them fully aware of the enormous potential that each and everyone of them has through the great privilege of being born or of living under the protective mantle of Mt. Taranaki.
May your God, whatever that might be, continue to help you unfold the great mystery of who you really are and your place in this mighty universe. And may you share that learning with all whom you come in contact with.
Graeme Mustchin's Address to the College 2016
Time to be a Backbencher
I was born to teach and I’ll die teaching. I’ve been involved with Catholic Schools continuously since I was 4 years of age. It was in 1962 that I started my teacher training at Marcellin Hall just behind Marcellin College on Mt. Albert Road in Auckland.
I have loved every minute of my teaching career. It has enriched my life enormously because I can honestly say that every day I have learned something new from the students I have been lucky to have worked with and from the staff whom I have had the privilege of being associated with.
I have worked in nine different colleges in Fiji and the North Island of New Zealand over a period of 52 years. I’ve spent 29 of those years here at Francis Douglas Memorial College. And for me that has been very significant.
Why would one spend more than half of ones teaching career in just the one College? The answer is simple. Here at the College we are all part of the very special place called Taranaki and you as students been given the privilege of spending up to seven years as part of a loving, caring community.
The first Mustchin to come to NZ came from Sussex in England to Inglewood in the mid 19th Century and he married there and he and my Great Grandmother are buried in that beautiful cemetery there. Truly this is my home. It is a place where Mary and I and our immediate family of Leonie, Clement and Luke and their partners and our grand kids have been and continue to be very happy when they come to visit. And it is my family who have continued over the years to be my inspiration and loving support.
You and I are part of a very important heritage that we must never lose. Our ancestors made huge sacrifices to make sure that this College was built so that young men of Taranaki could experience a Catholic Education without leaving Taranaki. They did it with no regrets.
So just for a moment I want to focus on three aspects of the unique education that is offered to you here by referring to three events that occurred over a period of a week in early March.
There is no other College on this planet as far as I know called Francis Douglas Memorial College. So that is the first aspect. Francis Douglas’ mother gave permission for this College to be named after her son shortly before she died in 1947. This sacred place then is a living Memorial to a young man whose qualities of life we should all aspire to. Ladies and Gentlemen and Students, know the story. Let it live in your hearts.
On March 6 this year Glenn McLean wrote an article in the Daily News.
The heading read,” Francis Douglas Old Boys making mark in Super Rugby.” His focus was on rugby but I am confident that the same could be said about students representing the College in all manner of other activities as well. Listen to what he said.
“ What has struck me about the above mentioned men
is that to a man they have been articulate, friendly and obliging in any dealings I have had with them. They appear mature beyond their years whilst also having the ability to have plenty of fun with a wide peer group. I might not be entirely accurate but collectively they appear reasonably modest, something that takes one further than one thinks in New Zealand where the tall poppy syndrome remains widespread.”
I can just hear Father Frank reading that and saying “ Good on you, Mate.”
Our College is steeped in the Lasallian tradition. It was on March 3 that Martin Crowe died. Many people spoke at his funeral. Among many memorable quotes one that stood out for me was this one from Lorraine Downes his wife, who was a former Miss Universe.
“ When the cancer arrived he did the courageous work
of facing himself and from that internal work he finally saw what we knew about him, that he was a gentle, kind and loving soul. That peace made him able to touch the lives of others close to him for the better.”
That summed up beautifully for me what being Lasallian actually means. When we know who we really are and can see ourselves as others can see us and act accordingly that’s when we touch their hearts and make a difference.
And so that badge that we carry around with us everywhere on bags, books and all manner of clothing we wear tells everyone that we are a living memory of a kiwi priest, Father Francis Vernon Douglas and all that he stood for. That we are part of an International Movement begun in the Seventeenth Century
by John Baptist de La Salle, a french priest, who is the patron saint of teachers.
But wait! There’s more. There is something else. The source of the goodness and generosity of these men came surely from that great First Century teacher and healer, Jesus the Christ. And yes, there on the badge are two words
“ Christo Duce” ... With Christ as leader.
And this gives rise to the third aspect that I want to explore. Here I will let my very dear and close friend Mrs. Coles have the last word. And over the years I know that many of us have found ourselves in exactly this same position. The number of students and other people whom she has helped over the years is legendary, always done with self effacing modesty and no expectation of any return. And so it was that on March 9, I think it was, she took herself off to the South Sudan, the newest country in the world, to share her resources with those whom she saw as most in need. She is working with one of our ex Principals, Br. Bill. She is in constant danger. I said to her shortly before she left, “ Joan, why are you doing this,” and she replied,
“ Because Br. Bill has asked for help, and my heart goes out to those people. I’ve got to do something.”
It reminds me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. St. Francis of Assisi put it this way,
“ Lord, teach me to be generous... To give without counting the cost.”
And so in coming to this College you have all accepted a mighty challenge. When the time comes to leave and for you to continue to develop your special gifts and talents let the Trinity of Christ, de La Salle and Fr. Frank continue to be your inspiration. May your choice of career be an opportunity to be of service to your community.
May Jesus live in your hearts forever.
And amidst the unfolding Koru of the cycle of your life remember this:
Vive cum plane non paenitentia.
Live your life to the full with no regrets.
I’ll see you around.