September 2017

Having a voice

Our voice may seem insignificant, but we all have a voice that needs to be heard, respected and encouraged, says Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS

Jade is a senior student at Mater Dei, a school west of Sydney which caters specifically for students who have particular support needs. Jade is a gifted musician who recently wrote her own song, both music and lyrics; it is a powerful song about her own anxieties and fears facing the end of her school life. Jade faced these anxieties with great courage and sang her song to an audience of 500 people at the school’s annual fundraising dinner.

Entitled “The Time Will Come”, the first verse reads:

I start worrying and I don’t know why
I keep thinking of everything, what they think and how they feel
Do they really care, will it change the way I feel,
The anxiety I can’t ignore, the time will come.

As Jade sang her song with deep emotion and meaning, about her own trepidation growing up and facing a world beyond the security of her school, the crowd listened without a murmur. All were captured by the plaintive sound of Jade’s beautiful voice and her plea for understanding.

Every one of us is born into this world for a purpose and with God-given gifts and talents. It is our lifelong task to nurture and develop those gifts for the betterment of the world and for the personal and spiritual enrichment of ourselves and of others. We can all continue to learn, to grow and to develop throughout our life. This is the desire underpinning Jade’s plea to her educators and the world at large – to let her grow and develop in her own unique way.

Jade’s school has encouraged and assisted her to find and to strengthen her own particular aptitude for song and rhythm through its music therapy program. Surely, this is the aim of all good education, to assist learners to develop their particular potential and to find and contribute their unique gift to this world.

So often in our Western culture, discussions about education and learning are confined to a narrow focus on a small range of achievements, like maths and reading, or the testing of a narrow range of skills, rather than a holistic view which values everyone’s personal qualities and passion for a full and enriching life.

Only this week I read that the Federal Government is pushing for national tests in reading and maths for Year 1 students. I ask: as important as they are, are these tests the only measures of learning potential for such young children? Will they label children for the rest of their lives? What about their potential for music, art and enquiry, as well as many other wonderful skills and competencies?

Jade went on to sing in her song:

To let it go away, all the stress inside,
I need the strength to carry on,
So I believe, everything will work out fine,
I just have to keep trying
The time… will come
The time will come,
Oh the time will come

Jade’s singing called me back to reflect on my own purpose in life and learnings, my own God-given gifts and the responsibility to continue to nurture those gifts.

As my term as the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan finishes in the coming days, this is my final “Musings” column for The Good Oil. This e-magazine has given me a voice to reflect on and to share the values that we, as Sisters of the Good Samaritan, hold dear.

Here, in a small way, like Jade, we can express our hopes and cries for ourselves, the Church and the world at this time. In a world troubled by violence and despair, at international levels and in families and many personal lives, this e-magazine has given me and others a space to discuss spirituality and the invitation to live peacefully.

Our voice may seem insignificant. But like Jade, we all have a voice that needs to be heard, that needs to be respected and encouraged – especially from the very day small children enter the classroom.

Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is a former Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She served as leader from September 2005 until September 2017. In 2013, Clare was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission in recognition of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ work with asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians and the victims of domestic violence. In 2022, Clare was awarded an Honorary Doctor of the University from Australian Catholic University.

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