What makes St. John’s a unique school

ms-deans-address-to-the-middle-school-assembly-2There is something special about St. John’s. Hopefully this is a claim which resonates with all of us – whether you have taught here for 20 years, studied here for 8, or have only just arrived. There is something special about St. John’s.

All schools are different, with their own history, personality, community, legacy. No school is the same, and none have quite the same character. So it might seem that my previous statement about St. John’s is a terribly hollow one. However, there is “unique” and then there is “special”. Yes – St. John’s is a unique school, unlike any other, but it is also a special one – not just different, special.

mm_pic.jpgThe lady who established the order who founded our school, Marie Madeleine d’Houet, lived over 200 years ago. She was educated in a spiritual tradition that called this special quality that I have been talking about “one’s charism” – it is from this word that we derive the term charisma. Each of us has our own charism, which shines in infinite hues – it is found not just in the charismatic leaders, but in the humble fortitude of the quiet listener, the bold generosity of the question answerer, and the companionable patience of the constant friend. Significantly, it is the mingling of our charisms, the interplay of ours and others various gifts within the context of this school that gives this place its particular charism, its own specialness. St. Johns is a tapestry woven from the gloriously colored threads that each of us contributes to the work – the vibrancy of this tapestry, the specialness of this place, comes from the way in which we share our charism in this community.

But an institution cannot rely on the vibrancy of its members alone to make something special. After all, a bundle of threads, no matter how vibrant and diverse their colors, may just remain a bundle of threads. Careful consideration, ambitious vision and judicious planning have all been required for this school to have developed it’s truly special charism. It is our founders who have given us the framework around which our school’s special charism has grown. Marie Madeleine d’Houet displayed great courage, vision and conviction when she established the FCJ’s, the order of Catholic religious nuns who, more than 50 years ago, laid the foundations of the St. John’s education and have accompanied many hundreds of students through their time here. It is they who wove the first stitches in the St. John’s tapestry and their charism has been a constant thread throughout all that has become of the school, they made it possible for St. John’s to be the special place it is today.

Whilst Marie Madeleine d’Houet was clearly a woman with deep spiritual charism. She was also a bold visionary. Undeterred by the Jesuits’ refusal to let her and other women join their ranks, she simply went off and set up her own religious order – a group for women devoted to Christ and education.

In their day, the religious orders were the communities set up by people who wanted to be involved in lifting their community to a better place – be it through prayer, service, study, healing or education. The FCJ nuns targeted education, and in time they founded St. John’s as a school that offered more than just a diploma. Their efforts and ours, have created something more out of the curricular and extra-curricular programs we offer, so much so that we can boast of our education being “ a St. John’s education”. Here we are more than just another international school.

In many ways, the courage to do more than just educate, the courage that inspired Marie Madeleine d’Houet and her sisters all these years to build and sustain special learning communities like ours, is the same courage that has motivated their decision to trust our school to the “Inspired Education Group”. In many ways, the Inspired Education Group is motivated by similar impulses as those which prompted our founder to start the FCJ’s over 200 years ago – both Inspired and the FCJ’s believe that it is through excellent education that excellent people can make excellent contributions to the world.

With the sale of the school, we ought to look forward to a new era and at the same time look back with gratitude to our founder, Marie Madeleine d’Houet, and her sisters. For the special charism they have given our school, for helping create this special place where we have been nurtured and where we have been encouraged to weave a stitch in the magnificent tapestry that is this school, and for their courage to set the school on its exciting course with broad horizons and new frontiers under the banner of the Inspired Education Group.

We have much to be thankful for. Thank you.

By James Prowse, MS Dean of Students