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Catholic Teacher blog: Go forward in hope

Brendan Nicholls  |  07 February 2019

A new year has begun. Welcome back, and for those new to their school communities welcome. This is such vibrant and happy time of the school year as students adjust to new classes, courses and expectations.

Although so positive I also know that we are in the ‘honeymoon period’. By the time we get to week four many of use (staff, students and parents) find that the energy can drop off and that we can retreat into safer ‘old’ behaviours or outlooks. Change is challenging and we often find it hard to maintain the focus long enough to bring about long-term reform. Often in education we see students enter the year exceptionally well and then by the end of the first term see this energy wane. When this happens students often falter and go back to safer behaviours or attitudes.


Us adults are similar. We begin a new year with so many goals. By the time the first month of work and family life has ended most of the things we determined to change or work towards have fallen by the wayside.

The problem of wanting to go back to what is safe and easy is not new. In the early Church we read of Christians who wanted to go back to their old beliefs. Exodus is the ongoing story of Moses encountering this problem for 40 years.

In considering the difficulty of change I would like to offer a parable of sorts. There is a story of a Spanish captain who landed with his crew in the New World. On landing his troops refused to follow him into the unknown. They were rightly fearful of this strange land. The captain responded to these fears by opening barrels of rum on the beach, inviting his men there for a celebration. When all were accounted for, he signed to his trusted leaders, who had remained the ships. At his signal they burnt the ships. The captain told his men, ‘If we go back, we will go back on their ships!’


Burning the ships is an excellent image for us to begin the year with and may well help us achieve long term and ongoing change. We can apply this image to our school/work life, our personal relationships and in our relationship with God.

Take a moment to reflect upon your life at this present moment and the changes you hope to make this year. Then determine the choices that need to be made to achieve each of these goals. Then burn the ships. Remove the opportunity to return to what is safe. In doing so you will find that when the commitment wanes or the energy drops you can still move forward.


Consistency is the key to change. A little bit often, combined with a commitment to a goal ensures success. By also ‘burning the ships’ you cannot go back. This is always a good thing. We were made for growth. We only become whom God knows us to be if we reflect on how we can be more and give more.

At our school staff mass, Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards offered the homily. He encouraged us as teachers and support staff to, ‘Do ordinary things with great hope’. If we refuse to go back to the ordinary and what is safe, and seek to reach our goals by making progress with hope the commitment will not waiver. This year make change with the hope that you can achieve anything you set your mind to in the presence of Our Lord. Our hope is found in Him.

As you enter into this new year I pray that you will find the time to reflect on your life, discern what is best for you and those around you and that with courage and faith in God you go forward in hope. In doing so you will find the fullness of life offered to you by the only person whom this fullness can be found in – Jesus. 

Brendan Nicholls is liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.


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