I had the opportunity to attend the BENet Conference over the school holidays in Sydney with a number of St Mary’s staff. BENet is an international conference that occurs every three years under the auspices of the International Commission on Benedictine Education (ICBE). The ICBE is the organisation of the Benedictine and Cistercian Orders that promotes schools in the Benedictine tradition around the world and as a Good Samaritan College, we are part of this network. That’s a complicated way of saying that we were at a conference of fellow travellers. The Conference was held in Sydney and it was excellent.
With the title “Benedictine Wisdom Beneath the Southern Cross,” educators from 17 countries gathered to explore new models of governance in education embracing the diverse expressions of Benedictine spirituality with visitors from every continent and throughout Australia. The speakers were excellent, as where the experiences including walking workshops, prayer opportunities, community celebrations and excellent social events. However, the highlight for me were the people we met.
When you attend a conference such as this, you can expect to meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures, languages and experiences. There were people from Silicon Valley, California in the US through to people from Tanzania, Uganda, India, the Philippines, Europe and South America. It truly was a melting pot and one that was rich and vibrant. The one thing we all had in common was our faith and our commitment to Benedictine education.
One of our most wonderful experiences was accompanying two Tanzanian sisters to the Wild Life City Zoo at Darling Harbour. While this wasn’t completely fitting within the definition of a walking workshop, one of the sisters had wanted to see a kangaroo from the time she was a little girl. At the park she saw kangaroos, koalas, platypus, emus and various other Australian animals. I believe this was the highlight of the conference for both sisters.
However, the highlight for me was the opportunity to be with and get too know people from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. Spending time with these Sisters and other overseas visitors provided opportunities to share experiences, educational insights and simply to get to know people. We talk a lot about global connections and international mindedness at St Mary’s as an IB school. The main aim of the IB and the Middle Years Program is to develop active learners and internationally minded young people who can empathise with others and pursue lives of purpose and meaning. It was wonderful to have the opportunity for Australian educators to share this experience.
Rather than talking the talk, each of us was challenged to walk the walk and engage with people that we knew little about. It was definitely an amazing opportunity for me and for many others and it is an experience that I will cherish.
I hope you have a fantastic weekend.
Dr PittBack to All Articles