Have you ever been asked to do something, agreed to it and then later questioned how wise your decision was? Agreeing to write this piece for the Parish Newsletter is one such occasion for me. Though I have written many hundreds of reflections for school newsletters over the years, this feels a bit like being selected for State of Origin from a country reserve grade team. It is therefore with great humility that I offer my reflections on this week’s Gospel.

As a Catholic School Principal, a great deal of my time involves settling disputes: disputes between students, student and staff, staff and staff and staff and parents and even between parent and parent. The most difficult to solve is when I, as Principal, am on one side of the dispute.

In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18: 15-20, Jesus outlines a procedure for settling disputes between members of the community. He does not discourage disagreement but acknowledges the reality of conflict and error with any community.

Modern customs and advertising urge us to first seek solutions “out there” – for a headache, take a Panadol; for tension take a Valium and if we are short of money put it on Bankcard. These are OK but are only temporary solutions. The same can be said for many of the conflict situations I find myself involved in – the desire to hand the problem to someone else to resolve.

In the conflict example given in the today’s Gospel, Jesus suggests that the first step to a resolution is to privately address the other person in an attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement. This step will appear as step 1 of the Conflict Resolution policies of most organisations.

Those of you who attend Mass at St Mary’s would have noticed reference to MJR on the school’s signage. Our Making Jesus Real (MJR) program is centred on the belief that we are the image of Jesus to all people around us. We are His representatives and our actions should reflect His values. In the scriptures, Jesus says that we are part of His family and that the way we treat others should be reflective of the way we would treat Jesus.

The students and teachers use the acronym “W.E.S.T.I.E” as a means of raising awareness of the values which guide our daily interactions. The acronym stands for:

  • Welcoming – being friendly and welcoming to others
  • Encouraging – Saying positive things to self and others
  • Saying Sorry – admitting personal wrongdoing and taking steps to repair relationships.
  • Thankful – showing appreciation to others
  • Inclusive – being inclusive in words and actions to others
  • Enthusiastic – showing a positive attitude toward school work, peers and teachers.

At the end of the Gospel Reading, Jesus promises that He will guide the decision of those who pray. As a Catholic Community, may we seek God’s guidance through prayer and follow Jesus’ example of being a W.E.S.T.I.E.

Mike Quinn – Principal St Mary’s Primary School