President’s Report 2020 – 2021
There is something to learn from even the toughest of experiences. Even if it is too soon to appreciate all that we had to learn in 2020, I do think 2021 will feel very different – if not quite yet! It has started with a jolting feeling of déjà vu. It seems extraordinary to recall that, this time a year ago, none of us had heard of Covid-19. The term had yet to be invented. The more globally aware may have had just an inkling that something troubling was brewing in a place most of us hadn’t heard of before – Wuhan.
But none of us was prepared for the unfolding event that has since dominated all our lives, regardless of where we live in the world.
It wasn’t just the pandemic we were unprepared for – with huge respect to the health professionals and others who have worked, heart and soul, to keep us safe and well since then. It was also the idea that so many things we have taken completely for granted, can no longer be assumed as non-negotiable, always available, ours as of right. Relative freedom of movement, the right to go to school, a trouble-free university education, job security, frequent foreign holidays, even toilet rolls and pasta in the supermarket.
In reality these things have always been relative – hundreds of millions, in fact billions, of people do not, and may never be able to take such things for granted. Perhaps now is a good time to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions: even if I can get in the car again to drive to work rather than cycling, or fly frequently again for holiday breaks, is that the right thing to do? Knowing what I now know should I prioritise more time to be with family and friends?
We are more aware today than we were a year ago, of deep-seated inequalities in our societies; and how these have a material effect on people’s life chances. The pandemic emphasised this in frightening ways. But they were there before the pandemic took hold. Have we allowed ourselves to become complacent because we have the means to ensure that inequality of opportunity doesn’t affect us too much? In his new book ‘Let us Dream’ – the subject of the first in the Association webinars looking at contemporary issues – Pope Francis reminds us of ‘the basic rule of a crisis…you come out better or worse, but never the same’. To emerge better ‘we have to see clearly, choose well and act right’.
The Association, and the College, have responded to the pandemic by developing new ways for friends to come together – a virtual pilgrimage to Lourdes, opening the Campion Mass to anyone who could Zoom in, launching Stonyhurst Link and inviting distinguished speakers to share with us their perspectives on what a more responsible and inclusive political debate might look like: beginning with Austen Ivereigh, world authority on the Francis papacy, and Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK. There is, of course, lots more we can do.
It has been a great privilege for me to serve as President of the Association for 23 months. I hand over to Dom Hartley in April. He will find new ways for us to meet, support, sustain and challenge each other; as well as to reach out more widely in our communities, in whatever ways we can, to be men and women for others, especially those most in need.
My thanks to everyone who works so hard behind the scenes to keep the Association, and its varied activities at home and abroad, functioning and lively, whatever the challenges. Special thanks to Beverley, Layla and Michael in the Association Office, and to the Association Committee led by Simon Andrews.
Together with them I’d like to wish you, and your loved ones, a Happy New Year. It may have started in familiar vein but it won’t end like that. Last year certainly didn’t. Hopefully we will have learned, changed and, amidst sadness and loss, have begun to see that we are stronger for the testing time we have had to endure.
Tim Livesey OS 1973 – 1977
President’s Report 2019 – 2020
It has been a very unusual year. I am not sure how many past Presidents of the Association have been asked to film themselves giving an address to Rhetoricians who would otherwise have listened in person, at the Association’s Great Academies reception; but that gives you a flavour. This is the year that the College closed in March, Great Academies was held as a virtual on-line event, the Lourdes pilgrimage was cancelled, so too the Easter retreat for families at Stonyhurst; and a walking holiday on a section of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella was postponed, along with a number of Association events and social gatherings.
2020 will be remembered by us all and will feature in the annals of the Association, as well as the school, as a year marked by disruption but not, I hope, despair. We have simply had to adapt along with the rest of the country to entirely unforeseen events. I want to salute the way that the College and the Association went about that adaptation with a minimum of fuss and maximum of care, particularly for all those directly affected, including our Association Office staff, Beverley and Layla, who accepted the need to be furloughed with predictable grace.
The Association exists to look after its members and to build up our common life. This year has been no exception, even if many of the best-laid plans have had to be put to one side until we can regroup. In many respects it is precisely at times like these, which many of us have experienced as deeply painful – perhaps having lost loved ones – personally challenging, or just plain confusing, that we appreciate more than ever our bonds of solidarity and family. When we do meet again, virtually or in person, we will have much to share.
The year got off to a great start with a very successful Lourdes pilgrimage. Amongst the 128 pilgrims and helpers in the Stonyhurst contingent we had 26 young OS which was very encouraging. Young OS were also very much in at the Association’s Annual Dinner on November 9th 2019. Perhaps it was the location, the de Vere hotel, situated in what was once Beaumont College, that attracted a large crowd of more than 200 OS, OB, friends and family. It was moving and memorable to gather in such numbers, possibly for the first time since the school was closed, and especially to be able to celebrate Mass together in Beaumont’s beautiful former chapel on Sunday morning and, later, for some of us to join OBs in their annual Remembrance Service around the War Memorial. A special thanks to our guest of honour, Tom Shufflebotham SJ, for attending and reminding us of the gifts and graces of a Jesuit education. These were admirably and un-self-consciously displayed in their superb after dinner speeches by the joint Heads of Line.
My thanks to Association members who organised excellent, and very well attended sporting events at St John’s Beaumont, and Preston Grasshoppers, and many more besides. We plan to re-run in the autumn the two topical issues events cancelled because of the lockdown: virtually if necessary. These are looking at what makes for public discussion and debate that contributes, rather than puts at risk, the common good.
Thanks also to the Association Committee which met as usual throughout the year and is ably, and sympathetically, chaired by Simon Andrews. Its members, like all those who work so hard to organise events and gatherings – with the excellent and indispensable support of Beverley and her team – are all volunteers. The Association is necessarily a team effort – a pooling of our collective and voluntary social capital. Do consider whether you have ideas, energy and time to contribute to our joint effort.
We are particularly proud of the help we are able to give to a number of charitable endeavours, to which will be added next year a contribution to the Stonyhurst Foundation to provide a bursary for at least one student who would not otherwise be able to benefit from an education at the school. The Association’s investment income has, along with the markets, taken a hit this year; so if you were considering making a donation to support our charitable work, now would be a very good time.
I am immensely grateful for the privilege and honour of being President over the past year and am delighted that Dominic Hartley following in his Uncle’s footsteps has agreed to take over from me. The Association has, however agreed, to another unprecedented development in this most unprecedented of years. I will continue as President until 2021 so that Dominic can begin his term in more favourable circumstances. In the interim, he and I – ably supported by, amongst others, my predecessor Jimmy Burns – will work closely together to plan for the next stage of the Association’s life.
We have been given, quite literally, pause for thought. Amongst other things we will be looking at how the Association’s current structures, membership arrangements and constitution might be updated, and where possible simplified, to ensure we are as fit for purpose as possible, in a time of tremendous change and challenge. That work will commence shortly and run though the autumn; along, we hope, with a resumption of more familiar Association activities, currently on hold. Of that more anon.
In the meantime: a sincere and personal thank you to you all for your forbearance during an exceptional year. Laus Deo Semper.
Tim Livesey OS 1973 – 1977
President’s Report 2018 – 2019
It was an unexpected and humbling experience to receive a gentle tap on the shoulder from Nick King SJ towards the end of 2017 nominating me as President (2018-2019) given the distinguished record of recent incumbents in the post- Terry Holt, Robert Brinkley, and not least my enduring spiritual mentor, Nick himself.
It was also a challenge. The job description had its terms of reference loosely defined, the role being broadly stated as the public face of the Association tasked with trying to enhance its public reputation and recognition. There have been other Burns at Stonyhurst-including two uncles-one a missionary Jesuit priest (George), and a Black Watch officer (David) killed in WW1 and commemorated in the College’s war memorial. And yet I if I was to take on the unpaid job with a one year time limit set by others, it was not for the title, or to rest on ancestral or professional laurels, but to try and help make a positive contribution to developing an Ignatius ethos, respecting how things had been done before, but not shirking from attempting to shake up what needed to change, breaking down silos, and improving communications and transparency.
I owe a debt to two towering personal influences on me, my OS father Tom Burns OS 1928 a former Editor of The Tablet and Pope Francis, each of whom, in the spirit of Vatican 2, and the Jesuit charism, have taught me that our Faith cannot be separated from our engagement with the world, seeking God in all Things, building bridges not walls.
The more immediate test run for my Presidency had me sharing my admiration for Pope Francis as his biographer-his compassionate and reforming spirit, his reaching out to the marginalised, his Christian ecology, in talks to staff , parents and pupils at the College and meetings with several Jesuits around the world. Having Francisco bless myself and my wife Kidge on our 40th anniversary of marriage celebration in Rome last May energised me for the year ahead. As did consciousness of the historic links the College has with the Spanish speaking world. My Anglo Spanish blood (I was born to a Spanish mother), flowed naturally towards setting up a Friends of Stonyhurst in Spain Facebook site, organising an OS reunion in Toledo and Madrid in September 2018, and an Ignatian pilgrimage to Catalonia during Lent 2019.
Enduring loyalty had me promoting and volunteering as a Brancardier the Lourdes pilgrimage last summer and this upcoming one, while also encouraging pupils and young and old OS not to shy away from other projects working for social justice and embracing the ecological spirit of Laudato Si in spirit and action to transform our society and save our planet.
Tradition dictated that I presided over the annual Association dinner. I did so at Stonyhurst in October 2018, with the current Tablet editor Brendan Walsh as a thought provoking guest speaker, and the event providing an opportunity to reach out across ages and continents, including several OS of my generation who had disconnected with the school since leaving it. I was delighted that the occasion was not only was convivial but also worthwhile, raising funds for Jesuit Missions at the Sunday collection and helping forge an ongoing partnership between Stonyhurst and The Tablet.
In December 2018 I represented the Association at the Stonyhurst carol service in Farm Street and in March 2019 hosted a brainstorming Stonyhurst Association ‘425’ Convivial Dinner at the Garrick Club for key stake holders of the Stonyhurst family, and other guests to pose the question :whither Catholic education? The discerning spirit of the evening , well summarised by one of the young OS present, was that while we were a community and a network with a shared education, spirituality and ethos, we needed to maintain an explicit focus on mission and be open to new avenues. As our guest speaker Fr Damian Howard reminded us, the present and future includes a joint effort of Jesuits and lay people, many of them employed, even more fulfilling various voluntary functions in responding to God’s love for a broken world.
We made some small, discreet but not insignificant steps towards assisting others in need, including the support for the pilgrimage in Spain, an additional £5,000 benevolent grant from the President’s Fund, and support for the American Collegium Scholar who will be working with Jan Graffius, the College Curator later this year.
Fr Damian and Jan are among several people whose counsel and advice I have hugely valued, former Presidents, our Chairman Simon Andrews, the College’s Director of Strategic Development Stephen Withnell, Headmaster John Browne and Lay Chaplain Catherine Hanley along with other College staff members, pupils, and OS and members of the Association Committee. A warm thanks to the Office Manager Beverley Sillitoe for her tireless admin support throughout the year.
Together we have tried to make progress in improving over the last year how the Association communicates not just with alumni but with other parts of the Stonyhurst family. There is a great deal more to do but I am sure that my successor Tim Livesey will keep the Association moving forward in the right direction.
Jimmy Burns OBE OS 71
President’s Report 2017 – 2018
It was an unexpected honour to be asked to be President of the Stonyhurst Association. Stonyhurst has played a hugely important part in my life. Coming from a naval family, which was constantly on the move, I was the first in my family to go away to school and to university. Stonyhurst nurtured my faith in Christ and gave me great opportunities.
In those days Stonyhurst was a boys’ boarding school, with a large Jesuit community. Since then my three sons have been at the College, and my wife has been a governor. We have witnessed the College’s transformation into a successful co-educational school for both boarding and day pupils.
What makes Stonyhurst different from other schools is its Jesuit ethos, formed over the course of more than four hundred years. In recent times much good work has been done to help everyone at the College to understand and sustain the Jesuit ethos. But there is now only one Jesuit at Stonyhurst, Father Tim Curtis SJ, who ministers to St Joseph’s, Hurst Green, St Peter’s parish and St Mary’s Hall as well as the College. In my view, a continuing and reinforced Jesuit presence at Stonyhurst is vital. To offset the declining number of Jesuits in the English province, I hope it will be possible to invite Jesuits from other provinces, blessed with more manpower, to spend time at Stonyhurst.
The highlight of my year as President was the annual dinner on 17 November at Mercers’ Hall in London, on the site where St Thomas Becket was born. The guest of honour was Bishop Borys Gudziak, who ministers to Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. He is also President of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), and has been a big influence in my life over the past fifteen years. After the end of the Soviet Union, he went to Ukraine and built up UCU from nothing to become one of Ukraine’s best universities, a beacon of high academic and moral standards. This is a vivid example of what can be achieved when there is faith in God.
My presidential year has also included a convivium at Farm Street in June 2017, the Easter retreat at Stonyhurst and the Dublin dinner in May 2018. I represented the Association at the Memorial Mass in Westminster Cathedral for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor. He had spent his last years living and working in our home parish of Our Lady of Grace and St Edward in Chiswick.
I am glad that the Stonyhurst Association is giving financial support to the Christian Heritage Centre, a wonderful initiative to make Stonyhurst’s great historic collections more widely accessible.
My warm thanks go to the Association Committee, ably chaired by Simon Andrews, and particularly to the Office Manager, Beverley Sillitoe, who as always, has tirelessly and with great efficiency organised events throughout my year of office.
Robert Brinkley CMG OS 72