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Community is important in order to create inclusive and welcoming spaces—in schools, among other places.

Annette Mallay
Credit : St. Bonaventure’s College

“One of my priorities as an educator is to really try to support our students as whole human beings, trying to tap into every part of what makes them special and unique as members of our community. This requires providing a lot of care for each individual student.” Walking with young people to create a hopeful, more just future is at the core of the Ignatian life of Annette Marie Mallay, Head of Administration, Ignatian Identity, and Student Formation at St. Bonaventure’s College in Newfoundland.

What does it mean to be Ignatian today? (See the other articles here, here, here and here.)

Along with her colleagues who also embody Ignatian principles, Mallay cares for each and every child at St. Bon’s and prepares them to become leaders in their community.

“We try to instill in the students that it’s not just about becoming a doctor and having wealth; it is about how you are going to transform the community you live in, or how you will experience the world, to help make it a better place.”

In your experience, what is the most important Ignatian value?

The most important value for an Ignatian educator is cura personalis, caring for each and every child who comes through our doors and meeting them where they are when they enter, from kindergarten to grade 12.

Our identity as a religious school sets us apart because we get to know our students on a different level than in public school. We are able to support them if they need guidance—academically, spiritually. We try to open them to growth, to encourage them to see other perspectives, to realize that faith doesn’t have to be just Catholic prayer, it can be any encounter, any conversation with God.

Are there other features that set you apart from other schools?

Of course, for us the social justice piece is vital to everything. Yes, we want our students to develop, grow and succeed. We love to hear when our students get into medical school or law school. But what they do with that experience afterwards is a true testament to whether or not we have done a good job.

We try to instill in the students that it’s not just about becoming a doctor and having wealth; it is about how you are going to transform the community you live in, or how you will experience the world, to help make it a better place.

Our connections, our relationships, and our commitment to walking with our youth are what set us apart from any other school within this province.

My consolations are the joys of having an amazing faculty and staff at our school.

Do you have an example in mind?

Here is one example among many. We had a student who came into our junior high, probably about ten years ago. He had no interest in school. He had no interest in succeeding. His parents were frustrated with the path he was taking. At first, he was very resistant to the uniform and to the rules of the school.

Over the course of two months, a couple of our teachers really worked on forming a relationship of trust with him. Throughout that year, there were subtle changes in him. As the relationships developed, he started to let his guard down and become more invested in the school.

When he came back in the fall, he was in senior high. He was able to participate in our service program at a local soup kitchen, which is just behind our school. He helped to prepare and serve breakfast for people who are poor and marginalized, those with severe mental health issues, etc. Something clicked in him during that time of service. It was humbling for him and he was awakened to the experiences of these clients. He formed relationships with them because he was there on a daily basis. After that experience, he became involved in our Social Justice Group, and when he graduated, he was awarded one of our prestigious social justice leadership awards.

Fast forward. During his studies, he struggled to decide what he wanted to do. But after receiving his undergrad arts degree, he was hired by the same soup kitchen to be the director of client services.

We have the Young Magis award at St. Bon’s, and it’s given to an alumnus who exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be a student at our school—someone who gives selflessly to the community after graduation and who has a spirit of social justice as a focal point in their life. This young man was given that award two years ago.

What are some of the consolations and desolations in your Ignatian work?

My consolations are the joys of having an amazing faculty and staff at our school.

The desolations for me right now are the struggles of the Catholic Church in our province, of our Jesuits who were displaced. St. Bon’s is a faith-based school, and we have a wonderful opportunity to be there for the Church, to help play a role in reconfiguring and reconstructing the Church here in the province. And so, while there is desolation in the state of affairs, there is a lot of excitement about the role that our youth can play in rebuilding the Church and making it better.

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