The Hill

Franciscan Readings for the Christian Year – gladly hosted by the Franciscan Friars (Holy Spirit Province) in Kedron, Australia. Have you seen the view from The Hill?

Mouse! A Reminder to Value Every Student.


Aquinas College Ringwood has had more than its share of sad news over the last three years.   Anyone who works at Aquinas probably doesn’t appreciate what a strong community it is.  Time and time again, no matter what tragedy befalls it, an enormous support network comes out of the woodwork.   In the case of gentle James “Mouse” Winchester, this is no different.

I had a phone call from a lovely young woman called Alanna Abrey.  Alanna and I haven’t spoken for quite a while.  This was proven when I answered the phone “Alanna, how are you?”  and she replied, “Oh, Bro! We still have the same numbers.”  I could tell that what Alanna was communicating was a very adult and very sensitive task.   So much respect.  This has happened before when we all start to call one another to offer support and to recall those most affected.

James Winchester, as I remember him, was a student who just exuded good will and comfort.   James was not especially a high-achiever nor was he an especially great athlete.  James probably didn’t get up on assembly to receive accolades often.   James probably got in trouble for his uniform and talking in class.   I wouldn’t even be surprised if James appeared in J1.02 on occasion (heaven forbid).

The teachers that have messaged me have described him as, “My Mousey,” “A beautiful kid,” “A champ,” “Just a lovely boy,” “All smiles.”  James may not have been the pride of every subject that he undertook but there is no doubt that he was very much loved.   And what else should you expect from a Catholic school.

James reminds us to never take any student for granted, whether they are enrolled or have graduated.  He reminds us that, in the back of every teacher’s mind, there remains a kernel of presence that someone we taught leaves us.   This kernel is recognition of the life and vitality of the young person in formation before life deals them the unfairness and tragedy that can sometimes unfold.  They are in a chrysallis for us, in the moments of their teenagerhood where we see a beautiful personality develop, an attitude plateau, a defiance reconcile and an adult emerge.  Those teachers, family and friends who were lucky enough to witness this transition in James must consider themselves very blessed indeed.

For James was a once-off.  The mould was broken with him.  And I pray that every teacher, every parent and every best friend not wait until a news report appears to tell that student, that son/daughter, that mate that they are loved.


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5 thoughts on “Mouse! A Reminder to Value Every Student.

  1. molly exton on said:

    brother matt, you are incredible 🙂

  2. Julie Self on said:

    Beautiful words , love and thoughts to his family .

  3. Joanne Sheffield on said:

    Your words are words of truth ,wisdom and love Matt. They are an honest reminder to us . I’m just so sorry that this happened. James was truly a gentle soul and l remember him with great fondness from his time at St Richards Primary school.

  4. Julia Tropeano on said:

    i left aquinas in year 8… but in those times me and mouse were the besssst of friends, every time i skipped school he would come up to me the next day ‘juliaaaaaa’ and yell at me…. we got in trouble so much together lol he was my favourite and even only knowing him for just over a year he made me think i knew him for a life time. ill never ever ever forget him

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