Sabina visits Our Lady of Mercy College

Fri 11th May, 2018 | 11:00
location: Our Lady of Mercy College, Beaumont Rd, Beaumont, Dublin 9

Our Lady of Mercy College, Beaumont Rd, Beaumont, Dublin 9

Friday, 11th May, 2018

Speech by Sabina Higgins at the 60th Anniversary of Our Lady of Mercy College, Beaumont

Our Lady of Mercy College, Beaumont, Friday, 11th May 2018

Good morning everyone.  It is a great pleasure to be here with you all this morning and thank you for your warm welcome and to the Principal Rose Mary Lynch and teacher Aoife Rooney for inviting me to be here with you to celebrate your sixtieth anniversary. Happy Birthday to Our Lady of Mercy College as it celebrates its 60th year of existence.  

I think it is wonderful that Our Lady of Mercy College has such a great selection of extracurricular activities.   It is really good to be involved in whatever is going on in your school.  It means you will all have the skills and the courage to participate in life in a very full, enjoyable way. Work is only one part of your life.  Being able and willing to participate in things is essential, and you don’t have to be winning – not everyone can win – just having the pleasure of participating in the activity for the sport and the fun of it.  In sporting activities, in music, in dance, singing, clubs etc.

Do your best but never be jealous if you are not the best.  Just being part of something for enjoyment is enough and being able to take part in as many things as possible will give you a deeper interest, and knowledge, in the activity.  Not everyone is going to be in the All-Ireland Final but that doesn’t stop anybody loving the game.

For those of you who are in your Leaving Cert year this is one of the most important and exciting times in your lives.  You will be leaving school and going on to 3rd level learning and out into the world as young adults.  This is an important stage for you, wonderfully exciting, but also challenging.

You will all, in whatever class at some stage leave the safe, secure environment of school and maybe home where your life is fairly planned and predictable.  You are in the group of people you have been with for years and you have a certain familiar relationship with, and they will continue to be important to you, but you will be forming many new and different relationships. Your time in school is preparation for that time.

You will be becoming people out in the world, where becoming a conscious person and having a good a sense of yourself, of your authenticity, of your dignity and self-worth will be important.  A time when you must assert yourself, and make decisions about your life, and your engagement with its possibilities.  That doesn’t mean that it will be the perfect decision and indeed you may well change that decision and make other decisions as you grow further.  You are of course somewhat constrained by the options that are initially open to you.  You may see limited choices but whatever they are, think well about them and never allow yourself to be pressurised into doing something that would not be your own choice.  

It is important to pursue what it is you are really interested in.  Of course, it can often take a long time to know what you would really like to be giving your time to.  One of the greatest blessings in life is to be able to be working at something one loves.  However, fulfilment takes many forms.  One’s life is very broad, there are many aspects to it.  A person is not defined by just their job or by a romantic relationship.  The important thing is that you are living what you feel to be an authentic life.  

What you really enjoy as a pastime, as a hobby or your engagement in the community, can be what gives you most enjoyment and gives your life most meaning.  One should never undervalue that.  Aside from work one might be having a wonderful exciting life as part of a community group, a music group, a band, a coral society, a drama or musical society and a sports club, craft, painting, volunteer group, support group, camera club, book clubs, discussion and debating group, a political group etc. etc.


The important thing is your embracing of life and engaging and participating as fully as possible.  It’s important to remember that what you do at school is only to give you a start on learning and indeed often the pressure of exams can take from the enjoyment of the subject at the time or a love you could have for it.  However, learning is an ongoing and a lifelong thing.  People can keep doing further learning, new activities, new skills and having fun and fulfilment from them.  

Friendship is really, really important.  One of the important things that will sustain you and support you through life.  

I think one should be interested, kind and friendly to everyone that you meet up with.  There are billions of people in the world, you only meet a small number, but it is said that you have something to learn from everybody you meet, and you have the capacity to be interested in everyone.  I remember reading a Tolstoy short story, when I was little, and the moral of it was that the person you are with just now is the most important person in your life just now.  Never be unable to enjoy the company you are with because of foolishly hankering to be with the ‘in crowd’ or somewhere else or wanting to be popular or with people that seek to be popular.

From those you are meeting you will make many friends.  Friends that you share different interests with, and enjoy meeting up with, and then there will be a small number that are your best friends.  These are soul mates that you can confide in and be really honest with, about uncertainties, about your worries and joys.  These are invaluable friendships.  All through life it is crucial to have a few or even one such good friend.  

It is important to work at making and keeping friendships.  Never take friendship for granted – make the effort to really care, notice when they are off form, remember their birthdays, keep in touch.  All the lovely friendships you have at school it would be really enriching for your life to keep in touch with them. 

Just an email now and again to let them know where you are or what you are at and ask after them, you can cc your email to many friends.  
I think be inclusive in your friendliness and definitely don’t be exclusive or negative, as it is mostly yourself you will harm.

I’m sure that the school has an active anti-bullying policy to encourage everyone to show dignity and respect to one another.  It is such a sad sad thing to think of children wasting their wonderful young energies on such a pathetic, destructive thing as bullying, not to mention the harm they inflict on a beautiful young person that they should be including in their concern.

A bully is a sort of troubled person who, really needs help.  It is important not to allow yourself to be either their victim or, through lack of courage, to allow them to control your behaviour, or take part in their bullying.  If you are being bullied and ‘got at’ you must trust to talk to people and get help, your friends, your parents, your teacher or your doctor.

Remember too that, at your age you have your whole wonderful life in front of you, years and years, more so now when life expectancy can be over 100 years.  So, there is no need to rush any stage.  People move at different paces.   Some people get involved in relationships at a very early stage while for others it may be years, while they are enjoying other aspects of their life before they become romantically involved in a very special relationship.  Either way is fine.  The wonderful thing is being conscious of the privilege of living your life, of existence.

I think of life as a big jigsaw puzzle and all the things you do – at home, at primary and second level and in the different subjects are getting you to know a lot more about it.  Every extra piece of the jigsaw you fill in, right through life, is exciting and stimulating.

Everything is your own story – how we came to be here and all the things that happened before us – all of history.  The history of Ireland is our history, but so is the history of England, Scotland, Europe, The Americas, Africa, Asia and the rest of the world, they have all played a part in our shared history and we will all play a part in shaping a shared future.

I think it’s great to see your story as the story of the world, from the evolution of life on the planet, to mankind and mankind’s history.  The planet is quite small and things that have happened all over the world makes our world to-day, and us as individuals, what we are.  I have a great sense of gratitude to everyone who has helped mankind along the way and made us more caring for one another, and the planet, and more aware of how wonderful it is, and what a great privilege it is, to live on the planet.

Also, to become aware of how vulnerable the planet is and how it must be cared for.  It is so important to have a good ethical sense and feel a responsibility to be actively engaged for good.

I must compliment the management of the school on having such fine facilities.  It is great that you have 2 science labs also that your student’s education equips them with intellectual, cultural and moral tools so they can confront the challenges of the world.  Challenges that can only be met by a culture that combines respect for difference for multi faith, multi culture, technical knowledge, the creativity of the arts and the insights of social science and the humanities.

The great technological advances can be used for good or bad purposes.  Regulation, including for social media, is absolutely necessary and young people must be educated and guided so as to be able to discriminate.   I am so hopeful that the learning of P4C ‘philosophy for children’ for primary and 2nd level will help in teaching them to think.  The inability to discriminate can leave people prey to stuff that is wasting their time and is not worthy of the best of themselves and indeed can be extremely harmful.

You are the generation who must be prepared to make value judgement that are wise, in so many areas.  Imagine the most brilliant scientific brains and minds being used to create weapons of destruction, technology that destroys life in wars when it could and should be used in the service of the good of humanity.  

Past generations including my own in their ignorance, greed and indifference have plundered the resources of the planet and robbed countries of their mineral and other wealth and have left your generation with a sorry legacy of climate change damage, of global warming causing deserts and floods in many areas of the world.  This results in disasters of famines and conflicts which sees 600 million people displaced and forced to become refugees and migrants.

This is the legacy that your generation is inheriting.  The problem is that the survival of the planet and humanity depends on your working on the solutions and there are solutions.

The hopeful thing is that an awful lot of work has already been done in coming up with what might save us if we act before it is too late.  The United Nations is our greatest hope.  The Millilumen Goals for 2000-2015 and now the Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030 have put in place an agenda for the world that if followed can save the planet.  That is why 2015 was such an important year.  At the United Nations in New York 200 countries signed up to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  It took years of discussion and work by all of the countries to get agreement