From the Director
This week, our schools and college like many other institutions and organisations will take time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day.
There was something typically Australian that occurred at Gallipoli on Anzac Day the last couple of years. Although the Australian Government was bound formally to warn people against attending the Anzac Day ceremonies because of the risk of terrorism, Gallipoli has witnessed the assembly ever-increasing crowds. No doubt on this 100th anniversary crowd attendances will be even greater.
On Anzac Day I am also reminded of the story of Teddy Sheean, a sailor who served his country in World War II. It is a story that has connections with my past home in Armidale and my new home in Tasmania.
This extract from the article titled "Seaman's Sacrifice Points to Easter Message" sets the scene.
"Teddy Sheean was the son of a Tasmanian carpenter and woodcutter. On 21 April 1941, he enlisted voluntarily in the RAN as an Ordinary Seaman. By November 1942, he was an 18 year old seaman on HMAS Armidale in Darwin about to begin support duties for Australian operations on Timor.
On 1st December, Japanese aircraft attacked the HMAS Armidale while it was en route to Timor. The ship was severely damaged and had to be abandoned. As the crew were abandoning ship, the Japanese began machine-gunning survivors in the water.
When he saw this, Ordinary Seaman Sheean, though wounded and entitled to abandon ship to save himself, strapped himself into the seat of the aft 20 mm Oerlikon gun and began shooting at the attacking aircraft, shooting one down and damaging two others. Sheean remained at the gun and continued to engage the enemy aircraft even as the ship went down. Teddy Sheean gave up his own chance to escape and died trying to save his mates. Many of those who made it into the water and ultimately survived owed their lives to Teddy Sheean and his act of bravery. Those men, and the Royal Australian Navy, have not forgotten the young working-class seaman - one of the Navy's Collins-class submarine has been named the Sheean.
At Easter we worship and give thanks to Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for having died on a cross to save us from our sins and eternal suffering. As Teddy Sheean chose to strap himself to the anti-aircraft gun – Jesus chose to be nailed to a cross in an agonizing death to enable the whole human race to enter eternal life."
The Record, 12 April 2002
And so to today, people who continue to gather at Gallipoli and at hundreds of centres throughout Australia give witness that the ANZAC spirit is our living legacy and that we should not be deterred from honouring it. So what is that legacy that is in our keeping? Is it mateship, self-sacrifice, resourcefulness, dedication to duty? Is it courage, compassion, equality of opportunity, cooperation, determination?
Of course, the meaning we find in the deaths of those at Gallipoli and collectively of the 102,000 Australians who died in wars in the 20th Century, is within our own lives and those of our children. Do we hold precious the concepts of mateship, equality of opportunity and dedication to duty? Do we live and model to our children the virtues of self-sacrifice, resourcefulness, courage, determination, compassion and cooperation?
For Christians the Gallipoli campaign and the life of Christ have a common thread: they both ended in disaster. Likewise, both have a common link with the poet Archibald MacLeish’s words:
"We leave You our deaths,
Give them their meaning."
So, to the list of the virtues of the ANZAC spirit, we can add those that were lived by Christ: love, care and forgiveness.
HMAS Armidale Honour Roll
Yours in Hope
Director of Catholic Education