MESSAGES of love and support from the Siena Catholic College community, Sippy Downs, in memory of Matthew Barclay, drowned 14-year-old Sunshine Coast lifesaver, are to be collected by his house group and sent to his family.
Matthew’s house group, Teresa 1, were to select the messages from hundreds placed on a “tree of prayer” set up at the school as a focal point for an outpouring of grief for the outstanding young lifesaver who was a student at the school.
A banner with messages of support for his younger sister Lauren, also a Siena student, was made by her Year 8 home economics and textiles classmates.
Matthew, who died on March 28 while competing in the Australian Surf Life Saving titles at the Gold Coast’s Kurrawa Beach, was Maroochydore Surf Club’s youngest-ever Australian medallist.
The young lifesaver risked his own life to make his first surf rescue only the previous week.
His funeral was to have been held at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Caloundra, last Thursday at 11am not far from where he once attended primary school. Upwards of 1500 people were expected to attend.
Siena College principal Graham Hight said Matthew’s death had impacted throughout the school.
News of the finding of the Year 10 student’s body on March 29 reached the school just as a liturgy for him was finishing.
“The Year 10s were then moved to another building and they were told as a group,” Mr Hight said.
“Certainly a wave of emotion then rolled through that room.
“He was just a very focused, quiet and unassuming all-round nice guy.”
Maroochydore assistant priest Fr Geoff Baron, who visited the school to provide support, said he had been impressed by the way many of the students were dealing with their grief.
Mr Hight said the school community was fortunate to be so close to St Catherine’s Church and thanked Maroochydore parish priest Fr Joe Duffy for making the church so accessible.
“I’m sure it was a great consolation to the students,” he said.
“There was a big line-up of Year 10 students waiting to visit the Blessed Sacrament chapel.”
Mr Hight said support had come from throughout the community with counsellors being supplied from several Catholic schools including Matthew’s primary school, Our Lady of the Rosary.
“We also had offers of counselling support from schools throughout the Sunshine Coast, including independent and state schools,” he said.
“Nearby Matthew Flinders Anglican College even sent hot-cross buns for our staff’s morning tea.”
A great challenge to the college’s staff and students was the closing down of the school for Easter holidays.
“Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) has a service centre at North Lakes,” Mr Hight said. “If parents phone Siena College over the break to seek support for their children as a result of Matthew’s death, they will be able to access the BCE counsellors.”
The principal said he had been proud of the school spirit shown in the face of the “terrible loss”.
“When I looked at one of the Facebook sites set up in Matthew’s memory, one comment really struck me.
“It said: ‘We are Siena and we will get through this’.”
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