TALKING to Matthew Hawkins you’re likely to learn a couple of new phrases.
Matt, the assistant principal for identity at St Patrick’s College, Shorncliffe, in Brisbane’s north, spent time during the July school holidays in the Philippines as a guest of the Christian Brothers in the diocese of Kabankalan on the Island of Negros.
He was there to participate in a ministry planning workshop and had been asked to bring a perspective of Edmund Rice Education Australian (EREA) schools with experience in immersion and partnership.
Matt, who grew up in Toowoomba and attended Downlands College, certainly has the experience to comment having been on a number of immersion experiences to countries and cultures that many of us would label Third World destinations.
That is where the new phases come in.
In Matt’s conversation those destinations, South Africa, India, the Philippines become “majority world countries” and we Australians live in a “minority world country”.
Matt uses those same terms with immersion students.
“So they come to an understanding that being as wealthy as they are puts them in the minority of the world’s population,” he said.
“The way they live is not how everyone in the world lives. In fact it’s only how a small part of the world actually lives.
“The majority of the world doesn’t have the resources they have so we talk about we being in the minority.”
Matt has a strong belief that the more authentically we move from a position of charity to a position of solidarity the sooner real justice can be achieved.
“I think a lot of us here in a minority world country like Australia have this notion that we have the ability to fix problems elsewhere because we have the resources and we think we have the knowledge.
“As it turns out that’s not actually the case.
“People in majority world countries have both the resources and the knowledge to solve their own problems but they just face so many difficulties that hinder them from solving those problems through no fault of their own.”
Matt said moving from charity to solidarity was all about perspective.
“It is realising that all we can do is stand next to them and to say, ‘we’re here, we understand that you are struggling and we’d like to stand with you and work out ways that we can work together to move towards a common goal of justice’.”
That leads to the second thing you notice about Matt Hawkins – his spirituality and his belief that you see God in other people.
Matt said immersions were a humbling experience and Australian students would be helped far more than the people they would meet.
“They are going to gain far more from the experience than they will give and they don’t understand that before they go,” he said.
It is a belief Matt has built through his own immersion experiences dating back to his first such trip in 2004.
That trip to South Africa was followed up with several immersions to the Philippines.
Since moving schools to St Patrick’s, Matt has accompanied college chaplain Divine Word Missionary Father Liam Horsfall on one of the school’s immersions to India.
“On a practical level I’ve learnt far more about what being truly hospitable means,” Matt said.
“I learnt truly what being welcoming means and have learnt some tips on actually how to improve how I can do those things (and) I’m coming to a truer sense in my own mind of what justice actually means and what it can look like.”
Matt said on a broader, deeper level he felt far more authentically human when with the immersion hosts.
“I feel like a lot of the unnecessary things get stripped away when I’m with these people and we actually start getting to the heart of what it means to be in relationship with another person,” he said.
“Personally I have felt I get a truer sense of what humanity actually is when I’m with people in the majority world who know what it is to truly struggle.”
Matt said he had heard people say that the more human one was the closer to God one was and from a faith perspective his immersion experiences had given him a better understanding of that concept.
“Before I went on immersion experiences, before I formed close friendships with people in the majority world I really didn’t understand what that meant,” he said.
Matt said he still maintained strong ties with the Edmund Rice community in the Philippines and with the friends he had made in that country.
“The connection I have with the Philippines remains,” he said.
“I stay in touch with many people there who are now friends of mine.”
Matt said one of the Philippines principals he met on immersions had a similarly aged daughter to his own and even the children were friends.
“They are both around three and four now and they give each other gifts each time so that’s also become part of the relationship,” he said.
As for what the future holds for Matt Hawkins, he has two young children, the second aged two, and a wife who has also travelled on immersion and works as a school teacher with EREA.
Their dream is to some day, as a family, work in a majority world country.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.