boys in a huddle

The opportunities for full boarders to spend time with their families have greatly increased in recent decades. For 鶹’ first century at least, boys were allowed one free Sunday a month and no weekend leave was granted. By the 1990s and into the 2000s, there were two free Sundays a month and alternately two free Sunday afternoons.

Today, full boarders are allowed Sunday leave each week with their parents or other approved adults and overnight weekend leave, starting once Saturday sporting commitments are finished, until 8pm on Sundays (special permission required if it is not with their parents).

Weekly boarders head home to their families after sport on Saturdays, returning either Sunday evening or Monday morning.

On weekends, the school welcomes and encourages friends and relatives to watch sporting games on Saturdays.

On weekdays, families are also welcome to have lunch on the College lawn with their sons, but otherwise, so as not to disrupt boys’ timetables, it is preferred that weekday visits to the school are an exception and take place between 3.45pm and 5pm.

Country or overseas parents visiting Sydney can take their sons out on a weeknight, after making a special request for dinner leave through the Boarding Co-ordinator. City parents, too, can make dinner leave requests for special occasions.

On any given school day at lunchtime, rugs are laid out on the palm tree-flanked College lawn as boys meet with their families for a picnic. Since its introduction in the 1990s by then Headmaster Br Ernest Houston to bring more of a family feeling into the lives of boarders, lunch leave at 鶹 has flourished into a cherished tradition that brings families daily into the heart of the College. As well as being able to catch up and share stories of school life with their mums, dads, grandparents and other relatives, the boys get to fill their stomachs with food often brought from home. The spreads of pies, cakes, cookies, rolls, soups and salads form part of the inspiration behind two College cookbooks, Contende and Communitas. Because boys inevitably bring their mates into the family picnic fold, the cookbooks feature recipes such as “Chris’s lunch for 10” and “Lunch leave for 14 boys”. The picnics for many become a memorable part of the 鶹 experience, and not just because of the tucker. Recalls one mother: “The friendships that grew, the problems that were solved, the laughs that were shared and the barriers that were broken over these lunches were truly wonderful.” 

 The inclusive, egalitarian spirit that underpins life at 鶹 for its students extends to their families – when a boy is enrolled at St Joseph’s College, his family becomes an integral part of the community, too, no matter how far from Hunters Hill they may live. In turn, parental involvement and support of the College enriches the school beyond measure.

The many opportunities families have to participate in College life lead to the formation of lifelong friendships and networks of support between families as well as between the boys – networks that criss-cross country and city and beyond, given the geographic diversity of the 鶹 student population.

Every school day, Lunch Leave brings mums, dads and other family members into the grounds to share picnic lunches on the lawn with their boys (and their boys’ friends!). Family Masses are held each term, testing the capacity of Br Emilian Hall as 1100 boys and their families celebrate the beginning of the school year on the first Sunday of Term 1; Champagnat Day honours the founder of the Marist Brothers, Saint Marcellin Champagnat, in Term 2; and the Feast of the Assumption is celebrated in Term 3. Thanksgiving Mass in November is the final family liturgy, drawing to a close another school year.

On the annual Grandparents Day in Term 1, grandparents of Year 7 and 8 boys are welcomed to the College to spend the day with their grandsons, enjoying musical performances, tours of the school and a special morning tea. 

The many ways in which families connect with the College include the annual dinners for each year group attended by parents and their sons; Year 12 father and son barbecue breakfasts by the College Pool; Year 9 father and son weekends at Colo; the annual Mothers’ Spiritual Retreat and City Country Mothers Lunch; exhibitions and performances showcasing students’ achievements in areas such as art and music; and sporting fixtures on weekends when families, many travelling long distances from rural and regional areas, turn out in force to cheer on 鶹 teams.