Hato Pāora College rises to the challenge

A Catholic education wasn’t something that we ever considered for our kids. It’s not that we had anything against it — it’s just that we’re not Catholic. Not very religious at all, really. Yet in the four months since our son started at Hato Pāora College in Feilding, I’ve been pretty impressed.

I had my first real exposure two weekends ago at the O’Shea Shield, hosted by Sacred Heart Girls’ College in New Plymouth. This annual academic and social event involves 17 schools from the Wellington and Palmerston North dioceses. If, like me, you have no idea what a diocese is, think of it in Māori terms: a congregation is similar to a whānau, a parish to a hapū, and a diocese to an iwi.

The O’Shea Shield is like athletics for the intellect. Events include prepared and impromptu speeches, scripture readings in English and Māori, debates, drama, and religious questions. As a spectator more accustomed to the smell of Deep Heat mixed with oranges and mud, I discovered a whole new set of nerve endings as I sat in the audience that weekend.

Competition was stiff. Half the adults I know would have had a hard job debating the moot: Freedom of expression is more important than religious sensitivities. Let alone delivering a speech to a packed audience with only four minutes to prepare.

I could offer no advice, and tried my best to hide my expression of “rather you than me, kid!” as each student took to the stage for their different events. If their courage wasn’t impressive enough, their humility and support of one another made me prouder still. This didn’t just extend to their team-mates, but to the other competitors as well. During the frequent breaks between events, students from all over the mōtu mixed together easily, playing games and having a laugh.

Yet there were a few things that stood out for me. The first was Hato Pāora’s drama performance — and not just because my son was in it. The drama is probably the most coveted award of the O’Shea. Like the 100-metre sprint final, everyone wants to be there. Continue reading

  • Nadine Millar writes for E-Tangata, a Maori and Pasifika Sunday magazine.
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