Jessica Bryan grew up in Sydney, where her family has close historical links to St Patrick’s Church Hill. Jess attended Marist Sisters' College, Woolwich, and in her last year at school, having attended Marist Youth Leader in Christchurch, she was invited to join the Marist Youth Leader team. Over the next five years, while she was studying Exercise Science and Religious Education at Australian Catholic University, all with a view to secondary school teaching, Jess made frequent trips to New Zealand, working with the Young Marists team on a variety of programmes and retreats. Upon graduation from university in 2015, Jess took up a teaching position at St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, where she currently teaches Religious Education and Social Justice.
In your job at Silverstream, how do you relate "Being Marist" to what you do on a day-to-day basis?
“Besides teaching, I am also involved in mentoring the Manaakitanga Leadership Pou which looks after things such as charity events, pastoral care & community involvement. I am part of the Stream Youth Ministry team which plans Masses, retreats and anything related to special character. This year I am also managing the mighty 3rd XV. I love teaching at, and being involved with Stream, as it provides me with many challenges and opportunities, but most of all it keeps me connected to the Marist Network.
It’s very easy for me to “be Marist” in my work as I am lucky enough to be teaching in a Marist school surrounded by some pretty passionate Marist educators. I can relate my day-to-day attitude to a quotation I found from Jean Claude Colin which says "There is a constant and shared desire for an education based on everyday life, where the quality of life and of relationships is as important as the quality of teaching. It's not just a question of giving knowledge and of transmitting the faith, but also forming men and women who are responsible, solid and prepared to take their place in society." This has become something of an educational philosophy for me, but it is so much more than that. This means that I have to have respectful relationships with each student that will enhance their dignity and form them into the men we want them to be. I can’t expect them to grow into good young men if I am not willing to demonstrate the behaviours myself.”
As well as being involved with the Young Marists, Jess was one of a number of young people invited by the New Zealand Province of the Society of Mary to attend the 200th anniversary of the Pledge of Fourviere - essentially the founding moment of the Society. She reflects:
“Being involved with the Young Marists has been a gift that keeps on giving. I have made some of my best friends from this group, travelled to America, France, all over Aotearoa and parts of Australia. However there are two things that really stand out for me. The first was having the opportunity to attend the Dare to Dream celebration of the Fourviere Pledge in Lyon in 2016. The event itself showed how the Marist Spirit is alive in young people, but going to La Neyliere and seeing Jean Claude Colin in his resting place and where he lived was a very special moment for me, I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the feeling of being in that Chapel. The other highlight is seeing my students come back from Marist trips, whether it be from MYL, Neighbours, or the Hokianga. It reignites my spirit seeing how enthused they are about being Marist, when they come home and share their experiences with our group at Stream. It then pushes me to continue working with them to make sure they feel just as welcomed as I do.”
What do you love about being Marist?
“There are so many things that I love about being Marist. I love that I have an extended family who love and care for me as one of their own. I love that the National Network provides me with access to some of the best educators and people in New Zealand. I love that you can travel almost anywhere in the world and connect with a special group of people, be welcomed and accepted by them straight away because they know as a Marist, you are a person of good character. I love that when there is nothing else, I always have someone, in the presence of Mary, to turn to.”