Chris Comeau has been the Principal of Roncalli College in Timaru since 2009. American by birth, he came to New Zealand in 1995. He lectured in Education at the Teachers’ Graduate School in Christchurch, before being appointed Head of Social Sciences at St Bede’s College in 2005. It was there that he first came into contact with the Marists. He quickly rose to the Deputy Rector’s position at St Bede’s, before being appointed to Roncalli. Chris is married to Sally, and they have two daughters, Jayne and Emma, who have attended Roncalli.
“My first contact with the Marists was in 2005 when I was employed at St Bede’s College in Christchurch. Prior to that I was not familiar with them. So initially, “being Marist” meant little to me. However, over time as I have grown in my role and become more involved in the National Network, the Marist principles have become central to my core beliefs, both in my professional and private life. I find that the same principles that apply to good leadership as a Principal also apply to being a good husband and father.”
Chris has been a strong advocate of the Marist Schools Network, and a keen participant, alongside his students, of many Network activities. In 2016 he led his Year 10 students on the Awa Run down the Whanganui River, running every inch of the way himself, often doubling back to run alongside and encourage the stragglers. This year he spent some time with the Next Door Community in Murupara, and was on hand to join a group on Young Marist Neighbours.
“I believe that much of a Principal’s job in a Catholic school relates to servant leadership, which is Marist at its core. It involves putting the needs of others first, leading by example, acknowledging and appreciating others, being humble, empowering those around you, and seeing the value in all, regardless of intellect, ability and so on.”
Chris’s experience on Young Marist Neighbours underlined one of his major convictions about “being Marist:”
“If I had to choose one significant way that being Marist can impact on today’s society, it would be by embracing social justice, and actively finding ways to help those who live on the margins in our New Zealand society --- those who suffer from poverty, loneliness, helplessness and hopelessness.”
And if Chris had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the context of New Zealand society in 2017?
“I would ask for a return to ‘true community’ where people are engaged in helping their neighbours and looking to make a difference in their own patch. I fear we have become a nation of unhappy, self-absorbed individuals who believe the myth that the key to happiness is a fat pay cheque and lots of virtual friends.”
Chris refers often to the enjoyment he and his students have experienced at Network events, sharing the common mission and purpose, and the great sense of support and comradeship. He values the strong friendships that his students have made, and that he himself has made throughout the Network. It is the sum total of these experiences, he says, that is significant:
“Inviting someone else to consider ‘being Marist’ would be difficult to articulate in a conversation. I think perhaps I would invite them to visit our Network schools and to participate in the various Marist programmes to experience what it’s like to be part of the Marist community. For me, the ‘Marist Way’ needs to be absorbed over time rather than explained. It is an entire way of life.”