Humans of St John’s
Welcome to the latest edition of Humans of St John’s featuring our new College Chaplain, Reverend Juliana Bate as she shares with us her journey from New Zealand to St John’s.
I grew up in the small town, Taumaranui, located in the King Country of the Central North Island, New Zealand. The town was surrounded by hilly sheep farms, rivers and bushwalks. It was a town that you tended to drive through on the way to the mountains, but not exactly a destination that people would flock to. Yet an event where the town turned out in force was when the All Blacks visited. As a kiwi kid, it was a big deal to meet Sean Fitzpatrick, the then captain of the team.
At the age of ten, our family moved up the Island to the city of Hamilton. It was a big deal that there were traffic lights and roundabouts. My sister and I attended the local Catholic Primary School. We were a family of faith, and my parents shared bible stories with us, but we did not attend church like the rest of our peers. Father Frank discovered that he had a run for his money with me. During scheduled times for confession, I would pull out theological questions for him, such as why can’t priests marry people in a garden if God is everywhere? And why are there different types of Christians? To the bold statement of “well I have not broken any of the commandments, so I don’t need to be here.” Father Frank was gentle and incredibly patient with me. My mother also worked in the school with Father Frank, so he often retorted with “have you treated others as you want to be treated? Jesus does mean for this to include your sister”…. Well, he got me there.
I attended Sacred Heart Girls College in Hamilton. I loved science, maths, music, hard design technology and was involved in many extracurricular activities. Yet it was St John’s Cadets that I was passionate about. I went on to compete for my region at National Competitions before becoming a trainer and divisional manager. I initially left high school and studied nursing, before intending to move into paramedics. But life had other plans. I was presented with advancement and development opportunities in retail and hospitality management. These skills came in handy when the time came to venture into the world to travel. Getting only as far as Brisbane, before marriage and children.
I supported business owners in the running of their companies, both retail and service. When the kids were a little older, It was time to decide what to do; accounting or paramedics. Yet I had this persistent feeling that there was something else I was meant to do. After being received as an Anglican at St Georges in Waterloo Bay Birkdale, and many conversations later, I found myself exploring ordination and back at Uni once again. I felt called to school chaplaincy and in 2018, I was told that I would be undertaking training at St John’s. That was such a life-giving experience, that when the opportunity to return as the College Chaplain came about, I was thrilled.
It has been wonderful to be back at St John’s this year. It is such a blessing to be around our amazing students and staff. This is a community that deeply cares for one another and for any who enter our school gates. It is a blessing to be part of a community that values the unique gifts each person has to offer, and where diversity is valued and respected. In a short time, I have seen students, staff and our families alike encourage one another, show persistence, determination, support, kindness compassion and love. Christian values that are lived out in the day to day and the challenges we may face.
It is such a privilege to share with our students as we come together for worship each week. Our Junior School chapels are often led by our students, which is also special. So too are my visits to the classrooms and meeting with students in the new Faith Mission and Wellbeing Centre, and those challenging questions that I used to ask, and many more, are now being asked of me.
Reverend Juliana Bate