Paulene Walsh: Leading as a Lasallian over the Decades
In the Lasallian District there are significant people who have offered committed service as teachers, mentors advocates and carers over the decades. Paulene Walsh, a New Zealander, has been recognized as such a person in an award ceremony in November 2022.
Paulene moved to Rotorua with her husband Patrick when he was appointed principal of John Paul College (JPC) in 2003. The Walshes had taken up the Lasallian spirit existing at De La Salle College, Mangere in Auckland. Hired by the JPC School Board in the special education unit, she immediately set to work.
Her eagle eye saw the poor state of the Mary Mackillop Chapel and she set to work to refurbish it, with the students of the College Hostel and her own family. Removal of rubbish, cleaning of walls, re-carpeting and re-siting of statues from the school all took attention. The parish priest, Fr. Timmerman, gifted the altar, tabernacle, statues and stations of the cross. There were commissions for Celtic crosses, creation of banners of the College’s three Founding religious groups, and marshalling of other appurtenances.
Paulene was advocate for the College staff to found a “Signum Fidei” group. It has, over the following years, nurtured members in De La Salle spirituality, and has spear-headed projects for poorer and needy students. (JPC had a history with the Institute, as three Australian Brothers had been invited by the Bishop of Hamilton to form a community in Rotorua, in order to develop and serve campus ministry there, from 1998 till 2000).
This zeal over initial years was combined with the family’s ready welcome of visiting Brothers. As Paulene says:
“Since 2003 the Walsh family home has become La Salle house…This has helped the De la Salle Brothers to develop strong links to JPC (which)…is truly Lasallian now. The Brothers have become an important part of the Walsh family. This is a blessing”.
Activity in the College has included Paulene’s Learning Support Hub taking up a challenge to provide lunch for students in need. She helped develop La Salle Camp for Boys and the creation of a corresponding camp for the girls.
In the educational arena, in partnership with Rotorua Energy Trust, she brought in speakers for community education . Topics included parenting, managing anxiety, the importance of literacy and numeracy, of health and well-being. JPC made the finals of the Prime Minister’s Award for “neo diverse learning” in two years. Associated to this was development in the Learning Support Hub of the tracking of student data, taken up by different teachers in their subjects.
A specific Lasallian exercise was Paulene’s end-of-year videos incorporating Lasallian ideals, as well as a special De La Salle Tercentenary project. With her daughter, she fund-raised in the three Kiwi Lasallian schools to plant 300 saplings on Motukarata Island in the Hokianga Harbour, linking the France of the Founder with the missionary Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pompallier. Three hundred tall trees still stand and rejuvenate the land.
Always leading strongly, Paulene mentions how she sees that she has “empowered her Teaching Assistants to be strong Wahine and Tana Toas to take on leadership roles in the school”.
These strong commitments and widely diverse initiatives in JPC led to a ceremony with some staff, Kiwi Lasallian Benefactors, friends and family in Auckland last year. Paulene was recognized by Sir Br. Patrick Lynch, Sector Head, with a District Lasallian award, justly deserved.
(Author: Br Gary Wilson, Creative Writer)
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