On the 14th October 2016, Mount Mercy College was honoured to receive a visit from the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Mr Matthias Höpfner.
The German Ambassador arrived at 10am and was welcomed by Vice Principal Ms Van Walleghem, teacher Ms Loftus, the Head Girl Isabel Coburn and Deputy Head Girl Arisha Muhammed. 1st year students of German welcomed the German Ambassador with the words ‘Willkommen Herr Botschafter’ (Welcome Mr Ambassador) and proudly displayed these words in their sign to deliver a group welcome on behalf of all students of German in MMC.
The Ambassador stopped to warmly appreciate the beautiful welcoming music provided by Mount Mercy’s traditional Irish music band, as he was escorted through the corridor en route to the library. He entered the library to rapturous applause provided by the Mount Mercy students of German. Ten past pupils of German were also present and joined in providing the warmest of welcomes.
Proceedings commenced with an eloquent welcome speech given by Vice Principal Ms Van Walleghem which highlighted the strong Mount Mercy ethos as well as the achievements and excellent reputation of the College. She highlighted the College’s excellent record in terms of modern languages and spoke about German in Mount Mercy as a popular choice, with many students having achieved very good grades and a significant proportion having chosen to pursue it in higher education. She expressed delight with the support the College has received from the German Embassy and the Goethe Institut, as this support has created new and inspiring opportunities.
Ms Loftus then spoke words of welcome and thanks to the Ambassador, in recognition of the invaluable support provided by the German Embassy for the teaching and learning of German in MMC. She highlighted how the German Embassy, working closely with the Goethe Institut Irland and the German Teachers Association of Ireland, shows us that ‘German connects’ through the provision of wonderful initiatives including:
· The ‘Deutschmobil’, which MMC has been lucky to host annually since its inception in 2013
· Wonderful scholarship opportunities which Mount Mercy students have been lucky to enjoy
· Invaluable support through the provision of the German Language Award – German Teacher of the Year Award which MMC was thrilled and honoured to receive in 2014
· Teacher scholarship opportunities, one of which Ms Loftus was delighted to receive
She highlighted the fact that the German Embassy is simply a magnificent force to be reckoned with and that MMC was most grateful to have this opportunity to thank The German Ambassador in person.
Past pupil and former Deputy Head Girl Alison Devlin then delivered a lovely speech detailing her experience of German during her six years in Mount Mercy and sharing her experience of the German tour to Munich and the Bavarian countryside which took place in October 2015, during her Leaving Cert year. Alison was a member of the first group ever to raise the Mount Mercy flag at the summit of Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany at 2,962 metres. She also played a special role as she was responsible for carrying the flag to the peak.
Scholarship winners Larisa Sabou and Niamh Busby spoke warmly of their experiences during their scholarship periods in Germany. These scholarships are awarded to a limited number of students nationally based on Junior Cert results in German and interview performance in German at the Goethe Institut, Dublin. The girls thanked the Ambassador and the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst (PAD, Pedagogical Exchange Service) for these scholarships, which have left a lasting positive impact on them, both in terms of German language acquisition and life experience. As Larisa said, from seeing the Brandenburg Gate and Angela Merkel in the Reichstag, to visiting Zugspitze, ‘there’s nothing we haven’t seen’.
German poems were then performed by all German class groups from 1st year to 6th year. The German Ambassador enjoyed the Mount Mercy rendition of all of the poems which showcased poets from different eras and styles, including Goethe, the world famous German poet laureate.
The 1st year poem ‘Gute Wünsche’ (Good Wishes), by Oskar Stock, was written shortly after World War II and the theme of ‘more peace and friendship, instead of hatred, strife and dispute’ is as relevant today as it was in 1946. This wonderful 1st year class gave a rousing performance of the poem, firstly in German and then in English.
The 2nd year poem ‘Auf dem Land’ (In the Countryside), by Ernst Jandl, is an amusing and challenging performance poem where students work with careful repetition of syllables in each word to mimic the sounds made by the animals being described. This was no mean feat and the Mount Mercy students rose to the challenge and performed it wonderfully.
3rd year students gave a lovely rendition of ‘Der Herbstwind’ (The Autumn Wind), a fitting choice of poem by an unknown poet, to mark the season in which the Ambassador chose to visit MMC. After the poem was performed in German by the class, 3rd year student Sophie Crosbie gave us a charming rendition in English.
5th year students performed a beautiful version of Goethe’s poem ‘Wanderers Nachtlied II’ (The Wanderer’s Nightsong). This special poem evokes a still and quiet mood as it depicts the wanderer’s thoughts whilst surrounded by the beauty of nature. It is considered by many to be the most perfect lyrical poem in the German language. Following this, 5th year student Katie O Connor performed a lovely version of the poem in English.
Transition Year and Leaving Cert students combined to recite the ‘Deutsch in Mount Mercy’ (German in Mount Mercy) poem. This poem conveys the spirit of German in Mount Mercy and these students did a fantastic job of conveying that particular spirit through their enthusiastic and fun approach in the performance.
At this point a special presentation of Cork Crystal was made to the Ambassador, to mark the occasion of his visit to Mount Mercy College. This vase carries the special ‘Winged Starlight’ design by Master Craftsman George Duggan. No two pieces are ever the same. This quintessential piece of Cork Crystal was specially engraved to mark the occasion of The German Ambassador’s visit to Mount Mercy College.
Ambassador Höpfner made a presentation of a beautiful book entitled ‘Deutschland’ to Mount Mercy to be housed in our school library.
The German Ambassador then rose to address the students. He spoke eloquently about his life growing up in Germany, his early career path in law and the German Diplomatic Service, his family and how he had worked in the German Embassy in Indonesia and later as Deputy Head of Mission in the Germany Embassy in Tripoli in Libya. He later went on to serve as German Ambassador in Ottawa, Canada and Sofia, Bulgaria prior to coming to serve as the German Ambassador to Ireland in 2014.
After his speech, Ambassador Höpfner went on to further give very generously of his time in providing thoughtful answers during the student question and answer session following his speech. He provided wonderful answers to a diverse range of questions from students in all year groups.
Samples of questions asked included the following:
What does your job involve?
Did you always want to be Ambassador?
What’s the best thing about your job?
If you could name one place to visit in Germany, what would it be?
What is your favourite German historical monument and why?
What do you think Ireland can learn from Germany?
How do you think Brexit will affect the EU?’
Of the many famous dignitaries you have met, who impressed you the most?
What do you think are the strengths of both nations (Ireland and Germany)?
Do you think Ireland and Germany work well in partnership together, in business, technology or simply in friendship?
Are you enjoying your visit to Cork?
Students certainly provided the Ambassador with a challenging task in answering many questions and he answered all with great aplomb and generosity.
‘Kaffee und Kipferl’ followed this Q & A session . All present enjoyed the delicious Kipferl German cookies baked by the Mount Mercy Home Economics Department and a special word of thanks must be given to Ms Evelyn Coughlan, Home Economics teacher.
A beautiful Bach instrumental piece was expertly performed on cello by 2nd year student Roisin.
The Ambassador further gave of his time to shake many hands and to speak with individual students.
Many photos were taken and a special word of thanks must be given to Ms Vanessa Gardiner, Art Department, for her lovely photography. Finally, the time to say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ came. All rose to stand and respectfully listen to a beautiful rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the European Anthem, expertly played on piano by Mr Vincent Whelan, Music Teacher and student Roisin on cello. A special word of thanks must be given to Mr Whelan and the Music Department for the choreography of all music throughout the Ambassador’s visit, which helped to add to the great sense of celebration on this special day. A standing ovation was given to the Ambassador as he took his final leave of the students. He was most impressed with our Mount Mercy students of German and expressed this in his final moments at the school. This brought to an end a most special and memorable visit.
In conclusion, Mount Mercy German Department wishes to express most sincere thanks to the German Ambassador H.E. Mr Matthias Höpfner and his team at the German Embassy in Dublin for choosing to honour us with this very special visit. We also deeply appreciate the generous amount of time the Ambassador made available for our students, spending over an hour and a half with them. A special word of thanks must go to Mr Peter Adams, First Secretary and Nelly Reske, P.A. to the Ambassador, who work very hard behind the scenes to coordinate events like this. It was a great honour to receive the German Ambassador at our College and we are most grateful for the opportunity. As well as being the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E. Mr Höpfner has now set a new record – first ambassador ever to visit Mount Mercy College!
Sincere thanks also must be given to our School Principal Pádraigín Uí Riordáin and Vice Principal Ellen Van Walleghem who greatly supported this special occasion. A special word of thanks must go to our office administrators Vivienne O Shea, Susan Archbold and Debbie Brennan and to Joe Larkin, our caretaker, and Barbara Smolenska, for their great help and support at all times throughout the organisation of this event. A huge thank you to the Home Economics, Music and Art Departments for their invaluable assistance in this event as each department’s participation helped to ensure the event was a great success. Sincere thanks to Ms Mary O Sullivan, Transition Year Coordinator, who kindly organised the creation of beautiful posters for the event by talented TY students. Last but certainly not least, congratulations to all the Mount Mercy students of German, who really participated wonderfully in this event and with great finesse. The Ambassador came to Mount Mercy specifically to see these students and they certainly did not disappoint. Well done to all our students of German! Our Mount Mercy students of German epitomise the sentiment expressed in the final lines of our ‘Deutsch in Mount Mercy Poem’…..
Wir besteigen den höchsten Berg Deutschlands
In Schnee und Sonnenschein
Und dort hissen wir die Mount Mercy Fahne
(Das hat Niemand vor uns getan),
………denn es ist wichtig ein Ziel zu erreichen
We climb the highest mountain in Germany
In snow and sunshine
And there we raise the Mount Mercy flag
(Nobody did that before us)
Because it is important to reach a goal