Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Catholic Schools Week will take place from January 26th to February 2nd 2014. It is a week in which we as a diocesan family, together with the other dioceses of Ireland have an opportunity to celebrate the Catholic schools which are at the heart of every parish in Ferns. In a time when a great deal of discussion and debate has been taking place regarding the place of Catholic schools in Irish society, the week affords us the chance to reaffirm the Christian witness of the primary and secondary schools in the diocese, in the work of building up the kingdom of God, which happens in all these places of grace and spirit-filled discipleship.
The Catholic School first and foremost, “forms part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith” (The Catholic School 9). This is what is happening in the everyday life of all the primary and secondary school in Ferns, as they, “perform an essential and unique service for the Church herself” (The Catholic School 15).
In as much as the Church relies on its members to be witnesses to the Gospel, so it relies on its institutions to be witnesses also (The Catholic School 18) and as bishop I have a strong sense of that witness when I visit schools, celebrate events and openings, and most of all as I celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation in the parishes of the diocese every year. At these wonderful occasions I see the work of pupils, teachers, staff, parents groups and Boards of Management working closely together towards the aim of giving each child the best possible experience of school that they can have. The Catholic school is an “institution where young people gradually learn to open themselves up to life as it is, and to create in themselves a definite attitude to life as it should be” (The Catholic School 31). This happens most successfully when all involved in the life and management of a school work with this goal in mind.
This is true for all models of school patronage and governance. What we do in our Catholic schools in the service of the child, is to strive to put Christ at the centre of the entire endeavour, because “Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school” (The Catholic School 34)
The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2014 is Catholic Schools: Places of Faith and Learning. This theme was chosen to highlight that all learning takes place in a values context. Education is never just the transmission of facts, dates, names and places. It carries with it a deeper meaning as it seeks to transmit values to the pupils, and to awaken in them an awareness of the one who is at the heart of all education – Christ.
Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the identity of our Catholic schools – primary and post-primary. It is also an opportunity to give thanks for all who are willing to be part of this Christian endeavour – all who add to the corporate witness of the kingdom of God.
I encourage all parishes and schools to make use of the resources provided by the Irish Episcopal Conference to mark Catholic Schools week. Resources have been sent to every school in the diocese and are available on the Irish Episcopal Conference website.
One of the most successful occasions during Catholic schools week has been the celebration of Grandparents’ Day. There is a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren and this observed and celebrated on the Wednesday of Catholic Schools Week. Can I again encourage parishes and schools to organise an event which might celebrate the grandparents of our schoolchildren. In many cases, they assist in a very positive and fruitful way in handing on the faith to their grandchildren.
The old adage “you never miss something until it’s gone” seems appropriate here. During Catholic Schools Week we celebrate all that is good and praiseworthy in our Catholic schools, and rejoice in the work of service that is being done to build up the Body of Christ in a spirit of joy and service, of welcome and inclusivity, of commitment and dedication.
I hope that the celebration of Catholic Schools Week 2014 will be one filled with blessings. I wish God’s blessing on all who are part of the community of every Catholic school in the diocese of Ferns and pray that Mary our Mother will guide and protect you all.
+ Denis Brennan
Bishop of Ferns
Media contact for Catholic Schools Week is Fr. John Paul Sheridan – Diocesan Advisor to Primary Schools – 086-8561526.