“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire” (St Catherine of Sienna)
This weekend sees the beginning of Catholic Schools Week (Jan 27th-Feb 2nd). As part of the celebrations in our Parish, Bishop Denis Nulty will celebrate Mass in Our Lady and St. David’s Church along with many children representing our 7 Catholic primary schools and 3 postprimary schools. They have been busily preparing for this occasion for the last few weeks.
This is a worthwhile opportunity to reflect on the unique contribution our Catholic Schools have provided to education in Ireland. In our rapidly changing society which creates so many challenges, the question can be posed as to what is so unique about our Catholic education?
Educating young people has always centered around the idea that it is through the younger generation that society successfully rebuilds itself. Success can mean different things to different people but what does it mean in the context of Catholic education?
According to the Catholic Bishops Conference, that truly caring for ourselves and our environment means that we “work towards helping each child irrespective of background, ethnicity or creed, reach their full potential academically, spiritually and socially.” This is very difficult to achieve unless we understand the value and importance of human connection.
It is in the lives of Blessed Edmund Rice and Venerable Catherine McCauley that we can see the fruits of this powerful human connection. Catherine’s work in educating young women to “make a difference” still continues and the call to courage from Edmund has certainly seen the “good seed grow” in the lives of generations of children.
Dr. James Comer, pioneer of successful school reform, says that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship. Pope Francis, addressing the Italian Union of Catholic teachers, stresses the importance of an educational relationship with their students, to make them feel “accepted and loved for who he or she is… you must not only teach content but the values and customs of life.” Children have to be shown that faith is relevant to life’s needs. It is the communication of a way of living.
Catholic education should as Pope Francis says give “soul to the World”, helping each child, embraced as a child of God, reach their full potential. God has a plan for each and every child and it is through a relationship with the Lord that, step by step, the person we are meant to be is slowly revealed to us.
True Education is guiding a child to be who they are meant to be and setting the world on fire!