Homily of Bishop Leo O’Reilly at Mass to Mark the Official Launch of The Presentation Brothers Schools Trust
21 November 2009
Homily of Bishop Leo O’Reilly at Mass to Mark the Official Launch of The Presentation Brothers Schools Trust at St Joseph’s SMA, Wilton, Cork
- When the issue of lay Trusts first came to the fore, the news that Religious were going to hand their schools over to lay Trusts was seen by many as the Church getting out of education. That was completely off the mark.
- These Trusts are Church bodies just as much as Religious Congregations are. The only difference is that their members are lay.
- This Trust and others like it are the first shoots of a new flourishing of Catholic education under the leadership and direction of competent, dedicated and committed lay Catholic people.
- Catholic education respects and cares for each member of the school community, an education that is comprehensive and holistic
- A school is not just a building. It is a community of pupils, teachers and other staff, and a board of management which has representatives of parents and the wider community.
- I thank the Presentation Brothers for doing me the honour of inviting me to celebrate this Mass to mark the launch of the Presentation Brothers Schools Trust, and I thank the Bishop of Cork for his customary warm welcome to his diocese and his hospitality.
Today marks the opening of a new chapter in the history of educational provision in the tradition of Edmund Rice as the Presentation Brothers launch this new Trust Body – which is a body of lay people – to carry on the work of educating the young people of Ireland in the distinctive Presentation tradition. This tradition is rooted in the gospel values of love, justice, freedom, mutual respect and hope. The new Trust will have eight schools, three primary schools here in Cork and five secondary schools, one of which is in Bray and the remaining ones in Cork and Cloyne.
It is important on an occasion like this to pay tribute to those who carried the torch of education for poor people throughout Ireland for more than a century when no alternative was available. It was wonderful to read the warm tribute paid by John McGahern in his Memoir to the Presentation Brothers in Carrick-on-Shannon where he got his secondary education. They persuaded his father to let him go to school in the first place and then to stay at it. They provided the surroundings and the stimulus for his young mind to open up to appreciate the joys of literature and the wonders of the world. They made education possible for him and thousands like him when there was no other opportunity for them. In doing so the Presentation Brothers did a signal service to the nation.
Amid all the justifiable anger and outrage about the crimes and failures of some priests and Religious it is easy to forget the good that was done by the great majority and that was appreciated and valued so highly by its beneficiaries. Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony was so right when he said: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” But let it not be so in the case of the Presentation Brothers. We honour them today and thank God today for their generosity and dedication and professionalism.
And now the torch is handed on. The sacred Trust of educating the young in the Presentation tradition is now given to the direction of a group of lay people who will hold the schools and ensure that they continue to flourish and that they continue to be inspired by the vision of Edmund Rice. This group of people have the task of implementing the charter of the school which clearly outlines the key elements of an education in the Presentation Tradition. They will ensure that it is a Catholic education that respects and cares for each member of the school community, an education that is comprehensive and holistic, an education that provides a vibrant experience of community and partnership, and, last but certainly not least, and education where there is a deep commitment to gospel values as lived in the Edmund ice tradition.
Some time back, when the issue of lay Trusts first came to the fore, the news that Religious were going to hand their schools over to lay Trusts was seen by many as the Church getting out of education. That was completely off the mark. The assumption was that because these Trusts are now going to be lay they are not part of the Church. In the past we had a problem with thinking of lay people as the Church – even though lay people make up 99% of its membership. The Second Vatican Council taught that more than 40 years ago, but it is only now that we are beginning to see some of the practical fruits of that new understanding of the Church as first and foremost the People of God. One of the practical fruits in the field of education is School Trusts held by lay people. These Trusts are Church bodies just as much as Religious Congregations are. The only difference is that their members are lay. So this transition is very similar to the earlier one, where the Christian Brothers schools in Cork diocese became Presentation schools with a separate identity.
This new trust is a public juridic body in the Church and that means that it is an official Church agency authorised to carry out its mission in the name of the Church. Far from being a sign that the Church is getting out of education, this Trust and others like it are the first shoots of a new flourishing of Catholic education under the leadership and direction of competent, dedicated and committed lay Catholic people. And that is the second thing we celebrate today – in the famous phrase of Cardinal Newman, a second spring for Catholic education into the future under the direction of largely lay leadership.
One of the core values of the Presentation ethos is that their schools should provide a vibrant experience of community and partnership. A school is not just a building. It is a community of pupils, teachers and other staff, and a board of management which has representatives of parents and the wider community. The Charter states: “Parents/Guardians and the members of the local community of the school are encouraged to embrace their role as active partners and collaborators in education.” And it promises that they in their turn “can expect the support and collaboration of all the partners in the Presentation school in their efforts.
I congratulate all those involved in this development. I wish the new members and directors every blessing in their work and success in this important initiative for the ongoing mission of the Church in education. I congratulate the Presentation Brothers on the launch of this new Trust today. I know that preparing the ground for this has taken years of careful work and preparation and I compliment all who were involved in the effort. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, it was yours to plough a new furrow. You have done so boldly and generously. I pray that your ploughing will produce abundant fruits for Catholic education in the future as the Presentation Brothers have done so well in the past.
Notes for Editors
- Bishop Leo O’Reilly is chair of the Commission for Education of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Bishop O’Reilly is Bishop of Kilmore.
- In recent years the Religious Orders have established Trust bodies in order to sustain the ethos of their schools. Trusts and Trusts Board established or being established are as follows:
– The des Places Educational Association (DEA) This is a limited Company set up by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit designated to act as Patron of the nine Holy Ghost schools and colleges in Ireland. It is managed by the Board of Directors, who are members of the Congregation and lay persons.
– Loreto Trust Board In Ireland there are over 30 schools under the trusteeship of the Loreto Trust Board. Of these, seventeen are Voluntary Secondary schools and seven are Primary/Junior schools, and two in Northern Ireland are Voluntary Grammar schools. Loreto also shares trusteeship with others in four Community schools.
– CEIST Catholic Education – an Irish Schools Trust This is the new Trust Body responsible for the voluntary secondary schools of the Daughters of Charity, the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of the Christian Retreat, the Sisters of Mercy and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. It holds 112 Post Primary schools.
– Presentation Brothers Schools Trust (PBST) PBST which is launched today will carry forward the work of education young people in the Presentation Brothers tradition. PBST is responsible for eight schools.
– ERST Edmund Rice Schools Trust This Trust is committed to the mission and vision of Edmund Rice and is responsible for 97 primary and post primary school schools which were previously in the trusteeship of the Christian Brothers
– Le Chéile Trust This Trust is being set up by twelve religious congregations. Cross and Passion Sisters, De la Salle Brothers, Dominican Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus, Holy Faith Sisters, Patrician Brothers, Poor Servants of the Mother of God, Religious of Christian Education, Sisters of Charity of St. Paul, Sisters of Jesus and Mary Sisters of St. Louis, Society of the Holy Child Jesus. It will carry out the role of trusteeship that has, up to now, been done by individual congregations. The twelve congregations are currently responsible for 45 voluntary secondary schools and are trustees in 8 Community Schools. They also run a number of primary schools, third level institutions and are engaged in different education projects for disadvantaged young people.
– Other Congregations Dioceses and Lay Owners A certain number of schools in congregational, diocesan and lay ownership continue to be operated as single Trusts by their owners. In many cases they form Networks of Support among themselves in the service of their Trustee responsibilities.
Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678