The graduates of Saint Patrick’s College form an essential part of the DNA of primary education in Ireland and have been bringing their vital contribution to education in every corner of Ireland since the College’s establishment in 1875. This College has a remarkable tradition.
The College has witnessed great change in the years since its foundation. It is interesting to look at photos of the student body and the staff over the years to see how with changing times student life, student accommodation and indeed student dress has changed.
Fruitful history is always a history of change. There is also something constant in the history of this College. That constant element is what constitutes the overall ethos of the College; an ethos which has been built up over generations; an ethos of which every past student and every past teacher and every student, teacher and staff member of today can take pride in. Saint Patrick’s can be proud of its history and of its today and that pride in its history is what augurs also for the future, as is witnessed this morning by the human and academic quality of these new graduates.
The years to come will witness further change. The College will become incorporated into Dublin City University, but it will not vanish into the thin air of past history. The rich history of Saint Patrick will continue and will enrich the new arrangements. The great traditions of educational excellence and real passion for children’s learning will remain and indeed develop with new generations whose ability to live out those traditions with a freshness of vision will be an asset to DCU and to education in Ireland.
The Catholic tradition of this College is not something sectarian and divisive. The Catholic tradition is the fruit of a cohesion of values which spring from the meaning of faith and the understanding of the human person which belongs with the Gospel. Great teachers in this College over the years have shown that their professional quality is not impeded by, but can be enhanced by a deep vision of faith.
A truly pluralist Ireland is one which is able to embrace the contribution of faith, just as man and women of faith must be in the forefront of scientific endeavour and building a new culture of respect and tolerance.
To the graduates of today I say that you are entering into a new phase in your career and your personal life at a moment of great inventiveness. I wish you every success.
You will also go out into the world where, with all its inventiveness and creativity, many children and young people experience a new fragility and insecurity. You will go into an Ireland where the challenges of equal educational opportunity for all its children must urgently be addressed, politically, financially and in educational culture. I know that your passion for education will inspire in you a priority commitment for those children who, to use a word dear to Pope Francis, are “on the periphery” of learning opportunity. The poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalised deserve the best. In the landscape of our current educational system they do not always get that.
Whatever the future, I know that the spirit of Saint Patrick’s College will live on and will be witnessed to especially in a concern for the disadvantaged. The manner in which we care for the disadvantaged is the real sign of how we truly care for inclusion in our educational system and in our society.