Catholic Schools Week 2016 was launched in Mount Mercy College in Cork on Monday 26 January. Principal Padraigín Ui Riordáin welcomed representatives from schools across Cork and from Catholic education across Ireland. The CSW launch opened with prayer, and was addressed by guest speaker Richard Moore of Children in Crossfire on the theme of mercy. Bishop John Buckley was chief celebrant at Mass in the close-by Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Dennehy’s Cross, which was concelebrated by Bishop Brendan Kelly, Chair of the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Very Reverend Canon Bartholomew O’Mahony PP, Reverend Dr Tom Deenihan who preached the Homily, and by other visiting priests, representative of Catholic Education.
In his homily Father Tom Deenihan said:
“Seeing the face of God in others brings me to the current and topical issue of the Catholic school and inclusion. Inclusion is not just about religious denomination. Inclusion must also take nationality, ethnicity, socio-economic background and ability into consideration. When these five criteria are taken into consideration, I would challenge anyone to tell me that Catholic Schools are not as inclusive as any other type of school. They must be to be true to their ethos! Indeed, a recent ESRI publication on School Sector Variation in Ireland bears adequate and independent testimony to this.
Mount Mercy School was founded by the Sisters of Mercy from Saint Maries of the Isle in the City. A primary school exists at that convent still. Today, there are 265 pupils on the roll book of Saint Maries of the Isle NS from 38 countries and are from ten different faith backgrounds as well as atheist. In fact, 40 are Muslim, 11 are Hindu and four are Buddhist!
The school has three special Autism Spectrum Disorder Classes which are attended by 18 pupils. It has a further 39 children availing of Resource Hours. It has 11 SNA’s and 25 teachers including 3 EAL teachers. The Department conducted a WSE there before Christmas and sent a questionnaire to all parents. 100% were happy with the school. Who can say that this Catholic school is not inclusive? That vision of Mercy permeates the classrooms, the corridors, the staff room and the yard of that school.”
Click here to read the full text of Father Deenihan’s homily.
This was the first time that a school in Cork hosted the national launch of Catholic Schools Week which takes place from 31 January – 2 February on the theme ‘Catholic Schools: Called to Proclaim God’s Mercy’. In her welcome address Ms Ui Riordáin, said:
“On behalf of the school community here at Mount Mercy College, I am pleased to welcome all visitors to our school and to Cork. It is a great honour for us to be selected to host this important national event, the launch of Catholic Schools Week 2016, which will be celebrated in all Catholic schools from Sunday, January 31st to Saturday, February 6th 2016 next.
The tree which stands beside me here was chosen by our school as a symbol of giving, sharing and growing. I like to think of the tree as a symbol for all our Catholic schools in Ireland, strongly rooted in the various religious congregations, Mercy, Presentation, Ursulines, Christian Brothers, Presentation Brothers, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart etc. These congregations are now lead by various bodies, CEIST, ERST, Le Cheile etc. The tree reflects us all. Our schools are deeply planted in the Catholic tradition; our foundations go back to the many men and women, Priests, Sisters and Brothers, Nano Nagle, Catherine McAuley, Ignatius Rice, all of whom dedicated their lives to the setting up of schools and to the education of the young.
In 2016 our Catholic schools are widely sought after. Parents choose to send their children to Catholic schools for many reasons. A study conducted in 2011 established that parents considered : Proximity, Quality of education, Discipline Etc.
There was consensus however that Catholic schools also have a unique characteristic spirit. We are faith based schools and we endeavour to encourage our young girls and boys to reach their full potential in an atmosphere where they are cared for and respected. We challenge you to achieve new possibilities. We try to promote the best of relations and our faith seeks to encourage you to contemplate that faith and to embrace that faith.
Still in 2016 our schools are subjected to much criticism by media, the majority of whom seek to undermine the church and pose a threat to the very existence of our schools.
We know that Catholic Schools throughout the land endeavour to promote respect, tolerance, inclusivity, forgiveness and “a new day every day” ethos. As we join with the family of other Catholic Schools, let us be mindful that each of us is a brick in the building of a just society reinforced by strong Christian values.
Returning to the tree here beside me, it is subjected to the wind and the elements. Indeed it is laid bare of its leaves, but it never ceases to renew itself growing stronger and spreading all the time. Our school has just celebrated our 50 year jubilee this past year during which we took time as a school community to focus on the founding values of the Mercy Congregation. We concluded that we are entrusted with a responsibility to consolidate those founding values, to enhance them and to present them to future generations of young people.
Hosting this event today in the presence of our many visitors from the wider Catholic Community and especially the student representatives from so many other Cork schools, is a unique opportunity to share our Mercy traditions in this year of Mercy as dedicated by our Holy Father Pope Francis. I hope that this day, which you are spending at Mount Mercy College, will be an enriching experience for us all.”
Click here for a selection of photos from the launch of Catholic Schools Week 2016.
To download the resources for the celebration of Catholic Schools Week 2016 please click here