Across the Diocese of Ballarat, sixty-four schools educating 18,500 students celebrated Catholic Education Week, May 22-26. Celebrations were launched on Friday, May 19 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St Patrick’s Cathedral Ballarat followed by the annual 30 Years of Service Award Dinner. Fr Justin Driscoll and Fr Peter Sherman were main celebrants with Bishop Paul Bird concelebrating. Following Mass, guests gathered for the Dinner to celebrate and acknowledge staff who have contributed thirty years of service to Catholic Education.
The theme for Catholic Education Week this year is Strive for the Greater Gifts (1 Corinthians 12: 31). This theme is based on St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians in which he goes on to attest that all that we do must be centred on faith, hope and (particularly) love. In essence, Catholic schools seek to provide education that is centred on love, which as St Paul reminds us, is patient, kind, honest, gentle and hope-filled; the sort of education that respects every student and stretches them towards constant growth; and the sort of education that says to every child and young person, "you have value and worth and we expect great things for you".
It is hard at the moment not to be caught up in the funding debate surrounding Catholic education and it can be easy to forget why we need to continue to put our case to the Australian Government. It is because in Catholic education we welcome and offer support to all families who desire an education in which we "strive for the greater gifts". That is not something that we want to lose.
The current quantum of and flexibility around system funding in the Diocese of Ballarat allows us to provide fee alleviations for all students in primary schools who hold a Health Care Card and many other families who are experiencing financial strain. It allows us to provide timely support to a new student – even one with very high support needs – moving into a school after census day (the technical cut-off day for school funding). Flexible system funding enables our schools to ensure that every student has every opportunity every day to learn and to grow and to flourish. Such flexibility provides the "level playing field" that our society demands for every child and young person in Catholic education.
Catholic Education Week provides a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate the contribution that our schools make to their local communities across our diocese. As communities of faith, hope and love, as education providers, as community hubs, as employers, as active community partners and in the service of parents who all want the best choice for their children, Catholic schools make a measurable contribution to our society. Education, centred on the Good News of Jesus, the love of the human person and hopefulness about the future, is how we "strive for the greater gifts" with our education dollar every day. That is something worth fighting for.
As a Catholic education community, we celebrated with many staff who have clearly been striving for the Greater Gifts in their school communities. Thirty-seven Catholic education staff from across our diocese were recognised for providing thirty years of service to Catholic education. Imagine how many lives they have each touched with their work in Catholic schools!
In addition, we recognised Sr Marion McDonald rsm with a Ballarat Diocese School Advisory Council (BDSAC) Outstanding School Service Award and the BDSAC Leadership Awards were presented to acknowledge leaders who had made a particularly significant contribution to Catholic education. In their own way, each one of these leaders has been striving for the greater gifts across Catholic education:
- The Partnership Award was presented to Mr Josh McElgunn, Mr Evan Wrobel and Mrs Angela Kealy, the ‘Western Trinity’ St Joseph’s Coleraine, Sacred Heart Casterton and St Malachy’s Edenhope. These three schools have forged a partnership to enhance learning outcomes for students across the region. The Principals are exploring models of leadership that enable them to share their expertise, grow their leadership capabilities and develop sustainable and complimentary skill sets across the staff of all three schools.
- The Catholic Leadership Award was presented to Fr Adrian McInerney for inspirational leadership and witness to God’s presence through his role in pastoral leadership and governance of five educational settings in one parish. He has been school governing authority of St Alipius’ Parish School, co-governor of Emmaus Catholic Primary School, St Francis Xavier Primary School and Damascus College and Approved Provider for St Alipius’ Kindergarten, the only Catholic Kindergarten in the Diocese. Fr Adrian was also Chair of the Ballarat Diocesan Schools Board from 2001 to 2011 and Chair of the Ballarat Diocesan Schools Advisory Council in 2012. Brendan Maher, Principal of Emmaus Catholic Primary School said “Adrian was an exemplary leader in the Ballarat Diocese for forty-seven years and that this award was recognition of Adrian’s tireless service to Catholic Education. In the context of the theme, Strive for Greater Gifts, Adrian’s gifts of creativity/imagination, oratory, questioning, resilience were the hallmark of Adrian’s leadership. Adrian was a brilliant model of someone who has shown us through word and action ‘a still more excellent way’, the next verse from Corinthians. We celebrate and recognise your leadership in the Diocese”.
- The Fullness of Life Award was presented to James Laidler, Head of English, Emmanuel College Warrnambool for leading innovation and student engagement through curriculum development in the English Department and for inspiring students to look beyond themselves. James has organised and run the East Timorese Schoolies Program at the College for the past four years. This program continues to grow and its focus on social justice and global citizenship invites participants to experience life, faith, justice and mission from a new perspective.
With such leaders in our midst, Catholic education in the Diocese of Ballarat is clearly responding to St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians in which he goes on to attest that all that we do must be centred on faith, hope and (particularly) love.
Audrey Brown – Director of Catholic Education
30 Years Service to Catholic Education – 2017 Recipients, see list here.
Bishop Paul’s Homily can be read below:
Homily by Bishop Paul Bird at Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral Ballarat,
Friday, May 19, 2017 to celebrate the commencement of
Catholic Education week
On the front of the leaflet for this evening’s Mass we have the theme for this Catholic Education Week: “Strive for the Greater Gifts”. It’s a theme drawn from one of the letters that St Paul wrote to the Christian community in Corinth. We heard an extract from that letter as our second reading.
What did St Paul mean when he referred to “the greater gifts”? If we look at the context of that phrase in St Paul’s letter, we find some clues. These chapters of St Paul’s letter suggest that gifts can be “greater” in a couple of ways. They can be greater in so far as they benefit the community and not just the individual who has received the gift. They can also be greater in so far as they are more enduring.
One of the key messages in St Paul’s teaching is that God provides gifts to build up the community. God grants some gifts for the personal benefit of the individual who receives them but St Paul’s main focus is on those gifts that benefit the community as a whole. St Paul gives the example of praying in tongues, that is praying in strange languages. He compares this with the gift of prophesy, that is speaking a message to guide the community. He writes: “Those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their building up and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy.”
St Paul encourages us to strive for the greater gifts in the sense of those gifts that build up the community.
St Paul also encourages us to strive for the greater gifts in the sense of the gifts that will last. Some gifts are only for a certain time. Other gifts will endure, most of all the gift of love.
He writes, “As for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. There are three gifts that abide, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.”
As we celebrate Catholic Education Week, we take some time to reflect on our experience in the ministry of Catholic Education. We give thanks for the gifts that are part of this ministry and we pray particularly for the greater gifts. We pray for the gifts that build up our community – gifts of knowledge to be shared, gifts of skill in teaching, gifts of encouragement for those who are struggling. We pray too for the gifts that endure, for faith and for hope, and especially for the greatest gift of all, the gift of love.
This evening we acknowledge in particular those who have served in Catholic Education for thirty years. We give thanks for the gifts they have shared over those years for the building up of the community. We give thanks for their faith. We give thanks for their sense of hope. We give thanks especially for their love.
As we continue our Mass, I pray for blessings upon us all. May God continue to grant us the gifts we need, especially the greater gifts, the gifts through which we nurture one another. May God grant us most of all the gifts that last. “Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
Bishop Paul Bird CSsR