Catholic schools are key to vibrant faith communities

Catholic schools are key to vibrant faith communities Rev Dr Ronald Nuzzi, Director of the leadership programme for the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA) who delivered the keynote address and Sr Marianne O'Connor, Director General of the Conference of Relgious of Ireland (Cori).


Catholic schools deserve credit for their hard work, writes Michael Kelly


At a time when some commentators and politicians would propose a narrow narrative that see faith-based schools as divisive, Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to celebrate the vital contribution of the Catholic sector.

More than 100 guests from North and South were welcomed to St Mary’s College, Dundalk for the launch of the now annual event.

St Mary’s was founded by the Marist Fathers and is celebrating 150 years during the academic year 2011/12.

At the launch, Cardinal Brady said: ”During Catholic Schools Week, we celebrate the part played by Catholic schools in handing on the faith from one generation to the next. ”The Catholic school, as we know it here in Ireland, is a good example of co-operation between the parents, teachers and community,” he said.

However, the cardinal also warned: ”We must beware of loading too much on to the schools. They are, after all, a help to parents.”

The keynote address was given by Fr Ronald Nuzzi, a priest of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, and director of the leadership programme for the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA.

In his address, Cardinal Brady singled out for praise the invaluable work done by volunteers on school boards. ”One of the key roles of the board of a Catholic School is to preserve the religion and moral ethos of the school.

”I want to pay tribute to the work of those who serve on boards of management and, in Northern Ireland, on boards of governors. On the boards of management alone, in the primary sector in the south, there are 26,600 board members.

”Boards are exemplary models of subsidiarity at work in our parishes – they are expressions of local participative democracy in our educational system of which we should all be proud,” Dr Brady said.

Facilitating the open forum of the launch was the director general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori), Sister Marianne O’Connor, who said she was ”particularly conscious of the enormous contribution generations of religious sisters, brothers and priests – in partnership with lay teachers – have made to the education of children in the Catholic tradition.

”While it is important to acknowledge the educational service offered by religious congregations in the past, I am glad today to be able to reaffirm our commitment to supporting Catholic education into the future, notwithstanding the radically changed landscape in the Ireland of the 21st Century,” she said.

In his address, Fr Nuzzi underlined the topic of Catholic schools as Eucharistic communities, highlighting the central role of the Mass in the life of the Church and in the conduct of the school. Building upon the insights of the Catholic theological tradition, Father Nuzzi proffered a theology of educational leadership and encouraged those present to open their hearts and homes, their schools and churches, to the presence of Christ. ”Catholic schools are the best means of evangelisation the Church has ever invented,” he stated.

”It is no wonder that official Church documents state that Catholic schools are at the heart of the Church,” Fr Nuzzi said.