During Mass to celebrate Catholic Schools Week (CSW) the Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown criticised discussion among some of Northern Ireland’s political leaders about creating one educational system, and defended the merits of a Catholic education.
The Derry Diocesan Launch of CSW, which runs from January 26 to February 2, attracted large crowds of all ages. It took place last Thursday.
Speaking to the congregation Bishop McKeown said: “It is interesting that some of our political leaders are now talking about one educational system in NI. I am intrigued that, in an age where apparently diversity and variety in everything must be cherished, accepted and never criticised, we might not be allowed to have any diversity in education!”
“If we want to have an educational structure that delivers quality outcomes for all, helps build a more united society and is value for money, can I suggest that the family of Catholic schools is excellent at all three? Removing our specific contribution would seem to be a very short-sighted proposal.
“The education system would be impoverished by getting rid of the huge role played by our schools and the communities that sustain them. The ideal is to have harmony in a diverse education system, not banal uniformity.”
This year the theme of CSW, which has been celebrated annually for over 10 years, is Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony with God’s Creation. Each school day has a theme, which are:
- Monday: Living in Harmony with God;
- Tuesday: Living in Harmony with our Neighbours;
- Wednesday: Living in Harmony with All Generations;
- Thursday: Living in Harmony with the Earth;
- Friday: Living in Harmony in our Catholic School.
Remarking on the different themes he said that although they are “nice and sweet”, children are growing up in a “world marked by disharmony”.
“And I do not just mean that there are conflicts in various parts of the globe or that there is much discussion about a climate crisis,” he said.
“There is a strand in modern culture which seems to be driven by confrontational political leadership and underlined by violent games, songs and films.
“In the Church there is also a constituency that seems to be set on confrontation within the Church and with wider society.
“There is an attitude that seems to value anger and condemnation under the banner of being the Church militant. No wonder the world must seem a dangerous place to so many young people.
Quoting Pope Francis he said “Christians build bridges, not walls”, and that is the topic to reflect on this year.
He added that he hoped CSW would be “a time for all of our schools to be proud of their identity and their rich contribution to society, North and South”.