Theme: ‘Christ’s Living Body Active in Our World’

Mr Con McKinley, Principal of Saint Mary’s College, Dundalk, today welcomed guests to the all-Ireland launch of Catholic Schools Week 2012.  Saint Mary’s was founded by the Marist Fathers and is celebrating 150 years during the academic year 2011 – 2012.  Speakers at the launch were Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and Reverend Dr 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, who delivered the keynote address.

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.  Yet we must beware of loading too much on to the schools.  They are, after all, a help to parents.

“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.”

Cardinal Brady continued, “Recent research among a broad sample of school boards revealed that 88% of respondents felt that their board was functioning effectively.  This is good because it is accepted that there is a strong correlation between governance effectiveness and school effectiveness.”  [see Cardinal Brady’s full address below]

Facilitating the open forum of the launch was the Director General of the Conference of Religious of Ireland, Sister Marianne O’Connor, who said: “On a day like today I am 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.  On behalf of CORI I welcome the establishment of new forms of trusteeship for schools which will foster the Catholic education needs of children for generations to come,” said Sister O’Connor.

Delivering the keynote address Father Ron Nuzzi highlighted 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.   Father Nuzzi stated that although there are many differences between Catholic schools in the United States and Catholic schools in Ireland, the shared faith of the Church provides much common ground for Catholic educational leaders, teachers, principals, parents, and bishops to work together to sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools.

Building upon the insights of the Catholic theological tradition, Father Nuzzi proffered a theology of educational leadership and encouraged those present to open wide the doors of their hearts and homes, their schools and churches, to the presence of Christ.  “Catholic schools are the best means of evangelization 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.”