I am very happy to be with you today as you celebrate the opening of the extension to St. Fursey’s Primary School in your parish. Today we give thanks to God for his love, which sustains us in all that we do. Today we focus our thanks on your school. St Fursey’s Primary School is at the heart of this parish community.  It is indispensable to the families of the area.  This school is also of critical importance to the life of the Church in this parish of Haggardstown and Blackrock.

So there is much to give thanks to God for today. The success of your school is a tribute to the entire parish.   I wish to welcome and thank the parents of the children. You are the primary educators of your children.  Today, in particular, is a mark of your commitment and participation in the work of the school.  I thank Mr Owen D’Arcy, your Principal, teachers and school staff who ensure that all pupils receive a first class education in this school with its fine Catholic ethos. Teachers particularly have an indispensable role in the life of the school and parish through their committed service to the education of the young.  Vatican II’s declaration on Christian education says of teachers
“…. that the Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs.”

As you know the Board of Management have responsibility for the management of the school. Today marks the completion of the extension to the school. This is the fruit of the sustained planning and commitment on the part of the Board.

In her address to the seminar launching Catholic Schools Week in Dublin on Monday last, Sr. Mary Reynolds of CORI said “In Ireland today there are almost thirty thousand (30,000) people involved in managing our Catholic schools.  Nearly 95% of these are lay. When one considers that this is a voluntary service, provided for the welfare of our schools and our young people, one cannot but marvel at the commitment and generosity of those who contribute so much to the governance of Catholic schools in Ireland.” I thank the Board of St Fursey’s for their dedicated service and I wish to acknowledged the sterling work of Boards of Management throughout the country

We are happy to be joined here today by Ministers Ahern and Hanafin.  Through them, we thank the Department of Education and Science for sanctioning the work and for the funding which made the project possible. There are many here who are justifiably proud of the school.  Your interest, loyalty and support, in terms of time and resources, have contributed to making the school what it is today.  That support will enable it to continue its service to this community.  The architect and builders have delivered a worthy building to house the great work of education. Thank you all for what has been achieved; may all who are part of the school know God’s blessing in their lives.

It is appropriate that the extension to your school is officially opened and blessed during Catholic Schools Week 2009.  During this week parents, pupils, managers and parishes around the country North and South are celebrating.  They are celebrating the extraordinary service of Catholic schools and their staffs to the education and formation of pupils and to the common good of society. Last Monday evening I was present at a seminar in Belfast attended by parents, pupils, managers of schools, teachers, parish clergy and officials of the Department of Education. Earlier in the day a similar gathering took place in Dublin.  Catholic Schools Week will be an annual event marking our historic and future contribution to society.

These seminars marked the beginning of Catholic schools week by reflecting on what it means to be a Catholic school and by celebrating their achievements.  For the past week schools and parishes have been giving praise and thanks for schools such as St. Furseys.  On Sunday next RTÉ 1 will broadcast Mass from St. Mary’s Parish, Lucan at 11.00 am.  A special liturgy has been prepared which reflects the theme of this week and in attendance will be primary and secondary students from the parish.

Some years ago Minister Hanafin was asked what she hoped for schools. Her answer was that they be happy places.  Today we know and feel your happiness and pride in your school.

I believe the parish Haggardstown and Blackrock is rightly proud of St. Fursey’s school. I see it as a beacon of hope forming the pupils and filling them with hope and joy.  St Fursey’s will prepare them for life. We live in a world beset with economic crises and threats to peace, so Catholic schools play a significant role as “powerful instruments of hope”. 
Catholic schools are characterised by an affirmation of pupils’ basic goodness: promoting their dignity, honouring their fundamental rights and developing their gifts to the fullest – as God’s reflections.

Central to the mission of the Catholic school is the education of pupils towards the fullness of life that God wills for oneself and others – as responsible partners. The school is motivated by a concern to convince and mould people to live, knowing that their lives are worthwhile and have historical significance – as history makers.  And so the school aspires to a curriculum which promotes the conviction of Irenaeus that “the glory of God is the human person fully alive.”

As Catholics we believe that we encounter God’s presence and grace in the ordinary things of life. This enables us “to see God in all things” in the “bits and pieces.” This sacramental consciousness enables us not only to see God in everything, but also to see what God wills for humanity and creation. It encourages us to be agents of God’s reign or Kingdom on earth.

A core element of the Catholic school is faith formation. Faith formation involves learning “from” Christ and not just ‘about’ Christ. The Catholic school is involved in formation, not just information, educating the very “being” of pupils. This will be found in a catechesis demonstrating the features of good education, personally and critically appropriated.  It engages pupils as agents, and thus involves all facets of school life.

The Catholic Church has shown a historical commitment to education as central to human development and as part of the work of salvation. Nowhere is that commitment more evident than in our own country. Many would argue that the success of recent years in this country has been made possible by the educational achievement of our schools. Catholics see reason and revelation as essential partners in the life of a Christian. 

Therefore the Catholic values excellence and the pursuit of knowledge. Pupils are not merely told what to think but stimulated to think for themselves. This is reflected in the day to day life of the school by the encouragement of critical reflection in dialogue with others.

Catholic schools stand on five great pillars of our Catholic faith and tradition.

1.    The dignity of the human person.
2.    God who meets us in the bits of pieces of life,
3.    Nurturing the community in which we live and  grow,
4.    The faith tradition to which we belong and the
5.    Commitment to excellence and pursuit of knowledge.

When we reflect on our school today we will find there all these rich threads of our faith which give us the tapestry which is our school.  We gather here to celebrate our school and wish it well into the future. 

Coming here today prompted me to find out more about St Fursey.  During his life St Fursey is supposed to have had a vision of the after-life.  During a state of trance he saw visions of heaven and hell, angels and devils.  

We all need some vision to guide us through life.  May St Fursey’s Primary School give, to all its pupils, the type of vision that will guide them to eternal life.

Thank you