Blessing of St Joseph’s Regional College,Port Macquarie, by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett

March 21, 2009 3:21 pm

Blessing of St Joseph’s Regional College, Port Macquarie Most Revd Geoffrey Jarrett, DD, Bishop of Lismore, 27 February 2009 (The Bishop’s homily followed the reading of St Matthew, 7:24-29, the Parable of the Man who built his House on Rock). Bishop Satterthwaite, Emeritus Bishop of Lismore and distinguished official guests, Father Donnelly and visiting priests and religious, campus principal Mrs Anne O’Brien and members of staff, parents and students of the St Joseph’s Regional Catholic College community: It is a great pleasure to be with you today, and to perform the Blessing of the College on the day of its official opening. These are always moments of pride and satisfaction, the culmination of a long story of dedication, generosity and hard work. This College represents another step forward in the great story of Catholic education in this part of the Diocese, to provide for our young people the very best of educational opportunities. To all of you who have collaborated in bringing into being these buildings on this new site for St Joseph’s College, I offer my congratulations and gratitude. These new buildings to be blessed are certainly impressive. You may be sure that they are constructed on secure foundations to fulfil their purpose for generations ahead. But the foundations of a Catholic school rest not simply upon the security assured by proper geotechnical survey. Christ our Lord, as we have just heard Him in the gospel passage, speaks of the real foundation, which is Himself. ‘Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.’ Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal Father; the Word Made flesh who lives among us; the Lord of glory once supposed to be the son of Joseph of Nazareth; God among us, who founded his Church on Peter the rock to be the sign and instrument of salvation for every human person until the end of time: He is the one and only foundation of this College. So the Church speaks of the essential religious dimension of education in a Catholic school: ‘In a Catholic school, everyone should be aware of the living presence of Jesus the ‘Master’ who, today as always, is with us on our journey through life as the one genuine ‘Teacher’, the perfect man in whom all human values find their fullest perfection.’ Dear students and staff of St Joseph’s, this blessing today is meant to assure you of the ongoing presence of Christ our Lord in every activity and enterprise that takes place on this campus. His presence in our lives is of course what we all share in common because we first received His life in our Baptism. Each day in your school life you will walk His way step by step; each day you will discover more deeply the truth He reveals about His Father, about the world, and above all about yourselves. You have indeed a great school motto to inspire you: Veritas Liberabit, the truth will make you free. The Catholic faith has a wonderful attractiveness about it because it presents and invites everyone to see a comprehensive, cohesive, and compete view of the purpose of human life. It offers us the means to understand and the way to fulfil the purpose of our existence. Perhaps the reason why many parents seek a Catholic education for their children, even if they might not share the Catholic faith themselves, is because they know that in our schools there is a trustworthy and solid foundation for good human values; these schools provide a reliable platform, not only for a good education in whatever subject, but for personal growth and formation in human and moral responsibility. A Catholic school has a particular environment, you may call it an ethos, which makes this possible: precisely the freedom that makes the encounter of young minds with the truth possible. It is a freedom which only faith can guarantee, and the object of our faith is the One true God, Father and Creator of all, and Jesus Christ His Son, whom he sent into this world set us free by His Cross and Resurrection. In our society today, with its emphasis more on rights than on responsibilities, the idea of freedom generally means freedom to be or do what you like. In collaboration with parents the school has a privileged part to play in helping growing young people to discover their real freedom ‘“ freedom is discovered, it cannot be imposed. Pope Benedict has always had a close interest in the formation of young people, giving many years of his life to the work of education. In his recent visit to Australia we saw him as a real teacher at work, with such respect for the freedom of young people but yet with such a command of their attention. A few months before his visit he spoke in Rome of the urgent task facing educators: ‘each person and each generation must make his or her own decision anew, alone. Not even he greatest values of the past can be simply inherited; they must be claimed by us and renewed through an often anguishing personal option.’ Parents and teachers by their own example have an irreplaceable role to play in this process. We remember our schooldays best not for the fine buildings and extensive technical and sporting facilities, but for the teachers who left upon us a personal impression because of their character, their values and their living of the faith. We are hugely in the debt of generations of religious sisters and brothers who specialized in the great apostolate of Catholic schools, remembering today especially the work of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Lochinvar congregation. Now the torch has passed to lay teachers, called to be of like faith and courage, who have taken up the challenge of Catholic education. The biggest challenge for you is to resist any watering down of the Catholic character, teaching and witness of our schools. We really must be not only on our guard, but absolutely proactive, in ensuring that our schools are unashamedly Catholic in every way. We remain in Australia rightly conscious and proud of our Irish Catholic heritage. So it was, I have to say, chilling to hear the Archbishop of Dublin ask, within this last month, ‘Where are we with the passing on of the faith in our Catholic schools? What are we to say about a Catholic school system and catechetical programmes which have produced the numerically largest cohort of un-churched young people in recent Irish history?’ Challenging questions, of which many of us would find an echo in our own situation as we notice the composition of the assembly at Sunday Mass in many of our churches. The challenge which Archbishop Martin sees is, I believe, one for us too: precisely as he describes it, ‘the evangelisation of young people and their insertion as true and committed members of a believing and worshipping community.’ That task can only be carried out by evangelised, committed, believing and worshipping parents and teachers. It is our first responsibility to our children. Our success or failure has profound consequences not only for them, but for the future of our country. The rains will come down, the floods will rise, the gales will blow and hurl themselves on us, Our Lord warns. In the face of our present difficulties and the secular challenges to faith, all of us, priests, parents, teachers and lay faithful, must stand constantly and confidently upon our foundations, that rock from which we are formed: Jesus Christ and His Church. We are not a people who lose our nerve or collapse under discouragement or opposition. The life of Blessed Mary MacKillop is a wonderful model for us, of true freedom, toughness in adversity, and determination to follow the good and the true. So indeed is great Saint Joseph, Spouse of Mary, foster father of Our Lord, our College’s patron. I wish you all a happy and successful continuation of the school year in every aspect of your life at St Joseph’s Regional College, and have great pleasure in asking God to bestow His blessing upon you, and on these new buildings.