Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, was chief celebrant at the Mass to open Catholic Schools Week on Sunday 29 January, which was broadcast by RTÉ from Saint Peter & Paul’s Church Portlaoise, Co Laois. In his homily, Bishop Nulty praised the service of religious sisters and brothers in Catholic education, and he highlighted the fact that Catholic schools are committed to pluralism.
Speaking on the unique contributions Catholic schools make to local parish faith communities and wider society, Bishop Nulty said, “By virtue of being Catholic our school system is already committed to genuine pluralism and inclusion, respectful of the beliefs of all parents and pupils. That is why it is so important that this year’s launch is in the context of a parish. Here in Portlaoise, as in every urban parish, there are pupils attending our Catholic schools of every creed and none, from every continent and every social class. There are 2,880 Catholic primary schools in this State and 341 Catholic post-primary schools. Identity is important to all of us and parish gives us that sense of identity.”
He continued, “Many of the Catholic schools established all over Ireland were founded with a mission to serve and educate the poor. Today we owe a huge gratitude to the religious of Ireland who responded to this need, often at enormous personal cost to the individual, to the community or to the congregation. Catholic education must still reach out to the poorest of the poor. How do we define the poor in 2017? In Matthew’s Beatitudes it is very much ‘the poor in spirit’. Is it today the materially poor, the culturally poor, the emotionally poor, or the spiritually poor? In the shocking statistics on homelessness released by Focus Ireland just last month, it was estimated that one in three homeless people were children. Our Catholic schools need to reach out and to embrace the poorest of the poor, they have done so in the past, they must do so into the future.”
Catholic Schools Week takes place from 29 January to 4 February and special educational resources have been prepared to support students and teachers at primary and at post-primary level. #CSW2017 resources are now available on www.catholicschools.ie. A dedicated Facebook page called ‘Catholic Schools Week’ shares resources and information about local events around the country and it offers useful analysis on Catholic education.
This year’s theme, ‘Catholic schools: Learning with Pope Francis to care for our common home’ has been informed by Laudato Si’, the 2015 encyclical by Pope Francis on care for our common home. Laudato Si’ was the number one bestseller for Veritas in 2015 selling over 15,000 copies. The papal encyclical sold over 1,500 copies in 2016.
To read the full homily of Bishop Denis Nulty, see www.catholicbishops.ie.