Coláiste Chiaráin, the new voluntary secondary school in Athlone, was officially opened today, Friday 24 November, by Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin and patron of the school, and Mr Denis Naughten TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Following the opening ceremony, a Mass of Thanksgiving was held in the school hall for students, staff, parents and the school’s board of management.
The new secondary school is the result of the amalgamation of Saint Aloysius College and Saint Joseph’s College which have served the West Athlone and South Roscommon area for the last 70 years. The new school welcomed 530 students, including more than 90 first year students.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Bishop Doran said that the progress which has been made in developing this new college out of the great living tradition of the two ‘parent schools’ is a testimony to the spirit of communion and mutual respect that has been so much a part of the engagement of parents, teachers and students in the project.
He added, ‘This is not the first ribbon Minister Naughten and I have cut together in recent months and it is a symbol of the reality that Church and State work in the same space and serve the same people and I look forward to coming back for the turning of the sod.’
Bishop Doran acknowledged in particular the hard work of the interim Board under the Chairmanship of Mr Frank Smith, as well as Mr Brendan Waldron, Principal of Coláiste Chiaráin and to his Deputy Ms Marguerite Quinlan.
To mark the opening of Coláiste Chiaráin today, Bishop Doran presented the school with a gift of the Chasuble that he received at World Youth Day 2016.
In his homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving, Bishop Doran said, ‘In the time of Jesus, the sower would have walked up and down the field with a bag over his shoulder, scattering the seed by hand. All that would have been heard would be the sound of the birds or the gentle breeze blowing in the trees. There would be plenty of time to think deep thoughts and reflect on the mystery of life. In one way, it seems far removed from hustle and bustle of your average secondary school. But sowing seed is, in a sense what education is all about.
‘Teachers are like sowers, scattering ideas, planting ways of doing things; using verbs; shaping wood, adding herbs and spices, solving complex mathematical problems. Then, like the sower they wait, patiently I hope, to see if the seed they have sown will bear fruit. I suppose that means that students are like the soil. When you think about it, the soil is not just passive, absorbing the seed. It also has something to contribute. Likewise, each student receives knowledge and processes it, in his or her own way. That is why, when we produce a piece of art or an essay, there is always something unique about it that comes from the person who produced it.
‘The learning is going on all the time, not just in the classroom, because we are sowing seeds all the time, seeds of understanding, trust and friendship, simply through being together and doing things together. That is why I believe that everybody who has anything to do with this College; teacher, student, secretary, cleaner, parent or board member has a unique contribution to make. Nobody is surplus to requirement. Not one of us here knows where we will be in five or ten years’ time. God alone knows how you may touch the life of someone else in this College, or how someone else may touch your life, and it could be a whole life-time before you meet them again. In that sense, every day, each one of us – student, parent or staff-member – is both the sower and the soil.’
Bishop Doran concluded, ‘When Jesus told the story of the sower, He wanted His disciples to understand that God also has wisdom to share with us; a wisdom which brings out the fruitfulness in our lives. Day and night He is working in us to bring us to fulfilment. It is part of the mission of a Catholic school to help each person to discover as richly and as fully as possible, the meaning and purpose of his or her own existence. In the end, of course, all knowledge is part of the same truth. What we learn from books, what we learn from teachers, what we learn from one another and what we learn from the whispering of God’s Spirit in the depth of our hearts. I hope you will find time and space for all of those things during your years here in Coláiste Chiaráin.’