WATERFORD CITY, Ireland, JAN. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The life of prayer and worship is central to the school community, both inside and outside of the educational setting, says Bishop Brendan Kelly of Achonry.
The chairman of the Council for Education of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference stated this today in Waterford City at an opening ceremony for Catholic Schools Week.
This year’s theme for this week is “Rooted in Jesus Christ,” and is inspired by the pastoral letter from Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, which was published last March.
Bishop Kelly underlined the importance of helping young people “learn to stand and wonder at the beauty and mystery of all that is.”
“Rampant consumerism is destroying and polluting so much of creation,” he lamented.
The prelate noted that “people who learn that we are on this earth primarily to worship, to give thanks to God,” and “to marvel at our environment are the people who are assuring the future of the earth.”
He asserted: “We cannot and must not create false divisions between the secular and the sacred — above all in the minds of children for whom this sacred unity is as natural as the day is long.
“For us, all creation, the entire material world, is sacred.”
The bishop pointed out that “Jesus had a vision for his hearers and all who came to him, a vision of themselves that they needed to hear.”
“It is the Father’s vision for people, people who are his children,” he explained. “It is the Creator’s vision of his creation.”
“There is a holiness about us as we are,” Bishop Kelly affirmed, “in our very neediness.”
He continued: “We are children of God, first and foremost, and our destiny is life eternal. That sense of identity is what gives hope, in the midst of poverty, mourning, injustice and pain.”
Looking at the Catholic educational system in Ireland, the bishop noted the “amazing diversity of schools and traditions.”
He observed, “There is Jesuit and Ursuline education; there is Mercy and Presentation and Loreto education; there is Christian Brother education and there is Holy Ghost and Dominican and Benedictine education.”
The prelate affirmed the “great determination amongst these traditions that the richness of this diversity be not diluted.”
However, he stressed the “imperative that patrons and trustees of our sector unite and work together for the sake of the parents and children who are our constituents.”
“We must work together to strengthen the Catholic Education Service throughout the island and the Catholic Schools Partnership here in the South,” Bishop Kelly urged.
He continued, “Unity is the most vital goal that we in Catholic education must achieve in our overarching structures if we are to secure the treasure that is ours for the young people of our country into the future.”
Meanwhile, at the opening of Catholic Schools Week in Strabane, Northern Ireland, Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor also emphasized unity, in particular with other Christians.
He underlined the importance of working “increasingly closely with educational leaders in the Protestant churches.”
“The problem that all churches will face in the future is not one of religious difference but the reality of religious indifference,” the bishop stated.
He continued: “All our churches have an interest in ensuring that the ideology of secularism does not banish from education any openness to the transcendent.
“In an age where children are under enormous pressure to adopt very insubstantial heroes from the saccharine world of light entertainment or the virtual world of war games, we have the common interest of promoting an openness to love, truth and beauty, to community and generosity, to being inspired by good and by God.”
The prelate protested an attitude he has heard lately that “implies that Catholic schools are merely a relic of a divided past and that they will eventually wither as we become a more mature society.”
He asserted, “Catholic schools are not a phenomenon that we will get over when we grow up!”
“Access to faith-based education is a key characteristic of a modern, pluralist society,” Bishop McKeown stated.
He observed: “Catholic schools thrive in the most modern and advanced societies.
“They haven’t withered away when societies make economic progress. They tend to provide better value for the public money that they receive.”
“Indeed, in countries like Lithuania, governments have actually encouraged some state schools to become Catholic because evidence has shown that they can bring in all sorts of human and other resources that the state schools can’t access,” the prelate noted.
He stated, “In Northern Ireland, the real sign of maturity will not be when everybody just goes to a secular state school, but when diversity of provision is seen as an enrichment for society and not as a threat to its stability.”
The bishop reiterated, “We are not going away!”