By Sarah Mac Donald - 02 April, 2014
The opening of St James’ Primary school in Dublin’s Basin Lane marked “an important landmark” for Catholic education, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said as he celebrated Mass on Tuesday at the school.
St James’ is one of the first Catholic schools to amalgamate to allow for more plurality in education.
Two local Catholic boys and girls schools came together to form a co-educational primary school – St James’ – at the start of this academic year. As a result, a new Educate Together school has been established in the locality.
At Mass in St James on Tuesday, the Archbishop said Catholic education still has a vital place in the Irish educational system.
He said Catholic education brings a “unique value system” which was recognised by families of a variety of religious traditions in the community who opt to send their children to a Catholic school.
In his homily, the Archbishop said what was happening in Basin Lane was not a retreat from the tradition of Catholic education, but the beginnings of a new presence.
“We come to bless the fruit of this amalgamation which witness both the rich heritage of the past, but also recognition of a changed Ireland.
The Archbishop said having other schools in the area which will embrace a different ethos, was to be welcomed.
This, he said, would contribute to the rightful pluralism of educational provision in today’s Dublin.
“In that spirit we wish success to the Educate Together school which has been established in this wider area.” he said.
“Pluralism is something welcome. The fruits of such pluralism will have to be measured, however, not just in the provision of schools, but in an outcome in which every school, independent of its patronage, becomes a places of welcome for the deprived, the marginalised and those with educational challenges,” the Archbishop commented.
He said pluralism should not produce negative rivalry or antagonism or give rise to elitism or social division.
“We need to build up positive relationships within the entire educational community in the area in such a way that our children learn to respect each other and to understand what it means to live one’s values with conviction within a respectful pluralist framework.”
Describing St James’ location in Basin Lane as “the heartland of Catholic education in Dublin”, Archbishop Martin paid tribute to the Irish Christian Brothers who founded their first school there in 1820 – one of their earliest foundations in Dublin.
The Religious Sisters of Charity founded the other school and have been active in Basin Lane School since 1874, their former convent is today the Haven Adult Education Centre.
“What is happening here this morning is the expression not of a retreat from the tradition of Catholic education, but of the beginnings of a new presence,” the Archbishop stated.
He said they were there to bless the fruit of the amalgamation which witnessed both to the rich heritage of the past, but also recognised a changed Ireland.
Education, the Archbishop, underlined is not just about educational excellence in a technical sense.
“If I were to ask anyone here today what the single most significant thing that affected their education was, no one would answer that it was the curriculum or use the term ethos which they might not even understand.”
“Their answer would most likely not be about a thing but rather a name: Miss or Mr, Sister or Brother – a teacher who embodied in their own personal lives and commitment what fostering a passion for learning and self-realisation, personal integrity and generosity should mean to each pupil.”
He said the Catholic ethos is about love, about caring for each other, about rejoicing when we can pass on to young boys and girls something of the richness of a faith based on the call to love and to rejoice when those we are called to teach and inspire even go beyond us ourselves.