By Cian Molloy - 30 January, 2017
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.
This year’s Catholic Schools Week was launched by Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin at a Mass broadcast by RTÉ from Saints Peter & Paul Church, Portlaoise, on Sunday.
It was the first time that the week, which celebrates all that is good about Catholic education, was launched in Ireland in a Church setting.
“We are making history by launching Catholic Schools Week not in a school but in the heart of the Sunday celebration,” said Bishop Nulty. “Parish and school are hugely entwined. It is right and is very proper that this year’s launch is taking place during the regular Sunday Mass where the parish and the school become one community of faith.”
Present at the celebration were representatives from ten of Portlaoise’s Catholic Schools. The bishop told them: “The week gives us the opportunity to celebrate the unique contribution that both primary and post-primary schools make to our local parish faith communities and, indeed, to the wider society.
“This contribution is a significant one. 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 Ireland and 341 Catholic post-primary schools. Identity is important to all of us and parish gives us that sense of identity.”
The theme to this year’s week is ‘Catholic Schools: Learning with Pope Francis to care for our common home’. Bishop Nulty said: “This year, the week allows us, through the prism of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’ – caring for our common home, to appreciate as followers of Christ we are all called to care for, watch over and protect the world that we call ‘home’.
“Recently, I was privileged to visit Zimbabwe with Trócaire and saw at first hand the effects of climate change, drought and pollution. We don’t need to travel that far. In fact the very act of travelling that plane journey results in excessively burning fossil fuels. We have to ask ourselves, do we really need strawberries in December? The best people to teach us lessons on the environment are our young people – how many of our schools take their greatest pride in their Green Flags?”
Catholic Schools Week was first inaugurated in the United States of America in 1974 and it has been celebrated in Ireland for nine years now. This year it runs from Sunday 29 January to Saturday 4 February.
To help Catholic schools across the country take part in the week’s celebration, a wide range of resources for primary and secondary schools, in English and in Irish, is available for download from the website www.catholicschools.ie. There is also a dedicated Facebook page for events in Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/Catholic-Schools-Week-1010622905618159/.