NICCE News

Year of Faith 2012 - 2013

Pope Benedict XVI has set aside a special year for Catholics throughout the world to rediscover and share with others the precious gift of faith. 

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Year of Faith Website

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Statement from Archbishop Sean Brady

  Statement From Archbishop Brady

  Catholic Education Week 2007

 

 Archbishop Brady

 

This week Catholic schools across Northern Ireland celebrate their identity. Schools and parish communities throughout Northern Ireland are being invited to celebrate the distinctive richness and diversity of Catholic Education by taking part in a series of suggested events and activities over a period of a week.

'Walk in the Light' has been chosen as the theme for the week.  The Catholic school seeks to walk in the light of the Gospel, Catholic education is based explicitly on the Gospel integrating faith and life, promoting justice and peace and contributing to the Common Good.
 
Catholic Education Week is an integral part of an ongoing process of celebrating Catholic Education. It aims to engage the entire Catholic education community, namely the family, the school and the parish. It builds on the success of the ‘Catholic Education – The Vision’ initiative which was launched last September and which was positively received.

The current project Catholic Education – the Vision is being considered in all our schools. It asks schools to make sure that they reflect Gospel values in all their relationships and policies. No school is perfect. Some have more questions to consider than others. But only when we know what we are trying to achieve, can we measure how well we have done. Having this agreed vision will help us to keep offering a real value-added contribution to our whole society and education system. Across the world, there is a recognition that any enterprise will succeed, only if it is clear about what it is trying to achieve – and I believe that, in the Catholic education sector, we are very clear what it is we are trying to achieve.

For a number of years, some people seemed to create the impression that the 550 Catholic schools in Northern Ireland were offering a somewhat inferior type of education – and that the existence of denominational schools was both part of the past and part of the problem here. If only they didn’t exist, then peace and reconciliation would be so much easier to achieve.

Indeed, I know of instances where some parents almost felt that they had to apologise to colleagues or neighbours for sending their child to a Catholic school. 

But recent information and data has actually demonstrated that, far from being an inferior and retrograde form of education, what is offered in Catholic schools is actually offering an outstanding educational experience – and committed to promoting reconciliation here.

How can I justify making such claims? Each year, the Department of Education publishes various statistical bulletins on a whole range of data. One such recent publication made it quite clear that – despite much higher levels of Free School Meal Entitlement - Catholic schools generally outperformed other sectors in terms of GCSE scores, post-16 staying rates, A-level results and the percentage of their school leavers going on to university.

And government figures show that this is true across the board, in both selective (‘Grammar’) and non-selective schools.

Further recent figures also showed that in particular our primary schools - often working in difficult circumstances – have contributed to communities with literacy and numeracy skills that are well above the Northern Ireland average. Let your light shine!

The Trustees of Catholic schools – the Bishops and Religious Congregations who hold them in trust for the parents – have taken very seriously their role in promoting reconciliation. Immediately after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the Bishops set up a Working Party of educational experts to clarify just how our schools could take their responsibilities seriously in the new environment. The result was Building Peace, Shaping the Future, where it was made clear that, for Catholic schools, reconciliation and peace making was not an optional extra or a new imposition, but an inherent part of any education with Jesus Christ at the centre.

But some kept saying that – despite nice promises - there was really only one small sector that was really contributing to healing the pain of our fragmented society. However, the recent (December 2006) document from the Independent Strategic Review of Education – the ‘Bain Report’ – states quite explicitly in its Executive Summary (section 43), “We believe… that all schools, and all educational interests, need to, and wish to, play their part in the journey towards the goal of A Shared Future.”

That report – accepted by Government – means that at last Government recognises how Catholic schools, who teach 45% of the pupils here, need to, want to, and are able to continue to make their own unique contribution to finding ways forward.  Those who send their children to Catholic schools have no need to apologise!

I am so impressed by all those involved in education, for what they do for children – and I am especially impressed by the dedication of so many people involved in so many ways in our Catholic schools. We can, without any doubt and rooted in our rich traditions, face the future with confidence, well able to make a uniquely successful contribution to the Common Good. That is the light that we wish to keep shining, to illuminate the way forward for all of us.