Homily: Commissioning Mass - Sandhurst Catholic Education Leaders




As we commission our new principals and school board chairs, I would like to share with you some thoughts regarding the nature and identity of Catholic education today.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News.  First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.  This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching.  In this way, those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church. This evening, as we commission our new principals and new school board chairs we all might remember the words of St Paul in Romans 10:15-17, when he quoted the prophet Isaiah ‘How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news’.
In today’s Mass, our first reading is from another prophet, Jeremiah. His call was to challenge the people of God to an awakening.  He was preaching to the people and teaching them about exemplifying faithfulness to God in times of difficulty.  Jeremiah paints a beautiful picture of the blessed life; the one lived in the will of God.  The pertinent message for ourselves is the promise of these verses, that no matter what happens; we can depend upon the sufficient grace of Christ to meet our needs. Jeremiah is speaking about trust, which comes from deep within one and grows only within a mature and tested relationship.  In this case, Jeremiah is teaching the people about trust in God.

In similar vein, St Luke’s Gospel today Jesus teaches us through the parable of  the rich man who treats Lazarus with contempt during their lives and refuses to show any kind of mercy and love.    Obviously the rich man in this story knew Lazarus; he had to step over him almost daily.   The rich man had many chances to give and show mercy but did not.  And we hear what happens to them both!   This story shows us that those living justly with goodness and sincerity will indeed be rewarded, but there are some who do not listen to the word of God and therefore do not take the opportunity of salvation. This is a stark reminder that evangelisation can be very difficult!

This task of education is never easy. It involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the schools they serve. Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on truth and in service of the person and the community, can become especially powerful instruments of hope.  The history of this nation includes many examples of the Church’s commitment in this regard.  The Catholic community here in the Diocese of Sandhurst has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice over the years by many priests, religious and laity, especially parents.

As we look forward to our work in Catholic Education in 2013, we might ask ourselves: Are we ready to commit our entire self – intellect and will, mind and heart – to God?  Do we accept the truth Christ reveals?  Is our Catholic faith tangible in our schools?  Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation?  Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.

Society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators.  Dear friends, new principals and school board chairs, this places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity.  More and more people – parents in particular – recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children.  Let us remember Jeremiah’s message: we can depend upon the sufficient grace of Christ to meet our needs, so do not be daunted by the tasks ahead.

May I express a particular word of encouragement to both lay and Religious teachers of catechesis, who strive to ensure that young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith.  Religious education is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigor. If this awakening is to grow, teachers require a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. They must also be ready to lead the commitment made by the entire school community to assist our young people, and their families, to experience the harmony between faith, life and culture.

I wish to conclude by focusing our attention specifically on the paramount importance of your own professionalism and witness within our Catholic schools.  First, let me thank you for your dedication and generosity. Your selfless contributions and the dedication of those working in education in this Diocese are outstanding; – you do so well in the service of our Church!  For this I express my profound gratitude, and ask that you contemplate the privilege of being called to be partners in the new Evangelisation in this Year of Faith!

This means that as we serve in our various roles in Catholic Education across the Diocese of Sandhurst, new principals and school board chairs, we are called by Jesus and commissioned now here today, to teach as Jesus taught.  May God bless you in your vocations, in your task of giving testimony to the love of God in our Catholic schools and in our world.