I was surprised and humbled last night at our Silver Jubilee Celebration when presented with a Papal Knighthood in the Order of St Gregory the Great. I am not often lost for words, as this blog attests, but I was quite moved by the significance of the honour presented by our Bishop, Anthony Fisher OP. The citation read by Fr Arthur Bridge said I was being acknowledged, not just for my contribution to Catholic Education over the past few decades, but also for my work in reframing schooling in a contemporary age.
As I said last night – when I was finally able to string some words together – our work in the area of making schooling relevant for today’s world is only possible through the support and confidence of the Bishops with whom we work. Some might think it’s remarkable that the Catholic Church is so willing to lead a progressive agenda in schooling – I disagree.
Catholic schools are called to be different. The Catholic Church is by nature counter-cultural; it follows, then, that Catholic schools must also be counter-cultural. It’s in our DNA. If Catholic schools simply mirror the existing landscape and become extensions of the ‘norm’, we will have failed to fulfil our moral imperative which is to ‘have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). This doesn’t mean we hole up and forget the secular world. On the contrary, we have to be an integral part of the world we serve, but we must also seek to transform that world – to make it better – by challenging the status quo and continually looking to improve the experience of schooling for the young people in our care.
In the Diocese of Parramatta, we are working collaboratively to find new ways of learning and teaching informed by what we know is good theory and practice; we are trying to embed that at every level of the system; and to continue to build the capacity of our teachers and leaders so they can prepare the next generation to go out and transform the world for the better.
This Papal honour is an acknowledgement of the work WE, as a diocese, are doing to ensure Catholic schooling is relevant, meaningful and transformational for our 43,000 students; and of our responsibility to share this work with our colleagues across sectors and across the globe.
To my colleagues, thank you for your ongoing commitment to Catholic education and happy Jubilee.