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  • So Much to Celebrate

    December 2010

    2010 has been an exciting year for Catholic education in the Diocese of Sale.  The constant flow of events, initiatives and demands from government have kept schools and the Catholic Education Office busy. But, as Christmas nears, we can begin to look back and see that there is much to celebrate, much to thank God for. It is worth mentioning just a few of these.

    Clearly, the high point of the year, one to which all our schools worked so hard, was the canonisation of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

    It was, and continues to be, an opportunity for each of us to acknowledge the work and the holiness of this great woman. At the same time it is also an opportunity for us to give thanks for the extraordinary work of her sisters in our diocese over so many decades. Now, there are only seven “Joeys” working in our diocese. But one sister wrote to me recently remembering a time when the sisters returning from summer holidays took up an entire carriage on the “Gippslander”. What a wonderful heritage we are privileged to carry on today!  

    Another highlight has been the Australian government’s Building the Education Revolution program. This has provided such wonderful new facilities in our primary schools, and to a lesser extent, in our secondary colleges too. The BER has been much denigrated by some, but if any of the detractors was to visit our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sale, they would have to review their opinion. Our schools have obtained great value for the government’s dollars. It has been my privilege to take part in the ceremonies of blessing and opening of many of these. I am constantly amazed the way our Catholic communities have worked so well together to obtain such a breathtaking outcome.

    On a systemic and very pragmatic level, we have reason to celebrate, too.  Thanks to much hard work and strong support from our communities, we have been able to obtain an extension of our funding security from the Australian government and pledges from both major parties at state level to tie our funding to 25% of the cost of educating a student in a Victorian government school. This is a great result, one towards which we have been working for many years. While there is still much work to be done at both Federal and State levels, these do represent real progress.

    Two liturgical celebrations also stand out in my mind. The annual leadership Mass (and subsequent dinner) was a wonderful experience of who we are as a Catholic educational community. On that occasion Bishop Prowse distributed a great number of “25 year” awards to school staff, marking their extraordinary service for which, again, we must give thanks.

    The second was the Catholic Education Week Student’s Mass in the Cathedral.  It was a truly beautiful ceremony at the conclusion of which, our Bishop remarked that in the 30 years of his priesthood, this was the most prayerful student’s Mass he had ever celebrated. Wonderful praise indeed!

    There are many other things, great things, that could be mentioned. But so many fall into the capacity of, “that’s just what we do.”

    The introduction of the National Partnerships is one such. This was difficult work for all and the results are yet to be seen, but the commitment of people to make it happen continues to be quite extraordinary.

    The opening of St Brigid’s primary school in Officer was another great landmark.  Again, this represented the end point (and a new beginning) of much hard work and commitment from the parish community.

    We have seen, the successful purchase of land for a second campus of St Peter’s College in Cranbourne. This was a tortuous process, but it was concluded successfully and building has started.

    On a less obvious, but no less important level, there is a noticeable change happening in our schools. Where once some of our schools took great pride in their “pastoral care”, sometimes at the cost of much else, now we see a growing belief  that we can continue to show care while holding high expectations and demanding very high standards of performance. It is most encouraging to see.

    While all this is happening, the wonderful every day work in every classroom in every school continues. Every day students, and staff, are learning, sometimes in challenging circumstances. They are learning from their successes and they are learning from their apparent failures. They are learning using new technologies, they are learning using the tried and true. They are learning through the relationships they enjoy with each other and from the programs and activities that are being introduced. This is the nature of our work and it can never be taken for granted. There is always so much to celebrate. 

    However, we look forward with anticipation to 2011. IT presents a substantial agenda!

    The introduction of the Australian curriculum is certainly something that will take our energy and time. The introduction of the Integrated Catholic Online Network (ICON) is another that will absorb our energy and resources. Learning to use properly the MySchool website will also take attention. These and many other issues are being articulated as I write in a new approach to strategic planning for the diocese. Soon, there will be published a new “Directions document” that attempts to outline all those things that will take our time, energy and resources over the coming three years. While it may look daunting it also provides wonderful opportunities and great excitement.

    In the Catholic Education Office in Warragul, while we very much look forward to the arrival of Bishop Prowse and the diocesan staff to share our facilities, we also approach the matter with some trepidation. Building projects are extremely disruptive and 2011 promises to be a very disrupted year from that point of view. We are confident that the result will be worth it.

    In conclusion, I would like to thank every member of our Catholic education communities for the work they have done during this busy year. I wish all a happy and holy Christmas and look forward to a safe return for all after what is clearly a well earned break.