Opening and blessing of “the learning heart of St Paul’s”, Booragul

Principal Graeme Selmes called it a day of friendship, hospitality and thanksgiving and the official opening and blessing of the Damascus Centre at St Paul’s High School, Booragul was certainly all of those and more.

The award-winning two-storey Damascus Centre, named after the conversion experience of the school’s patron, St Paul, on the road to Damascus, houses the new school library and a number of classrooms and break-out spaces. It features innovative design and twenty-first century learning spaces.

Director of the Catholic Schools Office, Ray Collins, was thrilled with the result of the years’ long project and praised all who made it a reality.

“The Damascus Centre will be integral to the quality of teaching and learning at St Paul’s. I am delighted with the choice of name. Just as St Paul, the learner and teacher, became enriched by his experience, it is hoped that all who learn or teach in this school will bring to their learning and teaching the same passion and commitment St Paul brought to his ministry,” Mr Collins said.

The liturgy included a Prayer for the People of Syria which Bishop Bill Wright highlighted was a very necessary one since the “people of Damascus today are suffering terribly”.

In his homily, Bishop Bill recalled the story of St Paul who went from wanting to stamp out Christianity to being an “utterly determined minister of Christ”.

Bishop Bill challenged those assembled to listen to the voice of God, as St Paul did.

“We all hear the voice of God but most of us have learned not to listen to it. We must try to be like St Paul and listen to God’s voice and follow up on it. Listening to God was a lifelong journey for St Paul. It’s not an easy path for anyone. For St Paul, Damascus is a symbol of his first and vital step towards God. For us, we can’t turn away from God’s voice because we know better. We must live the school’s motto, ‘To live is Christ’,” Bishop Bill said.

Principal Graeme Selmes recalled, “As the build continued, we began to have a real sense of the beauty and presence that this centrepiece of the school would bring. So today we celebrate its completion and commission it as the learning heart of St Paul’s. And as the name might suggest, we hope that our young will use this facility as a metaphor for the journey they are on during their time at St Paul’s. An opportunity to see the possibilities and to make real choices to achieve them.”

State Member Greg Piper, the Damascus Centre’s architects and builders, staff from the diocese and Catholic Schools Office and past and present students and principals, as well as students and principals from some of the feeder primary schools, were treated to tours of the new facilities at the conclusion of official proceedings. Hospitality staff and students provided a lovely meal to be enjoyed by all in the already iconic Damascus Centre.

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Joanne Isaac

Joanne is a Communications Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and a regular columnist for Aurora Magazine.