The Mass, attended by over 700, began with principals and student leaders from all diocesan schools entering the cathedral to a choral rendition of the new Vision Statement for Catholic Schools, At the heart of all we do is Jesus Christ, setting the tone for the inspirational service that followed.
“The curtain closes on the illustrious career of Ray Collins…Ray you have touched our hearts and lives,” welcomed principal of St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen, John Tobin.
John recognised the large number of people who had travelled to attend the Mass including Directors of Schools from across NSW, representatives from the Catholic Education Commission, Edmund Rice Australia and the Independent Education Union, members of the Catholic Schools Council and Federation of Parents & Friends and principals, staff and students from across the diocese.
“Tonight we acknowledge a generous leader who has modelled gospel values throughout his career. Ray has advocated high standards with the aim of improving teaching and learning throughout his career and is the embodiment of the face of Christ to so many,” said John.
Head of Teaching and Learning, Kathryn Fox, followed with a reflection on Ray’s “61 years of continuous education and lifetime of school involvement”. “Ray is present with and to people and is infused with harmony…a person of integrity, who is inspiring and committed,” said Kathryn.
Kathryn also reflected on Ray’s mantra “Never forget what it’s like to be a teacher…never forget what it’s like to be a principal”, this being another example of Ray’s humility and inspirational nature.
Following Kathryn’s speech which was met with a spirited applause, Ray took to the lectern to express his gratitude to everyone in attendance with the heartfelt statement, “It has been a team effort at all times”.
Ray expressed thanks to the Sisters of Mercy and the Marist Brothers for his Newcastle-based education. Three of his past teachers were in attendance, including Sister Agnes, who Ray cited as “the reason I became a teacher”. Ray also gave a special thanks to his family for their ongoing support throughout his career and his colleagues from the Bathurst Catholic Education Office, who were also in attendance at the Mass.
After 18 years of service to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Schools Office (CSO), the love Ray has for the CSO and its people was evident throughout his speech.
“I will no longer be a part of the strong sense of community that I have at the CSO and will no longer be a part of the community of schools,” reflected Ray.
“Thank you to all staff at the CSO and the people in our schools for making my role such a privilege. I will especially miss my Personal and Professional Assistants Gail Hill and Vicki Sheriff. You are simply the best.”
Bishop Bill Wright mentioned the Catholic Schools Vision Statement several times throughout Mass, referencing the refrain “at the heart of everything there is always Jesus Christ” in relation to “the heart of Ray’s vocation as a Catholic educator”.
“It has been a pleasure for the last five-and-a-half years to work with Ray,” said Bishop Bill.
“I have appreciated his professional competence, humility, ability to look at things from everyone’s point of view and the life of service he has given in the memory of Jesus.
“Ray genuinely seeks what is good and will leave a gap in the lives of many,” said Bishop Bill.
At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Bill performed a blessing over Ray and his wife Annette and led the congregation in prayer. Everyone then stood to cheer and applaud Ray and his family out of the Cathedral.
Throughout Mass, the smile on Ray’s face spoke volumes of the appreciation and joy he felt toward those who surrounded him, and the number of people in attendance is a testament to the contribution Ray has made to education and to our Diocese, both professionally and personally.
He will be greatly missed by all.
Ray’s educational journey:
1956 – 1963 Primary Education: St Brigid’s Primary School, Raymond Terrace
1964 - 1969 Secondary Education: Marist Brothers High School,Hamilton
1970 Newcastle University (Department of Education Scholarship)
1971-1972 Newcastle Teachers College (Department of Education Scholarship)
1973-1975 Bourke Public School (Teacher)
1976-1978 St John’s Primary School, Dubbo (Teacher)
1979-1982 St John’s Primary School, Dubbo (Senior Primary Teacher)
1983-1987 St John’s Primary School, Dubbo (Principal)
1988-1997 Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Bathurst Regional Office, Dubbo (Education Consultant)
1998-2003 Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Newcastle West (Primary Schools Consultant)
2004 Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Newcastle West (Head of Teaching and Learning)
2005-Sept. 2007 Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Newcastle West (Assistant Director of Schools)
Sept. 2007- 2008 Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Newcastle West (Acting Director of Schools)
Sept. 2008-2016 Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Newcastle West (Director of Schools)
Photographs courtesy of Amanda Skehan.