I am proud of the contribution of Catholic schools to the life of the diocese and the local parish communities. Some 20,000 students have benefited greatly from faith-filled staff who have worked with parents and parish clergy to form them for life.
Our Catholic schools are a service to the Church and the community as they support the growth and faith of the students in a world full of challenges. Schools have continued to work collaboratively with communities to develop the faith and learning opportunities of our students.
I am drawn to the prayer of Teresa of Avila that suggests that school communities are developing individuals who recognise that Christ has “no hands but yours” and refer to the important work of being Christ-like, taking a counter-cultural view of secular society and working for the greater good of the Kingdom. We are a values-driven system of schools and certainly counter-cultural, refusing to accept the societal norms of racism, sexism, homophobia and violence toward women. Our schools challenge those who don’t strive to assist others. They encourage giving to the poor in handfuls, working to be more tolerant and accepting diversity within our Australian culture, whilst practising reconciliation and forgiveness. The generosity shown by school communities was evident in the $45,162 contributed to Caritas’ Project Compassion, St Vincent de Paul Society and Mercy Week appeals and other charitable works that were supported by individual schools.
Catholic Schools Week was a real highlight with a celebratory Mass and the announcement of the Bishops’ Awards to several schools and individuals. It was a joyous event with the cathedral full of clergy, teachers, students and parents, each celebrating a special moment.
The learning agenda remains a key feature of Catholic education and 2017 saw the launch of the Learning Framework for Catholic educators in our schools. This framework represents many hours of collaborative work steeped in best practice from leading world educators. It will serve our teachers well and improve learning outcomes for our students.
Memorable aspects of the year include the preparation of Gateshead and Lochinvar communities for the inclusion of Stage 6 education and the Higher School Certificate. Construction of St Bede’s Catholic College at Chisholm has begun and planning for Catherine McAuley Catholic College, Medowie, is underway. Several other school sites have experienced significant capital and refurbishment works to support pedagogical provision in the classrooms.
Our annual Vivid campaign showcased the mission and identity of our schools and the wonderful programs on offer in our primary and secondary schools. Also showcasing the talents of our teaching staff and students was DioSounds and ASPIRE’s The Hoarders Next Door. These events placed on display a unique array of musical and theatrical talent. The performances had audiences spellbound.
Catholic education in Maitland-Newcastle prioritises a school improvement agenda in a highly visible and accountable manner. One can observe the promotion of equity and excellence to create young people who are sound learners, faith-filled and compassionate people, and active and informed Australian citizens. It is impressive to visit our schools and observe the living examples of programs which enhance faith, diverse student learning needs, literacy and numeracy, leadership, early learning and social justice.
The Catholic Schools Office and our schools have embraced the Many Parts. One Body. One Mission. initiative which aims to unite the agencies of the diocese as never before. These include the Chancery, Zimmerman Services, St Nicholas Early Education and CatholicCare Social Services. There has been remarkable progress in this initiative with strong outcomes for all agencies within the diocese.