RAY COLLINS: Welcome Back

A very warm welcome back to all members of our Catholic school communities after what has been, I trust, a restful holiday break.

Sadly, it is a sombre return for two of our school communities, All Saints College, St Mary’s and St Peter’s Campuses, following the tragic death of Year 12 student Shannen Riggien, in a car accident just over a week ago. Her death has been a harrowing blow to her family, her fellow students and the staffs of St Mary’s and St Peter’s where she had been a much loved member of the school communities. I am very grateful to the staff of St Mary’s who enabled the families of those involved in this tragedy, the Year 12 students and the staff of both schools to gather in prayerful support of each other.

As we extend our heartfelt condolences to Shannen’s family we pray that the remainder of 2015 will be devoid of such tragic events.

I am also aware of a number of staff in schools and the CSO who are or who have family members suffering serious ill health and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.

A very special welcome is extended to those who are joining the teaching service in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle for the first time. I look forward to meeting you in the weeks ahead.

A special feature of this school year is the new St Aloysius Catholic Primary School which opens its doors to its pupils next Monday 2nd February. This state of the art school has been in the planning and construction phases for the last two years and we are delighted that our first new school in 30 years will make a significant contribution to Catholic Education in the diocese. I am indebted to Mrs Suzanne Fern, the Principal of St Aloysius, Mr Chris Quinn, Assistant Director of Schools and Facilities Officer, Mr Chris Myors who have been instrumental in the development of this exciting new educational experience.

I also extend a very warm welcome to Doug Garnett who is joining our diocese as Principal of St Paul’s Primary School, Rutherford. Doug is coming to us from the Diocese of Armidale where he was the Principal of St Francis Xavier’s Primary school in Gunnedah. We also welcome back to our diocese Jim Fitzgerald who will be the Principal of St Mary’s Primary School, Scone. Jim is a former Principal in our diocese and also in the Dioceses of Wagga Wagga, Hobart and Lismore.

I am delighted also to welcome two of our own staff who take on the role of Principal for the first time. Cheryl Henderson, previously Assistant Principal of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Tarro has taken on the role of Principal of Our Lady of Lourdes and I wish her every success in that role. Michael Punch, previously Assistant Principal of St Michael’s Nelson Bay has been appointed as Principal of St Peter’s Primary School, Stockton. We welcome Michael to this important role.

Michael Blake, Principal of St Peter’s Maitland will be, for 2015, the Principal of St Catherine’s Catholic College K-12, Singleton following the appointment of Brian Lacey as the new Head of Religious Education and Spirituality in the Catholic Schools Office. Brian’s appointment followed the resignation in early December of Michael O’Brien and the subsequent advertising, interviewing and selection process left insufficient time for the appointment of a new principal to replace Brian and. I am grateful to Michael for generously agreeing to my request to take on this role for 2015.

On 10th February we will gather as a Catholic School Community for the annual Called to Serve Mass in Sacred Heart Cathedral where we will be commissioned by Bishop Bill to continue our service to our students and their families.

As part of the Mass we will present the 25 Year Awards and the Monsignor Coolahan Awards for excellence.

I look forward to joining you that night.

Have a great year.

Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.