Here, the Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus taking his disciples by boat “to a lonely place where they could be by themselves” following a very busy time of preaching and teaching. However the crowds followed them “and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them”.
Jesus “took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length”.
This image of Jesus and his disciples as teachers of the Good News is one that is closely aligned to the purpose of Catholic Schools. The holistic care of the students in Catholic schools is part of the ministry of teachers and support staff and we take as our model and inspiration the person of Jesus.
This week’s readings come at the end of a very significant week in the history of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. The importance of the week is placed in the context of two other momentous times in the diocese’s history that had a profound effect on the nature of Catholic school education.
In 1880 the Bishop of Maitland, James Murray, embraced the challenge of the withdrawal of all Government funding to Catholic schools by establishing a system of Primary and Secondary schools staffed by religious orders he brought from around the world and encouraged the establishment of in our diocese.
This system of schools really continues to this day with the notable difference that they are largely staffed by lay people.
In 1982 Bishop Leo Clarke announced a significant restructuring of Secondary schools in the Newcastle area, soon followed by a similar process in the Maitland area. This restructure created the secondary schools model that has been in existence now for over 30 years.
This week’s announcement of the building of two new Secondary schools in the diocese at Chisholm and Medowie and the extension of two of our Years 7-10 schools to Years 7-12, whilst not as significant as that of the 1880s is nevertheless a very important one in the context of the purpose of Catholic schools.
Charged with the responsibility of teaching the Good News to those of the Catholic ”flock” our schools have also embraced the commitment of Jesus to reach out to those who sought his message.
Since their inception Catholic schools have always welcomed those who sought a Catholic education no matter what their faith. Our schools continue to do that today.
As our system continues to grow I hope we will always have the Good Shepherd as our inspiration for all we do to provide a quality Catholic education to the students in our care.