The theme for this year's Catholic Schools Week Mass is 'I belong. You belong. We belong.' and it gives expression to a fundamental principle of Catholic Schools; they must be community schools, firmly implanted in their parish and diocesan communities.
The theme also acknowledges the Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, which calls on our faith communities to be centres of pardon, strength and love, extending mercy to those in need.
A core principle of Catholic schools is that they reach out to all members of their communities through their expression of faith, hope and love.
We see in the many ways in which Pope Francis emphasises this commitment to love and mercy, the importance of our schools being welcoming and inclusive communities.
One of the most powerful images for me of Pope Francis's outreach was his celebration of the Mass of the Last Supper in a detention centre in Rome where he washed the feet of 12 in-mates, not all of them Catholics. This was in contrast to the normal practice for Popes, to only wash the feet of men and usually only members of the clergy.
In addition, this theme represents the Church's call to reach out, with compassion, to those who are fleeing tyranny and war in their homelands and who seek refuge in countries like Australia.
The terrible plight of the people of the Middle East fleeing violence, murder and persecution is witnessed on our TV screens every day and we are called to welcome those who seek our aid in their plight.
During Catholic Schools Week our schools will be open to their communities, showcasing the many aspects of school life that demonstrate the contribution they make to the communities of which they are a significant part.
As a Diocesan community we will gather at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton, for the Catholic Schools Week Mass. Here, Bishop Bill, assisted by members of the Diocesan Clergy, will celebrate the Eucharist with the staff and students of our Catholic schools. This Mass gives expression to the central importance of the Eucharist in the life of our Catholic schools.
For a number of years now Bishop Bill and his predecessor, Emeritus Bishop Michael Malone, have joined with the Diocese's Federation of Parents and Friends Association to acknowledge, with a Bishop's award, those students who demonstrate commitment to their faith. This may be through their involvement in their local parish community as altar servers and in the music, liturgical and welcoming ministries or involvement in activities such as Mini- Vinnies, Catholic Mission and Caritas. This year, these awards were presented to the recipients at Mass on Saturday night in the Cathedral but they will also be acknowledged at the Catholic Schools Week Mass.
After Mass, Bishop Bill and members of the Catholic Schools Council will also meet with the student leaders of our diocesan secondary schools as part of a process of consultation with key stakeholders in our Catholic schools, undertaken by the Council.
I extend to all of our school communities my best wishes for a very enjoyable and uplifting Catholic Schools Week.