So long, farewell and thank you, Ray Collins

After his nine years as the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Director of Schools, it’s time to bid farewell to Ray Collins. As Ray begins his journey into retirement, we reflect on his illustrious career and the significant contribution he has made to our diocese. 

Bishop Bill Wright

I was very fortunate that when I arrived, as the new Bishop, Ray was firmly in place as Director of Schools. Not only were things running smoothly under a leader of great capacity and experience, but Ray was also a real man of the church with a true sense of his vocation as a Catholic educator. He quickly established a harmonious working relationship with the ‘new man’ and patiently initiated me into the finer details of our school system. He was justifiably proud of his people and his schools. He has been delighted by the new Vision Statement for our schools – “At the heart of everything is always Jesus Christ” – and that goes a long way towards explaining his life and sense of calling as teacher and leader in the Church. Vale, Ray − and thanks.

Father Bob Searle, MacKillop Parish

Ray has been an outstanding Director of Schools, a man of deep faith who has shown tremendous qualities of outreach, inclusiveness and pastoral charity in his dealings with school staff, as well as his gentle understanding of our pupils and their parents. I also know him as a parishioner, involved in our parish ministries, a person who sees giftedness in others, affirms and encourages it for the building up of our parish faith community. Our parish wishes him every happiness in his retirement.

Sister Marie Hughes rsj, former Senior Education Officer, CSO

Ray, congratulations on your retirement.  May it be a time of many blessings for you, Annette and your family. I hope you have your bucket list ready! Thank you for your leadership in our Catholic education system during a time of challenging yet exciting change in all aspects of education. Your steady guidance throughout your time at the CSO is to be commended and your commitment to fostering Catholic identity is a special legacy to the diocese, as is your frequent acknowledgement of the role religious congregations have played in establishing the Catholic schools of today. I would also like to congratulate you on your commitment to the creative arts.  It is wonderful to see our students excelling at ASPIRE each year. I have appreciated and valued your friendship and support over many years.

Gerard Mowbray, Assistant Director - Secondary School Projects
The period of Ray Collins' directorship will be remembered as one of the most stable yet fertile eras in the history of Catholic education in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Ray ensured schools had optimal conditions in order to flourish and always focused on their identity as Catholic schools and places of learning and growth for all children. Key themes of Ray's leadership have included his unswerving support for staff and students; commitment to learners with special needs; development of the schools’ physical facilities; attention to the future of Catholic schooling and ensuring students have sporting pathways and a platform for the growth of the creative and performing arts.

Ray will be remembered as a warm, big-hearted man, passionately committed to the welfare of his staff and so often present in our schools. Ray demonstrates what great leaders do, not only by developing great direction and culture but by fostering a climate in which others may contribute productively to Catholic education. The system is all the richer for Ray's leadership and his legacy will be the ongoing health and growth of Catholic schooling in our diocese.

Kathryn Fox, Head of Teaching and Learning Services

In Catholic education, as is the case with all institutions and organisations, there is a constant need to give fresh articulation to its vision and mission. Under Ray’s leadership over the last nine years, the diocesan system of schools has grown and flourished. In 2016, Ray leaves the diocese in very good shape: a robust system of schools; a steady increase in student enrolments; financial stability; new schools built and others expanded; cultural initiatives and academic achievements realised; a forward-looking model of planning and development; a ‘vivid’ new brand of diocesan schools; positive relationships with parents, parishes and the wider community, and social justice commitments reaffirmed. On the eve of Ray’s retirement, and in reflecting on the legacy he leaves, I acknowledge that I have been fortunate to work with good people in Catholic education, but in Ray, I have experienced someone who is truly authentic, as person, teacher and leader. Thank you, Ray.  

Paul Murray, Head of Finance, CSO

We have been very lucky to have Ray as Director of Schools.

Ray is authentic; I have observed Ray’s behaviour in many and varied situations, and he is always positive and warm to everyone. People feel comfortable with, and trust, Ray.

Ray has a genuine commitment to justice and equity. He has always championed needs-based distribution of funding and resources to schools. Ray is remembered at state level for his pronouncement, “Children in Bourke should have the same resources and opportunities as those in Bondi.”

Ray’s honesty has informed the current integrity and strength of management and financial controls across the school system.

I have observed over a long period Ray’s generosity with his own time and money.

Ray’s time as director has been a significant period of strong growth and development in schools across many dimensions. He will be missed.

Sidonie Coffey, Principal, Holy Family Primary School, Merewether Beach

What do I admire about Ray Collins? How long is a piece of string?

I came back into the Catholic education system after 19 years in the DET system. Ray welcomed me back and it felt like ‘coming home’. I really enjoyed teaching in DET schools, but because of the size of the system and the number of personnel involved, I felt very much a small cog in a large wheel. Ray, however, changed all that and made me feel welcome from the start. He supported my transition, making me feel valued in every aspect of my work.

Ray has that innate ability to make every principal, regardless of the size and rank of the school, feel like his/her contribution is highly valued. He has shown visionary leadership that has embraced the electrifying pace of change in contemporary education. Ray has an invitational manner that creates a climate of trust and mutual respect. I know he has many demands on his time, but he’s never too busy to return a call or give wise counsel. He makes the well-being of students, staff and parents his top priority. Ray will leave a huge legacy to those who follow. He is a remarkable bloke whose moral compass, strong faith, integrity and compassion have endeared him to us all. I will miss him immensely!

John Tobin, Principal, St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen

Over nine years ago, Ray commenced his journey, probably not appreciating what a significant impact he would eventually have on this diocese and on the lives of staff and students of each school. Ray has eloquently articulated a transparent vision of high standards, accomplished an exemplary list of achievements and successes and displayed an extraordinary commitment to every aspect of the role. However, I wish to focus on the qualities of the man, rather than outline his achievements. I also know that he would be embarrassed by the tributes and he would say, “I am simply a member of a great team who contributed to the projects.”

The leaders of other dioceses will remember Ray for his energy and conviction, as a strong advocate for Maitland-Newcastle. With passion and the wisdom of experience, coupled with “fire in the belly,” Ray would plead the case, pursue the funding or express on our behalf what was best for the students of our diocese. Most importantly, it is for his love of children and his concern for their welfare that I will fondly remember Ray Collins. He has a commitment to supporting student leadership and achievement, reflecting an expectation that students of this diocese ought to be different; that they should “step up” and be involved in their Church, school and the community. He expected them to make a difference, and he displayed a real interest in their lives. In the years ahead, know that you made a difference; that you are much loved and that we all appreciate the tireless efforts you have made on our behalf. Congratulations, Ray. Thank you for being you.

Adjunct Professor Anne Benjamin, Chair, Catholic Schools Council

Amongst many facets of Ray’s leadership of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, I would like to comment on Ray’s strong sense of social justice and his commitment to making Catholic schooling available to those who have less. I have seen this exemplified in a number of ways, such as his approach to financial policies that demonstrates church-in-action. Another example of this is the warm and generous hospitality that Ray recently offered to the visiting Director of Catholic Schools from the Diocese of Tonga. Ray consistently demonstrates this sense of shared mission with others, especially those whose needs are greater. On behalf of all members of the Catholic Schools Council, I thank Ray for his leadership of Catholic schools and wish him well for the future.

John Leao, St Peter’s Campus, All Saints College, Maitland student

Mr Ray Collins is a great man, a wonderful intellect and a great soul of matchless courage. Mr Collins epitomises what I want to become when I am older and he is a mentor for me and every other student in the diocese. During our World Youth Day pilgrimage, Ray showed us who he really was – caring, loving, generous, warm and devoted. His counsel goes above and beyond what anyone would expect and you will never speak to Ray without his telling you a story. I'm extremely confident that Mr Collins and I will always share a great relationship for many years to come. I wish him and his family well into the future.

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Alyssa Faith

Alyssa Faith was the Communications Manager for the Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle from 2016 - 2017 and a regular contributor to Aurora and

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