RAY COLLINS: Catholic Schools as Followers of Jesus

Whatever it is that sets Catholic schools apart from others, it should be the focus they have as followers of Jesus Christ and as adherents to the message of the Gospels.

Whether it be their approach to pastoral care, discipline, academic study, sporting success or the creative  and performing arts, the teachings of Jesus should be fundamental to the school’s mission and relationships within the school community and beyond.

For both staff and students the question of, “What would Jesus do in these circumstances?”,  is the guide to how they approach their work and study on a daily basis.

They are called to respond to the challenges that school life presents and to celebrate their efforts and achievements in a manner that is consistent with the Gospel message.

Every week I see so many examples of our students and staff living out these expectations in positive and faith filled ways.

In the last week, there has been a particular focus on responding to social justice initiatives, something that is very much part of Catholic schools embracing Christ’s outreach to the poor and marginalised.

On Tuesday, Michael Eccleston, a teacher from All Saints College, St Joseph’s Campus, Lochinvar, completed a 150 kilometre run from St Joseph’s Aberdeen to San Clemente High School, Mayfield to raise awareness of the plight of refugees seeking a safe lifestyle in Australia. Inspired by the story of CatholicCare Refugee Service employee, John Sandy, who, as a refugee from Sierra Leone, struggled through many barriers to be allowed to join his family in Australia. Anyone who has heard John’s story cannot fail to be moved by the struggles he faced.

Along the way Michael called in at schools in Singleton, Lochinvar, Maitland and Newcastle where staff and students supported his fundraising for CatholicCare’s Refugee services.

On Thursday evening, two Principals, Niamh Marzol from St James’ Primary School, Muswellbrook, and Anthony Weir, from St Joseph’s Primary School, East Maitland, took part in the St Vincent de Paul Winter Sleepout for Chief Executive Officers of businesses, corporations, schools and government agencies.

The CEO Sleepout raises funds for the St Vincent de Paul Society and its outreach to the homeless people of Australia. They were joined in their fundraising by schools entering into the spirit of it by holding “pyjama days”.

Our schools also supported Fr Kevin Corrigan who recently walked from Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney to Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton to raise funds for a project called “Home for Small Children in Cambodia” which includes a school for children whose families scrape together an existence through recycling rubbish from Phnom Penh’s garbage dumps.

These are just some of the initiatives that occur in our schools every week, responding to the call of the Gospels to love one another as Christ has loved us.

In addition, our schools across the diocese are extremely generous supporters of the work of Caritas and Catholic Mission in their outreach to the poor in countries across the globe.

These are just some of the ways in which our school communities give expression to their commitment to be followers of Jesus.

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.

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