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Patrons' Message

Why are so many of our primary schools Catholic? The question is asked sometimes with anger, sometimes with puzzlement. In a changing Ireland the proportion of schools that are Catholic will, no doubt, change.  What is very important, however, is that we plan for the future with a clear understanding of the role that Catholic schools have played and can continue to play.  Every community feels the need to share the riches of its tradition and culture with its younger members. In times like ours, when the future is so unpredictable, we search for a solid foundation on which we can stand in the face of the uncertainty and we hope to give young people an understanding of that foundation which is their heritage.

Bishop Ray Browne

That is a task for everyone without exception. Faith is a way of life which should be visible in the lives of all believers. If there was nothing distinctive about how we live, then we would have to ask ourselves whether we have anything that is that we worth passing on to a new generation. We can never rest satisfied with the way we are carrying out that task. The way we live sometimes obscures rather than communicates what is really important to us. Everyone who is a member of the Church needs to ask themselves about the message they are conveying, especially to the young. 

Go teach all nations

From the very beginning, Christians were sent out to teach all nations and to make disciples, or pupils of them (Mt. 28: 19-20). The Catholic community of today knows that they too are sent to teach the Gospel.. Christ, risen from the dead, offers us a truth that is stronger than any fear or uncertainty or disaster. It offers us, ”the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain”.(BENEDICT XVI, Spe Salvi 31.)

Bishop Kieran O'ReillyThe task falls first of all on parents, who know well the anxiety of knowing that their children have been born into a world entirely different from that of their own childhood. In some ways that world is much better; but in others it presents challenges that make parents and all of us adults wonder how well we would have resisted them.

Besides the community in general, the Catholic parish, and the parents, the primary school has a vital part to play. It does so, not as separate and unconnected from parents, parish and community, but as part of a living reality interacting with the whole context in which children come to understand their traditions and to prepare themselves for the unknown future in which they will live their lives. They do that not just by the subjects they study by developing as whole persons in understanding their world and in appreciating the values that will stand to them whatever the future may bring.

For several decades now, that involvement of primary schools in the life of the community has been made more visible through Boards of Management. The Boards draw their membership from the parish, the parents, the teachers and members of the local community. It is a sign of what the school is meant to be. In all education, and this is particularly true of primary education, the pupil is educated by parents, teachers and the whole community which shares the responsibility of opening up the children to the wisdom and richness of their culture, and will not sell them short, or leave them without the knowledge, or the formation or the faith which we are meant to share with them.

The willingness of people to take up this important task is a sign of the commitment of individual parishes and areas to the education of their children. It is a sign, in particular, of their recognition of the importance of giving children the faith and the values and the strength of character that will enable them to live responsibly and wisely and faithfully in the twenty-first century and, for some of them,, beyond. Board members deserve the appreciation of the community.

There is also a responsibility on the diocese, and on the bishop who is Patron of the Catholic schools, to offer Board members opportunities for deepening their understanding and to try to ensure that they have the information, the skills and the support they need in carrying out their responsibility. For that reason, the Dioceses of Killaloe, Kerry and Limerick joined together to establish Saint Senan’s Education Office which is available to advise and help Boards of Management and which tries to anticipate issues that busy Board members cannot be expected to foresee. In 2015, Saint Senan's Education Office also started providing these services to Boards of Mangement in Cashel & Emly.  The Office also tries to keep abreast of current and potential developments. Already its work is widely welcomed. I hope that it will continue to facilitate and encourage the schools, their Boards, and their teachers in their role of seeking to make primary school under Catholic patronage what they ought to be.

Bishop Brendan Leahy

The story is told that Saint Patrick was asked by some chieftains to cross the Shannon with them into County Clare. He went with them to the top of Knockpatrick, near Foynes, from which he could see their lands. He made a prophecy which referred to Saint Senan. He solemnly assured them that in due time one would be born among them who would speak and act in his stead. He promised them that if they remained faithful to his teaching all would be well with them. Should they turn aside from the way of this leader, hunger and want and slavery would be their lot. While he was on Knockpatrick, he looked west to Kerry, also visible from the summit, he blessed the people of Kerry.

Saint Senan’s Education Office recalls Saint Patrick's prophecy of the birth of the great teacher, Senan, and his promise to the people on the other bank of the Shannon, and what later became the diocese of Killaloe, that Senan would guide them wisely and well. It recalls his blessing to the people of Kerry.

The Diocese of Limerick, where the promise and blessing were given, is very pleased to host St Senan’s Education Office as a joint work of the three dioceses and the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly.