01 Jun 2021

Celebrating the journey of Catholic Education

The Southern Cross  |  June 2021

Celebrating the journey of Catholic Education

More than 500 students and staff from Catholic Education SA (CESA) last month joined in a simultaneous celebration with schools throughout Australia to mark 200 years of Catholic education.

The livestreamed national event on May 24 included participants from every corner of the country coming together for Mass to mark the bicentenary of the first ‘official’ Catholic school opened in Parramatta in October 1820 by Irish Catholic priest Fr John Therry.

In Adelaide, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan celebrated Mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral with Bishop of Port Pirie Diocese Karol Kulczycki SDS and Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ concelebrating.

National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said the national Mass was a highlight of the bicentenary year.

“As a faith community, our national Mass to celebrate 200 years of Catholic education holds significant meaning, particularly on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians – the Patroness of Australia,” she said.

“The scale of Catholic education in Australia is unique in the world, serving over 777,000 students and employing over 100,000 staff.

“We are blessed to have the support of governments and our families that ensures we can make a Catholic education accessible to families in every major town and city, and in many regional, rural and remote parts of Australia.”

Catholic education began in SA in November 1844 when Francis Murphy, on receiving his appointment as the first Catholic bishop of Adelaide, sent Mr and Mrs William James from Sydney to establish the first Catholic school in a temporary chapel in Pirie St, Adelaide. By 1866, there was a Jesuit School, St Aloysius at Sevenhill, and about 20 parish schools in South Australia, including St Joseph’s School at Penola, established by Father Julian Tenison Woods and Australia’s first canonised saint, Mary MacKillop. Now known as Mary MacKillop Memorial School, it is one of the oldest continuing Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Today, more than 46,800 students attend 102 Catholic schools across South Australia.

In his homily, Archbishop O’Regan spoke of the “hospitality of God” and the Gospel of the Visitation, describing the gift of education as a manifestation of the visitation of God.

He prayed “that our teachers may be inspired by the Gospel in their education of our young people and bear witness to them through their faith, hope and love, and that prayer may bear great fruit in the lives of staff and students”.

CESA director Dr Neil McGoran (pictured above) referred to the “audacity and courage” of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

“Without doubt, audacity, and courage feature as a constant theme of Catholic Education in this State,” he said.

“This reminds us of the need to look for new horizons; to strive to truly be who we say we are; to be open to the Holy Spirit; and to be led by the question driving the Plenary Council: What might God be asking of us at this time?”

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