Coláiste Chiaráin, Athlone Officially Opened
Bishop Kevin presents Coláiste Chiaráin with
Vestments he received at World Youth Day, Poland 2016
(Bishop Doran, Mr. Frank Smith, Mr. Brendan Waldron)
The new voluntary secondary school in Athlone, Coláiste Chiaráin, was officially opened on Friday 24th November 2017 by the School Patron, Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, and Mr. Denis Naughten TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Students, staff, board of management, parents and invited guests participated in a Mass of Thanksgiving in the school hall, followed by the Opening Ceremony.
Coláiste Chiaráin is a new Catholic Voluntary Secondary School serving West Athlone/South Roscommon and catering for the educational needs of this fast growing area. It is the result of the amalgamation of St. Aloysius College and St. Joseph’s College which have served the area for the past 70 years. Bishop Doran said that the progress which has been made in developing this new college out of the great living tradition of the two “parent schools” is a testimony to the spirit of communion and mutual respect that has been so much a part of the engagement of parents, teachers and students in the project. He acknowledged in particular the hard work of the interim Board under the Chairmanship of Mr. Frank Smith.
The new school got off to a successful start, with over 530 students, including over 90 students enrolled in First Year. A new temporary accommodation block of 16 classrooms (including Metalwork/Engineering and Woodwork/Building Construction) was constructed over the summer. Extensive renovations and alterations were carried out on the original St Joseph’s College school building to ensure a comfortable working environment for staff and students until the new school building is completed. A significant grant for Information Technology and furniture was also granted by the Department of Education and Skills.
At the opening, Mr. Brendan Waldron, Principal confirmed that as part of the rapid build programme for schools, the new school building for Coláiste Chiaráin is being fast tracked through the various stages of design and construction. It is expected that the planning permission submission to Roscommon County Council will take place very soon. Once planning is approved, the construction phase is expected to be less than a year.
There are 17 optional subjects available for senior cycle, 10 available for junior cycle – one of the widest range of subjects of any school, one of the tangible benefits of a large co-educational school. Mr. Brendan Waldron also confirmed that students in 3rd and 6th year exam classes have continued with their present teachers, in order to minimize disruption to their studies, and that this has been supported by the Department of Education and Skills through the necessary teacher allocations.
Mr. Frank Smith, the Chairperson of the Board of Management, congratulated the Principal, Deputy Principal, staff and parents on the very smooth transition ensuring a great start on 1st September. He also thanked the Department of Education and Skills and its officials for their support.
Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran at Mass of Thanksgiving for Coláiste Chiaráin, Athlone
In the time of Jesus, the sower would have walked up and down the field with a bag over his shoulder, scattering the seed by hand. All that would have been heard would be the sound of the birds or the gentle breeze blowing in the trees. There would be plenty of time to think deep thoughts and reflect on the mystery of life. In one way, it seems far removed from hustle and bustle of your average secondary school. But sowing seed is, in a sense what education is all about.
Teachers are like sowers, scattering ideas, planting ways of doing things; using verbs; shaping wood, adding herbs and spices, solving complex mathematical problems. Then, like the sower they wait, patiently I hope, to see if the seed they have sown will bear fruit. I suppose that means that students are like the soil. When you think about it, the soil is not just passive, absorbing the seed. It also has something to contribute. Likewise, each student receives knowledge and processes it, in his or her own way. That is why, when we produce a piece of art or an essay, there is always something unique about it that comes from the person who produced it.
The learning is going on all the time, not just in the classroom, because we are sowing seeds all the time, seeds of understanding, trust and friendship, simply through being together and doing things together. That is why I believe that everybody who has anything to do with this College; teacher, student, secretary, cleaner, parent or board member has a unique contribution to make. Nobody is surplus to requirement. Not one of us here knows where we will be in five or ten years time. God alone knows how you may touch the life of someone else in this College, or how someone else may touch your life, and it could be a whole life-time before you meet them again. In that sense, every day, each one of us – student, parent or staff-member – is both the sower and the soil.
Let me tell you a story of something which brought that home to me in a very simple way this week. As many of you know, I grew up in Dublin in the 1950s and 1960s. About a week ago, a priest in North Sligo showed me a photograph on his phone. There, in the photograph, was me, aged four, with my sister, two cousins and my two best pals. It turns out that one of his parishioners was related to my “child-minder” from next door all those years ago. Then, just two days ago, one of the Scout leaders in Sligo, where I live now, sent me a different photo that he took on a campsite in Waterford, 50 years ago, in 1967. There I was, aged thirteen, with my scout troop from Dalkey. The lads from Sligo were camped beside us and it was great craic for a whole week. We leave a mark on everyone we meet. We may not be aware of it at the time and they may not be aware of it either, and that’s the mystery.
When Jesus told the story of the sower, he wanted his disciples to understand that God also has a wisdom to share with us; a wisdom which brings out the fruitfulness in our lives. Day and night he is working in us to bring us to fulfilment. It is part of the mission of a Catholic School to help each person to discover as richly and as fully as possible, the meaning and purpose of his or her own existence. In the end, of course, all knowledge is part of the same truth. What we learn from books, what we learn from teachers, what we learn from one another and what we learn from the whispering of God’s Spirit in the depth of our hearts. I hope you will find time and space for all of those things during your years here in Coláiste Chiaráin.
Address of Bishop Kevin Doran at the Opening of Coláiste Chiaráin, Athlone
It is hard to believe that two short years ago on a wet winter evening we gathered not far from here to discuss with the local community the plan for the development of Coláiste Chiaráin. The fact that the project has progressed in such a seamless and timely way is due to the generous engagement of all the stakeholders, staff and students of the two parent schools, board members and the wider local community. A special word of thanks to the officials of the Department of Education and Skills who have worked so closely with us on making Coláiste Chiaráin a reality.
Looking at the present student numbers in the primary schools in the West Athlone area, it is clear that this new college is responding to an urgent need and the Diocese of Elphin is very happy to play its part in ensuring the future of secondary education west of the Shannon in Athlone. We look forward to the next stage of the development which is the commencement of the new school building in 2018.
This is not the first ribbon Minister Naughten and I have cut together in recent months and it is a symbol of the reality that Church and State work in the same space and serve the same people and I look forward to coming back for the turning of the sod.
Finally, I want to say a word of thanks Mr. Brendan Waldron, Principal of Coláiste Chiaráin and to his Deputy Ms. Marguerite Quinlan, together with the school board, chaired by Mr. Frank Smith and to all who work with them to make Coláiste Chiaráin the excellent centre of learning which it is today.