Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran At a Mass to Celebrate St Joseph’s College, Athlone

I am delighted to be with you for Mass this afternoon to celebrate St. Joseph’s Summerhill. It is a mark of how much the College means to so many people that such a large number of past-pupils and members of the local community were here to spend time together during the course of the afternoon. I believe there was a queue at the door even before the afternoon was due to start.

During the Summer holidays every year, one of the tasks facing every school principal is the preparation of the school time-table. Some principals are very good at it and they make it look easy but it is, in reality, very complex. How many times do the fourth years have French? How often does Ms O’Brien have the second years? Why are there two classes in the same classroom at the same time?

But there are a lot of very important things going on in school that never appear in the time-table. Young people are learning to share space, to negotiate agreements, to listen and to speak in a way which respects and values others; learning to trust one another. Friendships are formed, some of which will last a lifetime. While these things happen in the background, they are just as important in the life of each one of us as the academic subjects we learn.

The Gospel today invites us to reflect on the meaning of friendship. Some people think a friend is someone that you love because of what they can do for you. Then, as soon as she is no longer any use to you, she is no longer your friend. But that would be a very narrow and sad understanding of friendship. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, says that our friends are people whom we love because of the goodness that we see in them. We do everything we can to support them in developing their good qualities.

A Catholic School will obviously include Religious Education as a core subject in the time-table, but there is much more to it than that. In a Catholic School, when it comes to all the stuff that is going on in the background, the Gospel is our “time-table”. We live by it. We remember that Jesus calls us his friends. He tells us that a friend is someone who lays down his life for his friends. In celebrating more than fifty years of education at St. Joseph’s College, Summerhill, this seems to me to be very central to it all.

It is good for us today to remember the Sisters of Mercy who literally ploughed their lives into this school for many years. With them we remember the very many teachers, chaplains, ancillary staff and board members who laid down their lives on a daily basis over the past fifty years, not just because it was a job, but out of a real friendship for the girls who came here to study; girls who left six years later as confident young women. We give thanks for those young women themselves and for all the ways in which they have gone on from here to offer the gift of themselves in Irish society and in the life of the Church. We think of their achievements in sport, in music, in industry and in international diplomacy. We think of the families they have formed.

There is always a certain sadness about ending, but every ending carries in it the seeds of a new beginning. That is especially so in the case of St. Joseph’s and I look forward very much to the next stage in the journey of this great College, which is already beginning. Thank you all for being here today. Please keep in your prayers all those who are entrusted with the task of building on the great work that you have done here.

Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran At a Mass to Celebrate St Joseph’s College, Athlone
Saturday 13th May 2017