Homily of Bishop Kevin for Catholic Schools Week 2021

Communities of Faith and Resilience

Today we celebrate the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. It is also the “Sunday of the Word of God”. This is an annual celebration established by Pope Francis to draw our attention to the importance not just of proclaiming the Word of God, but of hearing the Word of God in our hearts.

There is a focus in our first reading and our Gospel on the proclamation of God’s Word. Jonah preaches to the people of Niniveh and they respond with faith. Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God. Two things in particular make both Jonah and Jesus effective in their preaching. Firstly it is God’s word that they preach, not just human thinking. Secondly, they they are not just speaking into people’s ears; they are speaking to people’s hearts.

Part of the message is a call to conversion or repentance. This is not always an easy message to preach or to hear. It invites us to change direction. I think it is important to understand that this is not just about turning away from sin. It is all about embracing what is good and true. It is ultimately about welcoming the Kingdom of God.

In ancient times the great monasteries like Clonmacnoise and Glendalough were communities of faith and communities of learning. They were also places where discipline was highly valued. (Discipline is one of the key characteristics of a Disciple). So the monks in their monasteries rose in the middle of the night to pray; they engaged in physical labour and spent regular periods of time in prayer, in order to be resilient in responding to God’s call.

Our modern day schools are very different places, but Catholic Schools are still called to be communities of faith and learning. Subjects like Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics seek the truth about the physical world. Languages and Music are about understanding people and their culture. Faith pushes out beyond the material world to seek the Truth that gives meaning to the universe and to our human existence. That Truth is God himself. The faith should not take the place of learning. Neither should the learning push faith into the background. Faith and learning are natural partners.

The theme of Catholic Schools Week this year is: “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith and Resilience”. The word Resilience seems particularly important. It is about that inner strength that allows us to keep going; to get up again when we are knock down; to be doers of the word and not just hearers; to stand up and be counted. In a Catholic School, our faith is as much about how we are with one another as about what we say. Our rituals, if they are to have any meaning or value, must influence the way we live.

I think all of you who are involved in school communities in the Diocese have learnt the meaning of resilience this past year. It has been a very challenging year. . I want to thank you all, students and teachers, ancillary staff, parents and board members, for your example of resilience and generous service. I’m sure many of you never thought you would hear yourselves saying: “I wish I could get back to school”. I hope you have managed to keep up with your learning and your search for truth. I’m sure this year has raised questions for all of us about the deeper meaning of things. It would be easy at a time like this to put faith and religious education on the back burner. I think, however, that real searchers after truth will know that “the Lord guides the humble in the right path (Psalm). Jesus Christ is a light for our footsteps and a well-nourished faith leads to resilience for the road ahead.

May God bless each and every one of you and keep all of us in his care. May he open our hearts to His Word.
Bishop Kevin Doran, Sunday 24th January 2021 – opening of Catholic Schools Week