The Catholic Church in Scotland encourages schools, parishes and other agencies to work closely together during one particular week each year in order to celebrate the distinctive purpose of Catholic education. The purpose of Catholic Education Week is to highlight the significance of Catholic education, not only for young people but for society as a whole. Pupils, parents, teachers and others are asked to reflect on their own roles in the education process: at home, in school, in the local parish and in other educational settings.
The Scottish Catholic Education Service provides support materials for schools and parishes to assist them in their own plans to draw attention to the added value which Catholic schools bring across Scotland. In St Conval’s, we have special liturgical celebrations within the school and organise wider school activities to celebrate our Catholic faith. Class teachers plan lessons to help pupils explore the Catholic Education Week theme for that particular year.
The most important event of the week, however, is the Education Sunday Mass when a large number of pupils and staff from our school community make the effort to attend the main Sunday Mass at St Mary’s Church. Pupils play a lead role in welcoming people at the door, doing the readings and bidding prayers and leading the music. This is a wonderful opportunity for the school and parish communities to gather together to give thanks to God for the gift of Catholic education.
EDUCATION SUNDAY MASS 2018
HEAD TEACHER’S ADDRESS
Our Education Mass this year is particularly special as it falls within the Centenary Year of the 1918 Education Act, when Catholic schools in Scotland were brought into the state system. Before 1918, Catholic schools were funded through the financial sacrifice of often poor parishioners. The old sandstone part of St Conval’s Primary opened in 1906, twelve years before the Education Act; St Conval’s must never forget those faithful Catholics who gave so generously from the little they had to build our school.
Next time you walk past my office, have a look at what’s left of a rather fascinating device. There are three lights outside the door: one say’s ‘Wait’, another says ‘Come in’ and the bottom one says ‘Engaged’. This harks back to a by-gone era when Head Teachers ruled with unquestionable authority (I’m sure many of you will be casting your mind back to your own childhood Head Teacher!). Although I am regularly told by our Primary 1 pupils, “You’re the boss of the whole school”, my personal approach to leading St Conval’s involves my office door always being open, twice daily visits (at least) to every classroom, getting out and about in the playground and being as approachable as I possibly can to pupils, parents and staff. So, even if the lights outside my office were still working, I wouldn’t be using them!
Today, the Feast of Christ the King, has an important message for me as Head Teacher and, indeed, for every adult involved in the education of our pupils. Although education has changed a great deal since the school building opened in 1906, teachers still have authority and power, and St Conval’s, like any school, can only function smoothly when there are rules, boundaries and sanctions. This authority and power, however, comes with a huge amount of responsibility. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: “If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others— the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.” Although Jesus was a king, He used his authority to teach others about God and God’s kingdom; he used his power to heal the sick and give sight to the blind. Like him, teachers (and Head Teachers!) are called to use their authority and power not to control and lord it over others, but to serve them: to put their own interests and preferences aside for the good of the children God has entrusted to them.
The figure on the crucifix in our school oratory shows the risen Christ, crowned as king. Look closely, though, and you will see the wounds on his hands and feet: the signs of his sacrifice and love. Teachers who take their vocation seriously and truly see it as their God-given calling will never be found seeking pleasure in status and power. Rather, you will always find them in the service of others, going the extra mile, worrying about a particular child after hours, quietly giving that difficult-to-reach pupil another chance. And, when you look closely, these dedicated teachers, like Jesus, will show the humble marks of sacrifice and love.
In this Centenary Year and on this Education Sunday, let each of us reflect on the important role we play in the life and work of St Conval’s Primary. As a staff, we renew our commitment to our vocation and to the pupils we serve in St Conval’s. As parents and parishioners, we renew our commitment to support and pray for our Catholic schools. And this morning, I invite our pupils to recommit themselves to love God, serve others and excel in learning by praying the simple words of our school prayer:
Jesus, may I be like you,
loving and kind in all I do,
happy in my work and play,
close beside you all this day.