Marking the 200th anniversary of the establishment of Loreto Primary School, Rathfarnham
Archbishop Dermot Farrell
Friday, 5th May marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment in 1823 of Loreto Primary School in Rathfarnham, Dublin. This occurred eight years before the Act establishing primary national education system in Ireland was enacted. On 5th May 1823 Mother Teresa Ball of the Loreto Sisters established the school at the invitation of Archbishop Daniel Murray. Loreto Sisters have been involved with the school from its inception right up to the present day. Archbishop Murray had identified the much-neglected education of the people as a major need. In setting up the school the Sisters were endeavouring to cater for the educational needs of the children of local families. While much has changed in the intervening 200 years, this school under Catholic patronage continues to meet that same need. We are profoundly grateful to the generations of Sisters who built the schools, taught in it and funded it until the State stepped in modern times to fully meet the costs of running the school.
The recent pilot reconfiguration process demonstrated a continuing demand for Catholic education in many communities. I, and the other Catholic patrons, remain committed to working with the Department of Education to address the needs of any increasingly pluralistic society. Our commitment is an expression of our desire to express the deeper identity and character of the Church. The Church is God’s people on their way through time. If we are to journey well together, then we must be “a Church which listens, which has an awareness of listening. It is a reciprocal listening in which everyone has something to hear.” (Pope Francis, Address at the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops, Rome, October 17, 2015). The Church is therefore called to listen and act accordingly in a pluralistic society. In the midst of that plurality, Catholic education will continue to play a valuable role in serving the needs of communities, families, all those who wish for a Catholic education for their children, including those from other faith traditions and philosophical points of view. Catholic education will only bear enduring fruit in a context where schools live out their ethos authentically. In this way, we embody the fruit of the Holy, the gift God gives us in Christ. A key element here is the quality of religious education provided to those families who desire it. The new primary curricular specification, issued by the Minister for Education, reconfirms the important place of religious education within a holistic curriculum. Catholic schools aspiring to an authentic expression of their ethos have a responsibility to engage fully with the religious education programme for all class groups. Most of all, the ethos is given its best expression when schools understand their role in assisting parents as the primary educators of their children, respecting the essential dignity of each individual child, and consciously serving the needs of the common good of all, while following the pattern of the life and good news of Jesus.
Catholic education still has its vital place in our educational system, as something which brings its unique value system, a value system which is recognised by families in this community who opt to send their children to a Catholic school. The school is the gateway to the social, intellectual, mental and moral development of students which is achieved in a holistic way, educating the whole person. Education is a factor that humanizes society, because it helps us to transcend individualism, to appreciate differences, to discover community, to be responsible for our common home. It is “the natural antidote to an individualistic culture that at times degenerates into a veritable cult of the self and the primacy of indifference.” (Pope Francis, Video message on the occasion of the meeting “Global compact on education”, 15th October 2020.)