St. Louis High School Centenary

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Homily Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin


    Church of Our Lady of Refuge, Rathmines, 4th October 2013


“Today, we celebrate the centenary of the Saint Louis High School, which opened its doors in September 1913.  We come to give thanks to God for the work that has been achieved in one hundred years through the Christian education of generations of pupils.  We recall with thanks the great contribution, which those pupils brought to the good of our city and country.


1913 was a remarkable year.  The tensions which one year later would lead to the Great War of 1914 were already tangible.  It was a year of political turmoil in so many parts of the world, marked by assassinations and internal conflicts in the Balkans, China, Mexico and the Far East.


Here in Ireland, it was the year in which the first attempts to introduce Home Rule were blocked by a negative reaction in Ulster.  In Dublin 1913 was marked by the tragic Lock Out which we have just commemorated.


It was a year marked in the United States and in Britain by the Suffragette Movement, demanding the right of women to vote. The right of women to vote was actually attained in Norway in 1913.  Women were leading a movement for change in societies around the world.


Woodrow Wilson was elected as President of the United States and in 1913 pressed a button, which enabled the final breakthrough in the construction of the Panama Canal.


The world was in ferment in 1913. I can even tell you Kerry won the All Ireland football final and Kilkenny the hurling. In case any of you might be beginning to think that the Archbishop is a historian, my sole source for these facts was Google.


I recall that 1913 was a time of rapid social and political change worldwide to remind you of the cultural and social context within which this school opened. Dublin was changing, the city was marked by dire poverty but Dublin was developing a new social awareness and sense of Irish identity.   At the time of the school’s foundation, Rathmines was not part of Dublin city, but had a separate civil administration with its own Town Council, which interestingly up until 1920 had a Unionist majority.


This is a school which rapidly gained a very high reputation thanks to the enlightened commitment and generosity of the Sisters of Saint Louis who had come to Ireland just one year before the opening of the school.  It is interesting to note how the Sisters of the Irish Province over this past century – and to an extent still today – were very much integrated into the work of the Order in many other parts of the world.  In 1913 and for many decades later world communications were very different to the instant communication we know today.  It was very often the knowledge and experience of the Sisters which served to open the minds the young people to the broader world and thus to mature integration of the local into the challenges of the different world of tomorrow.


This is a Catholic school, with all the richness the term “Catholic” brings.  Being Catholic will always mean being open to the world and to having a different understanding of the world.   Our Catholic faith instils in us the understanding that when God created human beings he created us as a family.  Catholic schools in that sense can never be exclusivist or narrow.  


That sense of being one human family is reflected in the readings of our Mass this morning.  The first reading today stresses the fact that being one human family is not just about recognising interdependence and diversity:  it is call to responsibility.  The believer realises that we share responsibility for our neighbours, especially those who are deprived of even the basic things of life, symbolised as bread, clothing and shelter.  However, the reading also refers to addressing oppression and all those factors, which inhibit human beings, our brothers and sisters, from realising their full dignity and abilities.


Pope Francis regularly uses the term “globalisation of indifference”.  The task of Catholic education is to educate young people to something different to indifference, to the opposite of indifference, which means reaching out beyond our own interests and personal fulfilment, to being a person genuinely moved and concerned about the situation of the world we live in and willing to change it for the better.


The second reading stresses how we are fundamentally bound to each other, joined as we are like different parts of the one body.  However, the reading is not a simple analysis of the different gifts that we possess.  It is again about responsibility, but above all it is about a style of living, one marked by certain attitudes such as generosity, hard work and cheerfulness.  Yours is a school, which has been marked throughout its history by good relationships among the entire school community.  It should generate then young adults who can enter life with that sense of cheerful solidarity and hope which are so important in today’s complex and challenging world. We should never be afraid to set our ambitions high.  We should always maintain an attitude of hopefulness.


Catholic education must seek to foster a generation of people who have the simplicity, the thoughtfulness and the tenderness to be authors of a different humanity, a humanity not of indifference but of care.  Education is not an end in itself aimed just at exam results or even educational excellence.  It is about fostering young adults who are not shy to recognise the place of idealism in life and are prepared to place talent and excellence at the service of a world.


The Gospel reading is about growth from small beginnings to something great.  That is what we celebrate here today as we look back over 100 years of this school.  We are grateful for the blessings that we have received during these years.  But we would be untrue to the Gospel if we did not recognise that it is talking not about our efforts, but about the Kingdom.  The mustard seed is a symbol of Jesus himself.  It is Jesus and Jesus alone who is the seed which produces fruit in superabundance.  Superabundance is a sign of the presence of God, who embraces each one of us in his superabundant love and teaches us what love means.  Love is the opposite to a self-centred world where power, possession, and celebrity are  seen as signs of success.  The God revealed in Jesus Christ is a God who shows us that loving, caring and sharing are the values which bring our lives true happiness in superabundance and in ways which so can often surprise us.


We pray that the presence of Christ among us in school and society will lead the future pupils of this Saint Louis High School along the ways of hope and fulfilment and that sense of responsibility and care for others.  The Catholic ethos of a school is not something that can be summed up in a mission statement, framed over the main entrance.  It is something living, which is shaped by the lives of succeeding generations of teachers and students alike.  At the end of this Mass we receive the true mission statement of the Catholic school:  Go, forth and glorify God by the way you live. ENDS