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At a meeting in the Riverside Park Hotel in Enniscorthy on Thursday 14th November 2019, Bishop Denis Brennan - speaking to a gathering of primary schools principals and chairpersons of Boards of Management of Catholic Primary Schools in Ferns Diocese - launched the document Ethos of a Catholic Primary School.

The document outlines a programme of understanding and action to be rolled out within Catholic Primary Schools within the Diocese over the next five years.

The programme is designed to deepen understanding of the Catholic ethos, to highlight awareness of the current strengths within schools and to effect a programme of basic discussions and actions across the whole school community that fully values each person and makes more explicit the Gospel energy available to further the mission of Christ in today’s world.

Speaking at the launch, Bishop Brennan said:

“Our purpose here tonight is to launch the Catholic Schools Partnership document “Understanding and Living the Ethos in a Catholic Primary School - a Process Centred on Conversation.’’

You will have seen from the presentation that this is a comprehensive work offering our Catholic Primary Schools strategies which will enable us to evaluate our standing in relation to schools of other faiths and none. Our Catholic Schools are part of a huge worldwide network. The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of education in the world serving over 60 million students annually. Our schools are recognised around the world for excellence in academics, for instilling a commitment to civic engagement, for fostering leadership and for nurturing respect for the dignity of the human person.

At a press conference in Rome when he was Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education Polish Cardinal Grocholewski told the story of a Muslim Ambassador who had chosen to attend a Catholic School and when asked why, he said; ‘ they are the best....they do not just teach science.....they mould people and transmit values.’

That comment chimes very neatly with the quote in the booklet by G.K.Chesterton; ‘every education teaches a philosophy, if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not education at all.’

It is interesting to note that of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, which includes Russia and Turkey, there are only 2 countries France and Macedonia, where there is no religious education in State Schools.

In all the other countries education about religion is seen as an essential feature of culture and citizenship, as well as a counterweight against fundamentalism and extremism from whatever quarter they emerge.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to all who work in our schools for the remarkable work you do throughout the Diocese, in your work with young people you truly touch the future. The dedication and commitment shown by you and your staff in educating the children of our Diocese within the context of a Catholic and Christian ethos is to be commended and it is something for which I am extremely grateful. I fully appreciate the workload currently faced by you and your staff and the last thing I want to do is to add to it. For that reason we are offering you a summary of the original document.

At this stage I would like to acknowledge and thank the team responsible for drawing up this document which is designed to make the insights of the original more concise and accessible - Mairin Jackson, Msgr Joe McGrath, Fr Pat Duffy, Michael Foley, Sean Furlong and Maureen Kavanagh./ Also our speakers tonight Ferdia Kelly and Tommy Carroll. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the members of our Primary School Visiting Team, and the Schools for the way you welcome and facilitate their visits.

And as we are in the process of setting up new BOM’s at the moment I would like to acknowledge and thank the outgoing Boards and wish the incoming Boards all the best in their management of what Margaret Spellings, a former U.S. Secretary for Education described as ‘ sacred places serving a valuable civic purpose.’ Please understand that tonight is simply an invitation to engage in a conversation about the Ethos in our Catholic Primary Schools. There is not an expectation to have anything completed within a certain timeframe.

I would however invite you to address and reflect on the issue as it will help to clarify your position as a Catholic Primary School. It will also highlight and affirm how much of the work you have already done. This process is a nationwide initiative and is being currently introduced across the other 25 Dioceses. So, once again my thanks for your presence tonight and my thanks for all your do in the name of the Gospel to create in the words of Pope Francis, ‘a civilization of love.’ It is much appreciated.

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