Conference 2011
Catholic education and A Church in Crisis: Pointers to a Way Forward


Catholic Education and a Church in Crisis: Pointers to a Way Forward – Le Chéile Conference, Feb 3, 2012

Introduction:  We have been listening to the very interesting reflection on the ‘system’ by Professor Emer Smyth, as seen through the perspective of young people.

You will be aware that this system, as outlined in the Charter of the Le Chéile Trust, has at its centre a mission and vision of Catholic Education that encourages the students to ‘ search for truth and meaning’ and to ‘strive for excellence in all areas of human growth’ (5). This will be achieved, according to the Charter, by establishing a school community  ‘that witnesses to the Kingdom of God and to Gospel values’, that has a focus on Christ ‘ as a teacher and a model of human living’(4). This mission is articulated explicitly as a ‘participation in the mission of the Church’, such that the Trust ‘values its links with the local and universal Church’ (2). In other words, you are being asked as Heads and Board members not just to aim for an academically good school, much less one which achieves eye-catching points results and a good place on the Irish Times League tables. No, you are being asked to educate towards a much broader range of human values, and to link these values with Jesus Christ and with the Church, so that there may ensue an invitation to discipleship.

Founders and Futures - Opening Hymn - Student Presentations video

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Alstair McIntosh Resumé

Alastair McIntosh who describes himself as an independent scholar, activist, writer, speaker and broadcaster from the Isle of Lewis, is a Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology (CHE), a director of the GalGael Trust and Visiting Professor of Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde. In his very engaging address to the conference Alastair set about making connections between the idea of the development of peoples and society with an awareness of the spiritual dimension of life. He argued that the fullness of human community is to be found when there is a proper integration of soil, soul and society. In other words when we connect properly to the earth, to the self and to one another then we are making authentic human community possible.

Founders and Futures

The Founding Stories and Tomorrow's vision for Le Chéile Schools1

At 6 a.m. on May 5th 1861 a 51 year old Waterford woman in poor health who had devoted herself to the care of the "sick poor" in Dublin and especially the welfare of orphans was released from the Female Penitentiary in Grangegorman where she had spent the previous six months having been sentenced to jail for contempt of court. She made her way down to the church on Arran Quay where she went to Mass and after that she walked up to Drumcondra, to her house in Eccles St. Four of the six friends and co workers with whom she shared the house were gone – the notoriety of her imprisonment and all the attendant publicity proved too much for them. So Margaret, that was her name, had to gather her energy once again and start over. It is a testimony to her remarkable spirit that within five months she had opened her first school, St Bridgid's at no 10 Crow Street in Temple Bar and within a year she would have seven companions living with her in Eccles St, all of them devoted to the care and education of children. This amazing woman is Margaret Aylward, the foundress of the Holy Faith Sisters and in this the bicentenary of her birth we can safely say her story lives on2. What I want to do in this talk is to reflect on what it might mean to say that the story lives on, because to say that in the context of Catholic education in Ireland and in particular in the context of the emergence of the Le Chéile Schools Trust in the first decade of the new millennium is not to appeal to nostalgia or sentiment about a bye gone era it is to make a bold statement about who we are and what we are called to share in. I will come to that presently but first let's undertake a little time travel as we look at a few more snapshots of some truly inspirational and heroic women and men.

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