Mass for the Principals of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne
Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Flemington Racecourse
on Tuesday, 2nd December, 2003, at 6.00pm
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With sentiments of esteem and gratitude to God I join with you in offering this Mass for our Primary and Secondary School Principals in the Archdiocese at the conclusion of another year.
I thank God for your witness and your work and for your generous apostolate of the Gospel in our schools, often in challenging and difficult situations, both religious and professional.
As we call to mind our sins, let us take strength from the limitless power of God to forgive, bind up and provide light in darkness so that we may go forward led by the light of the Gospel.
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
The completion of another year is at the same time a wonderful opportunity to thank you for your dedicated professional and apostolic service in our schools and also to look to the great mission in which you and I and our priests share in a particular way.
A friend of mine said to me recently that the Church was always gifted in the work of religious in schools. A tremendous new dimension, I believe, has been achieved in the number, quality and dedication of our lay Principals and school leaders, which has grown in the last thirty or forty years. Rightly understood and generously used it can be described as a ‘new Pentecost’. I express my joyful and humble gratitude to you for the extraordinary generosity that you have shown.
In the remarkable twenty-five years of his Pontificate Pope John Paul II has not hesitated to call the Church’s attention to the approach of the Third Millennium and the potential of this great anniversary of God’s mercy to reawaken faith in Christ. He did this by the Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, The Redeemer of Man, “Jesus Christ is the centre of the universe and of history.”
By 1991 another Encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, based upon the Second Vatican Council’s documents on the Church and the Church in the World, on Paul VI’s, Evangelii Nuntiandi, and by Pope John Paul’s constant proclamation of the mystery of the redemption by Christ.
Right from 1978 the Pope has urged us to expect a great outpouring of grace on the occasion of the Great Jubilee in 2000 and to anticipate a new springtime of Christianity. In the course of his Pontificate the Pope has tried to provide a more intense witness to the Redeemer. Indeed, from the beginning he wanted Catholic people to witness to the truth of Christ by taking up their mission to transform the social order and in recent years the Pope’s focus on Christ appears to be motivated by a growing concern that the waning commitment to mission reflects a crisis of faith in the Incarnation, the Redemption and the Holy Trinity.
Pope Paul VI says in Evangelii Nuntiandi that “evangelisation is complex and dynamic activity which cannot be equated simply with the first proclamation of the Gospel, preaching, catechesis and administering Baptism and the other Sacraments, but extends beyond all these to include the transformation of humanity from within.”
The Church evangelises when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of peoples, the activities in which they engage and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.
John Paul II insists that the proclamation of the Good News is the permanent priority of mission to which all other forms of activity are directed. Faith is the response to preaching and the content of Christian preaching is the mystery of God’s love of mercy made visible in Christ crucified, died and risen from the dead. He goes on to say in Redemptoris Missio, “The proclamation of God’s word inspired by faith has Christian conversion as its aim; a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and to his Gospel through faith. Conversion leads to repentance, Baptism and entry into Christ’s Body, the Church.”
He makes the telling comment that people sometimes make excuses that direct evangelisation is a violation of religious freedom, whereas the Church says that it is not wrong to propose the truth of the Gospel and of the salvation in Jesus Christ through the consciences of those who do not know it. On the contrary to make this presentation is to respect their liberty by offering them the possibility of accepting the Good News.
As Principals of Catholic schools you are called to be an important part of the work of mission. In the words of Paul VI, “taking into account the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of people’s concrete life, both personal and social.”
I remain deeply grateful for all that you do as Principals. For your total commitment to the faith and without any hesitation to the full remit of faith and moral teaching, which the Church proposes in ‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church’.
That is your responsibility, as it is of your parish priest and of me. In the way you lead your school you create an atmosphere of Christian welcoming, or proposing the values of the Gospel and of nurturing the precious young people in your charges.
As a leader, sometimes fearlessly, you have to challenge staff members to uphold the doctrine and moral teaching of faith and to propose to our children and their families the wonderful invitations it gives.
Thank you for your readiness to do this and to lead clearly and effectively so that what I so regularly see when I visit our schools and colleges is an atmosphere of mission and invitation, a readiness to work with staff in things that they find difficult and to present the attractiveness of the Gospel and an atmosphere in which the Gospel will flourish in total loyalty and commitment to the Church.
Melbourne is indeed fortunate in the variety and commitment of our school Principals. Alone, you and I remain one individual. Together, we are the arms and legs and mind and heart of Christ, offered to the people of this generation, filled as we are with joy by the Holy Spirit who will never desert us. Thank you for all that you are and do.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.