Archbishop's Homilies 2008

Mass for Principals of Catholic Schools



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tonight as we come towards the end of another year in the service of the Gospel and in the magnificent work of leadership, teaching and service, which Principals perform in our many schools, we are invited to focus on the Word of God.

By our own personal conversion of heart we are invited to make a highway for our God across the desert.  From the high mountain of truth we proclaim that our God is near.

As we call to mind our sins and remember our failures, let us also be mindful of our capacity for growth through oneness of mind and heart with Jesus Christ and his Church.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With sentiments of great esteem I celebrate this Mass with you.  Increasingly Principals of schools are undertaking additional responsibilities for nurturing, caring and leading our young people.  The last sentence of the Gospel, “it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost”, is a strong reminder of the mission that we are given by the Church as teachers.

I am deeply conscious of the concern which you show to all of our young people.  It is true that parents are the first and best teachers of their children in the way of faith.  Your leadership as Principals and teachers is a valuable amplification of that parental role.  Many of you are parents yourselves and you know what constant leadership, encouragement and the occasional challenge are necessary in a family.

Similarly, in our schools, you can sometimes stand increasingly across the divide between parental expectations, the mission of the Church and what you know is good educational leadership.  Often it will be your leadership which will help parents to realise the parameters of faith and the great gift which is offered and to encourage them and their families in taking hold of that gift.  We know that our faith comes from Jesus Christ.  It was entrusted by him to the Apostles and is given to the Church to safeguard and proclaim so that the saving message and activity of the Lord and his intention that all should be saved will come to the reality of our families.

Encouragement and challenge to see the Church’s vision will often be a considerable part of the work that you do.  Sometimes when parents are concentrating on the preparedness of young people for life and the high standards which modern education demands they can be forgetful of the holistic responsibility which we in Catholic education have to integrate with an understanding and living of faith a vision of the human person, which enables us to work at preparing our young people at all levels to be believing Catholics, well fitted for all aspects of their future life, enriched by the vision of personhood and the knowledge of God which is the catalyst to a lifetime of growth in faith and of contribution to society.

This work is not without its challenges.  Sometimes there is a lack of appreciation of what you are trying to do or a skewed view of the real priorities.  There can be a tendency to brush faith aside rather than to see it as a catalyst to a whole human vision.  Indeed, I do believe that one of the great challenges of the modern society is for us to continue to emphasise the value of the family and the dignity of personhood.  If I would see anything as the foundation of what we are doing together it is to provide the underpinnings of faith, family and the unique human dignity of every child as the base upon which our educational endeavour is built.

As I have said on other occasions, this will mean your leading and challenging your staff in these areas, particularly in matters of their own lifestyle, attitudes and example.  Patiently, with love and with persistence, we need to present the total Catholic vision presented by Pope Benedict and the Magisterium in our work with teachers.  This vision needs to be constantly reinforced and used as spiritual food so that those who go into our classrooms will be inspired by the Gospel of the Church’s teaching, rather than being distracted by stories of human inadequacy and failure.

In the Church we believe in the dignity of each human being.  We believe also in presenting the truth as an ideal for belief and life and I have great confidence that you will continue this important work after a well-earned holiday in the year to come.  Only in this way we will fulfil the will of the Father that our young people should be saved.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne