WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Merciful Like the Father: Teachers’ commissioning Mass, Wellington

The Teacher’s Commissioning Mass for teachers and staff of Catholic Schools in the Lower North Island celebrated at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on 16 February 2016.

The Teacher’s Commissioning Mass for teachers and staff of Catholic Schools in the Lower North
Island celebrated at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on 16 February 2016.

March 2016

Education

The Teachers’ Commissioning Mass for teachers and staff of Catholic Schools in the Lower North Island areas of the Wellington Archdiocese was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on 16 February 2016. Cardinal John Dew gave this homily.

A reporter recently asked the question: ‘Why in your opinion, is humanity so in need of mercy?’ The answer was: ‘Because humanity is wounded, deeply wounded’. The person answering the reporter was of course Pope Francis: ‘Because humanity is wounded, deeply wounded.’ This incident is told in the Pope’s recently published book The Name of God is Mercy.

A few weeks ago there was an International Catholic Education Conference in Rome. When the Pope spoke to the group he said: ‘You cannot speak of Catholic Education without speaking about humanity, because the Catholic identity is precisely that God became man.’

We, as Catholic Educators, have the great privilege of working with humanity, with children from five years of age to young adults, often with their parents and care-givers, and with one another. At that same Catholic Education Conference teachers were spoken of as, ‘Stewards serving people’.

Our task as Catholic Educators is to lead all those we work for and with to Christ, who in turn leads us to the Father; who teaches us to pray to the Father, as we heard tonight. ‘Say this when you pray … Our Father who art in heaven…’.

We are all members of that wounded humanity who need God and have that natural yearning for something more – for God. We are all like those first disciples who wanted to learn how to pray and be in relationship with God. And as Catholic Educators we have the incredible privilege and honour to teach students how to pray and to find God – but it is not our task alone.

rayer must be learnt and discovered in families. I believe one of our major challenges today is to help families to pray together. It will not just happen automatically. In that same book The Name of God is Mercy the Holy Father says God goes to extraordinary lengths to enter into our hearts. It is a powerful thought to know that you and I are able to provide opportunities for God to enter the heart of another: – the heart of your students; the heart of a fellow staff member; the heart of someone you find difficult to get on with; and – our own heart.

Are our hearts open and ready to let God in? Last week I was reading an article in the latest Tui Motu magazine entitled ‘Relentless Mercy’. I was quite disturbed to see this in print: ‘It is undeniable that the common perception in the West is that Christianity is the purveyor of judgement, exclusion, condemnation and punishment.’ I had heard all of that said before but to see these words in print did actually shake me.

God does not enter our hearts through judgement, exclusion, condemnation and punishment. God enters our hearts, the hearts of your pupils through mercy.

The theme for this year’s Jubilee Year of Mercy is ‘Merciful like the Father’. We are reminded that Jesus is ‘Merciful like the Father’ and we too are called to be ‘Merciful like the Father’. God wants to enter our hearts and goes to extraordinary lengths to do so. Think of the generosity of God shown in those few words from Isaiah: ‘The word that goes forth from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and in succeeding in what it was meant to do.’

When we truly believe God is kind and merciful, compassionate, generous, loving and forgiving, then we will be like that too, because we imitate the God we believe in. When we are like God then we have the amazing gift as people in Catholic Education to enable others to open their hearts so that God may enter in.

The Commissioning Mass for teachers and staff of Catholic Schools in Palmerston North was celebrated at St Mary’s Church, Thursday 4 February 2016. Bishop Charles Drennan was principal celebrant, supported by St Mary’s parish priest, Fr Marcus Francis, and Rev Vaughan Leslie, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Palmerston North.

Homily for Commissioning Mass, Palmerston North

Fr Marcus Francis

The Commissioning Mass for teachers and staff of Catholic Schools in Palmerston North was celebrated at St Mary’s Church, Thursday 4 February 2016. Bishop Charles Drennan was principal celebrant, supported by St Mary’s parish priest, Fr Marcus Francis, and Rev Vaughan Leslie, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Palmerston North.

Readings: 1 Kings 2: 1-4, 10-12; 1 Chronicles 29: 10-12; Mark 6: 7-13

It is edifying to see so many teachers present here this evening.

There are many things taking place at the start of the School Year. It is significant though that this is the only Mass for the year when you get to gather as teachers and pray together with and for each other.

As I listened to the First Reading this evening, with David giving his farewell to his son Solomon, it made me think of the heritage of the religious brothers and sisters which has been handed on by them to you. They are big shoes indeed to fill.

Nevertheless, my attention was drawn principally by the Gospel reading where Jesus sends out the Twelve. He also tells them not to take a whole lot of equipment or belongings with them. I can almost hear Our Lady telling Jesus as a boy: ‘Now remember to take your sandals’.

I would like to mention I have a sister who is a high-school teacher in Auckland. As a result I have seen at first hand the commitment and passion felt by teachers for their work. In fact, often I hear teachers talking about what they do as a vocation.

However, it takes a lot of things to be a teacher – you need a degree, a school to teach in, a curriculum, to be paid… Even when it comes to religious education a TCI course or similar is required.

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin ‘vocare’ – to call. I would like to suggest to you this evening that although you have a passion for teaching and give so much of your time to it that is not your primary vocation. In fact I prefer more to speak of teaching as a profession.

A vocation has more to do with who we are and what God wants us to be rather than what we might do. In Baptism and Confirmation you, in fact all of us, are called to participate in the mission of the Church given by Christ Jesus.

This calling informs the whole of our lives including our work. It informs how we are to be for others and this can be nuanced and directed by other sacraments such as Marriage and Holy Orders. As a result, being Catholic teachers in Catholic Schools you have a calling to live out your Christian vocation as you work as a teacher.

You need no additional qualifications to do this. All you need is to accept the call and to respond to it. There is no need for extra equipment.

Like the Apostles you are sent to go without delay to do the work of the Kingdom whether it involves preaching repentance, driving out demons, curing the sick or doing more prosaic things that speak of the everyday.

There is no need to wait.

Catholic schools today

Pat Lynch, KNZM, retiring CEO, NZ Catholic Education Office

The Church’s mission in the world is the salvation of all human kind – so proclaimed the Second Vatican Council over 60 years ago.

Since our Catholic schools are an agency of the Catholic Church this focus is absolutely pivotal for New Zealand’s 238 Catholic schools. It is the high-level reason why we have a national network of schools educating over 66,000 students, around nine per cent of the total number of young people in the nation’s schools.

The underlining inspiration that enables each school to move towards its reason for existence is this conjunction from the Acts of the Apostles, ‘It is in Him whom we live and move and have our being’.

A Secretary for Education once said to me, ‘If a Catholic School loses its fundamental reason for its existence it has not any legitimacy as a State Integrated School’, and of course this assertion is totally correct.

As I leave the CEO role at NZ Catholic Education Office, I am confident our schools are being faithful to their founding mandate in much stronger way than some decades ago. More teachers are qualified to teach Religious Education and special character professional development opportunities are more readily available for trustees, teachers and support staff.

It is providential we have a Pope who is embracing the world and engaging it, thus giving effect to the Vatican Council’s clear focus on the Church’s reason for existence. In a globalised world where God is often pushed to the side or just ignored, Pope Francis keeps reminding everyone, believers and non- believers, alike, we are all sons and daughters of one Heavenly Father and therefore support for our common humanity is a primary consideration. This is a strong Catholic belief.

Our schools are renowned for focusing on service, social justice and community building which help give effect to these faith building drivers.

It is now 40 years since the integration legislation was passed in NZ’s Parliament. Catholic schools have over this time come of age, having worked hard to utilise the benefits of this legislation. They are now confident and are treated as equal partners in the nation’s education system.

The New Zealand way of operating is something many Catholic schools in other parts of the world do not enjoy. Our schools are well regarded by the political and wider community of New Zealand as places of quality education in a faith-based environment. This has only been achieved by concerted efforts from our Bishops, school trustees, principals, teachers and local communities who are proud of our national school system and what it delivers, not only for our young people, but for New Zealand incorporated.

We are long-term players in education whose ultimate focus is the Reign of God in all levels of humanity. Long may our schools be agents of positive change in the world while promoting the Reign of God amongst peoples.