Fr Kevin Neal
5 April 2012
At this time of the year the bishops and key educational staff at the diocesan centre are absent for a day or more at a time.
Sometimes they’re just travelling across town but they can be gone for days at a time.
They head off, often quite early, vestments over their arms, for the opening Masses of the various schools and colleges in the diocese.
The opening Mass at every school or college – whether a large city establishment or a tiny country school – is vitally important.
There is always a tremendous turn out of parents and friends – the teachers are dressed in their Sunday best and the students look decidedly uncomfortable but proud in their smartest school uniforms.
The array of badges and buttons on display on the seniors’ blazers gives the juniors something they can aim at!
There have been only a few days in which to prepare, but the singing is pretty good already, usually to the credit of the music department.
There are a few students left over from last year so they’re carrying the responsibility for all the music and some have practised during the last weeks of the holidays.
The college and school captains are all set for their first real test of public speaking ability and the readers have rehearsed their parts a thousand times.
They will pray, too, for the needs of their church, the needs of the world and each other’s needs. There’s always plenty to pray for.
On their return, the diocesan folk are always glowing about the schools and colleges they have visited.
In some ways the schools are different in various parts of the country but there is a unity to them.
The young people of Taranaki have probably never considered going to Hawke’s Bay and vice versa but they have a oneness that comes out in prayer and, I suspect, they find each other when it comes to tertiary education.
There is something special about the Catholic kids of this diocese or any other when it come to the crunch.
They often meet on the sports field when they make individual visits and the two dioceses make a special effort when it comes the O’Shea Shield.
Our friends in the state schools must envy our opportunity to celebrate together the art of public speaking in all its forms.
The O’Shea Shield is one of our giant-sized treasures because it brings together colleges of every size on the level field of competitive public speaking.
Whatever the task, there will be reasons to come together to celebrate their unity, their oneness in Christ.