A huge debt and a leap of faith were remembered in September when the Catholic Schools Board gathered its past and present adherents to celebrate its 25th anniversary. In 1980 the Catholic Education Common Fund was established to help the 12 proprietors of Catholic schools in the two dioceses of Palmerston North and Wellington develop their schools. Today the board is responsible for 83 schools.
Chairman Michael Finnigan reminded members at the festive lunch that the organisation rested on an accumulated deficit of three million dollars, outstanding loans of 13 million dollars and a further 64 million dollars required to bring the schools up to an equivalent state standard.
‘The Common Fund could more appropriately have been called the Common Debt in 1980,’ he said.
The celebrations on 24 September drew current and past members of the Catholic Schools Board and its predecessor, the Catholic Education Management Board, from many parts of the country. The day began with a Mass in the chapel at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington. Later, guests shared stories over lunch at the Portland Hotel of Thorndon, viewing the photo display of new and remodelled buildings and demonstrations of the latest technology used in the office. People showed particular interest in one of the early photos of a proprietors’ meeting, comparing youthful faces with the distinguished looks which 25 years had brought.
Many messages of goodwill and congratulations were shared including some from past members now working in Rome, Singapore, Dublin and Rarotonga.
Michael Finnigan paid tribute to the work done by the integration negotiating group which included CEMB members Fr John O’Neill and Brian McKee.
He also acknowledged the assistance of successive governments in providing suspensory loans and the part the first chairman, Brian Smith, and Ron Henry played in negotiating that benefit.
Brian Smith noted in reply the amazing contribution and leap of faith taken by proprietors at the time. He reiterated Michael Finnigan’s view that the real success of the venture was the way the two dioceses and 12 proprietors shared their resources for the common good and enhancement of our special character.
The work and sacrifice of the priests, sisters and brothers who staffed the schools for about 100 years was especially acknowledged. After the founding and current chairmen had cut the celebration cake, guests had time to gather and share more memories and renew friendships before final photographs were taken to record the day.