Executive report: Catholic Schools

Catholic schools are ‘Vivid Everyday’, where passionate teachers inspire confidence, where faith in God is lived in community and where partnerships are nourished.

2016 has been a significant year in our diocese and school system with growth, achievement, community partnerships, social justice and Christ at its core. We celebrated 150 years since the arrival of Bishop James Murray who established our current system of Catholic schools and whose visionary leadership is carried on through our continuing commitment to providing quality Catholic education.

This year marked the beginning of the implementation of recommendations from the study into the provision of secondary education. We established a blueprint for the expansion of our secondary school system and announced the names of the two new high schools − St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm and Catherine McAuley Catholic College, Medowie, opening in 2018 and 2020 respectively.

The celebration of Catholic Schools Week across the diocese began the year on a high note with the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass and a celebration of the Bishop’s Award. This year saw the creation of a new category, the Catholic Young People Bishop’s Award, open to those in Year 12 and up to age 25.

In March, St Patrick’s Primary School, Lochinvar, was awarded a $1,801,203 NSW Government building grant towards the construction of learning and administration areas at the school.

For the first time, a region-wide campaign to celebrate the schools within our diocese was launched in May. “Vivid Everyday” captured the essence of our schools as authentic, nurturing, spirited and of course, vivid. This showcase of Catholic schools celebrated our students and was designed to confirm the choice of thousands of families and staff currently within the system of schools.  

The celebration of the performing arts in our diocese began in June with the 10th annual DioSounds concert. Over 400 students from our 11 high schools presented an amazing array of music and dance numbers with the theme of Music through the Decades. In my mind, this year’s performance was the best yet!

In July, the Head of Religious Education and Spirituality Services, Brian Lacey, and his wife Sue, Assistant Principal at St Paul’s Primary, Rutherford, led an intergenerational pilgrimage to Krakow for World Youth Day. Fifteen students and 21 school and CSO staff members joined Bishop Bill and other members of the diocesan community on a spiritual journey of a lifetime. You can hear from two of the pilgrims on pages 23 and 30.

The fifth and largest production of ASPIRE, There’s Something Strange about Marvin McRae, was an impressive start to August. One of the most notable productions to date, the show mesmerised audiences with an original script and an aquarium scene worthy of the finest production companies.

August also welcomed the launch of a new vision for Catholic Schools. Developed in consultation with the Catholic Schools Council, our school communities and Bishop Bill, this vision forms the core of our aspirations for each of our schools. “At the heart of everything is Jesus Christ” emphasises that, with Jesus at our core, we commit to being faith communities, places of excellence in learning and focused on a rigorous, creative and critical pursuit of truth.

This year once again had social justice at its heart with schools raising over $45,000 for the annual Caritas Lenten appeal, Project Compassion. This impressive sum is a 30 per cent increase on last year and a true testament to the deep commitment of staff and students toward a just world. We saw teacher Michael Eccleston complete a 150-kilometre run from St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen, to San Clemente High School, Mayfield, to raise awareness of the plight of refugees seeking a safe lifestyle in Australia (see page 35 for more). Two principals also took part in the St Vincent de Paul Winter Sleepout for Chief Executive Officers. These are just some of the initiatives that occur in our schools every week, responding to the call of the Gospels to love one another as Christ has loved us.

2016 is my final year as Director of Schools and I am overjoyed to end this time on a vivid note with deep appreciation of our school and CSO staff, parents, students, clergy and parishioners who are ensuring a strong future for Catholic education in our diocese.

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Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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