A virtual launch was streamed today for Catholic school communities across Australia to mark the commencement of the bicentenary celebrations for Catholic education.
During 2021, Australian Catholic education celebrates 200 years of Catholic schooling in this country.
The event offered an opportunity for educators, leaders, students and their families in Catholic schools, education offices and universities to virtually join together to mark this significant occasion.
The virtual launch included students from St Patrick’s Primary and Parramatta Marist schools in the Diocese of Parramatta. These schools have linkages to the first ‘official’ Catholic school opened on Hunter Street in Parramatta in October 1820.
Today, there are 1,751 Catholic schools educating 768,000 students and employing 98,000 staff.
Nearly 40 per cent of Catholic schools are located outside of metropolitan cities in regional, rural and remote communities.
National Catholic education Executive Director Jacinta Collins said the bicentennial celebrations recognise the enormous contribution of Catholic schools in Australia.
“Over 200 years Catholic schools have educated millions of Australian students,” Jacinta said.
“Australian Catholic schools have a long and proud tradition of delivering high-quality, faith-based education.
“The bicentenary is an opportunity to celebrate those who have served in Catholic education since its earliest days; the contribution of religious institutes, clergy and lay people in the foundation of schools in cities, rural and remote parts of Australia; and the continuity of this mission with the leaders, staff, families and the wider Church community today.
“We look forward with great hope and faith in the future of Catholic schools by continuing to respond to our mission of meeting the educational and spiritual needs of young people and our communities,” she said.
National Catholic Education Commission chair Nicholas Moore said Catholic education has grown over two centuries into the largest school sector outside of government.
“It’s a remarkable achievement that Catholic education has successfully responded to meet the needs of Australia’s changing population, and economic and social circumstances over 200 years,” he said.
“As we celebrate this significant milestone, it’s timely to take stock of all that has been achieved and to look ahead to identify how we can better deliver an excellent standard of Catholic schooling for generations of young people to come.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education said during the press conference which followed the virtual launch, that Catholic families, teachers and students should today be very proud of the 200 years of Catholic education.
“It is an extraordinary achievement and gives us great hope for the future, that we will continue to make this major contribution to the social capital of this country and to the individual development of every child that is entrusted to us,” Archbishop Anthony said.
Catholic School Parents Australia (CSPA) congratulated all involved with the national launch of the celebration of the bicentenary of Catholic education in Australia.
CSPA chair Karl Rodrigues said 200 years causes us to pause and reflect on what we value in being able to access a Catholic education for our children.
“In many ways we are ensuring through our support and partnership that our Catholic schools will continue to be here for all Australians across another 200 years and beyond,” Karl said.
“CSPA enthusiastically represents and advocates for Parents and Carers with children in all Catholic schools.
“We can never take our Catholic schools for granted,” Karl said.
Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) president Br Peter Carroll fms said if a student went to a Catholic school for most of the past 200 years, it was either staffed and/or operated by Religious.
“These schools were vital in lifting Catholic and other children from poverty to personal and professional success,” he said.
“Thousands of Catholic men and women – both lay and Religious – were trained, supported and flourished as teachers and administrators in these schools. For most of them, this vocation was in fulfillment of their Baptism call to be missionary disciples
“Their considerable sacrifice provided the strong pillars of our contemporary educational environment,” Br Peter said.
Association of Ministerial PJP chair Eva Skira said, MPJPs are sponsored by councils, comprised almost exclusively of lay people.
“These lay people bring a new and sustainable approach to these ministries,” Eva said.
Chair of the Committee of Religious Institute and MPJP School Authorities Australia chair Philomena Billington said RI and MPJP schools represent the past, present and future of Catholic education in Australia, ministering in partnership with Diocesan Catholic Education Bodies – early pioneers both lay and religious would be proud.
Watch the National Launch: