MASS TO CELEBRATE THE GOLDEN JUBILEE OF SAINT LORCAN’S BNS PALMERSTOWN
Homily notes of Most Rev Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Saint Philomena’s Church Palmerstown, 5th April 2017
“Fifty years is a long time in the life of a community. It would be very hard to adequately document all that has taken place over the past fifty years within this school and within the wider community. A school is not just about pupils and teachers. A school plays a pivotal role in building up lives and in building up community.
Fifty years ago, Palmerstown was a different place. It was very much at the outskirts of Dublin city, a new area with new housing estates. The school played a vital part in changing what were just housing estates into a real community where people knew each other, where people supported one another, where new future emerged for people had come from different parts of Dublin and from different parts of Ireland, where generations of young people understood that they could realise their dreams.
This school played a vital role in shaping the lives of generations of young men who have taken their place over the years all over Dublin, across Ireland and in many in different parts of the world.
There is a great ferment of discussion today about schools and about education. Indeed, I would not hesitate to say that this a great time to be involved in education in Ireland. Schools are achieving things today which would have been impossible to imagine just fifty years ago when this school was opened. There is discussion about parental choice in education and this is important but today is not the moment to get involved in polemical discussion. There is one fact on which we all agree- the fundamental reason why parents choose one school over another is that it is a good school. A good school over time becomes an even better school. A school, which drifts into uncertainty, will inevitably become even more uncertain with the change of time.
We give thanks to all those who have contributed to making Saint Lorcan’s the truly good school that it is today. We thank the Principals and the teachers and those who have worked with them; we thank the Boards of Management who have not just attended to the day-to-day management of the school but have been its advocates in public discussions and negotiations. We thank the parents who have given their time and dedication and even financial support at different and especially at difficult moments. We thank the Parish which has been a point of integration of an ethos of caring and of the confidence which springs from faith. We thank the pupils and then past pupils who have been ambassadors of a school about which they can be justly proud.
Palmerstown has changed over the years, Dublin has changed, and the world has changed since 1966. Let us look at a little bit of history. The world of 1966 was a troubled world. The process of African Independence, which had begun as a new era hope, just a few years earlier become marred in revolutions in a number of African States especially in the Congo where Irish Peace Keeping forces were playing an important role. The Vietnam War was at its height with over a quarter of a million US troops active in a country so far away from the US.
Dublin changed in a particular way in 1966: Nelson Pillar, which was central focal point of the city and the destination of so many bus routes, was blown up. 1966 was a year of beginnings: the new Ballymun was launched. Eamon De Valera was re-elected President in 1966 for a second mandate and Sean Lemass retied later as Taoiseach giving way to Jack Lynch. For your interest in 1966 Harold Wilson was Prime Minister of Britain, Lyndon Johnson was the President to the United States while Leonid Brezhnev became leader of the Soviet Union.
If you want to know even more about 1966, I can tell you that Kilkenny beat Cork in the All Ireland Hurling Final and Galway beat Meath in the Football All Ireland and even that Everton beat Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup Final.
Now some of you will be saying that I must have been very good at history in school if I can remember all these details. However, there is a much simpler explanation: I simply googled 1966 on my computer and came up with all this information and even more.
I have said that the world of education today is a challenging world. It is challenging through the fact that a school has at its disposal so many new technical means, which fifty years ago people, would have considered revolutionary and which we take for granted today. What I could do in ten minutes Googling, it would have taken hours of reading books and newspapers to gather just a little information.
The big challenge for education today is the challenge of change. It is the challenge of enabling young people to deal with change, which can be exciting but also unsettling. The challenge is to enable young people to cope with change and to turn change and challenge into something positive which contributes to building a better world.
The school is not just a place for narrow curriculum and modern technology. It is a place where children are prepared for life. This involves preparing young people for change by imbuing into them the things that do not change. I am talking about the values which have kept people together in difficult times in the past and which we need just as much today. We heard in that first reading from the Letter to the Corinthians something of those values: sincere compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are values which modern society, which so often promises quick success, can be tempted to put into second place. However, these are the values which build up relationships that last, whether on a personal or interpersonal level or within society.
The reading then says that all these values must be clothed in love which is the essence of the Christian message. The nature of a Catholic school must always find its roots in the richness of the message of Jesus Christ. That message is not something that can be imposed. It can be proposed and will only be understood and accepted by the witness of lives, which make that message attractive.
On this Golden Jubilee I say to the pupils of today: look back with pride at what your school and its past pupils have achieved over the past fifty years and look to the future with confidence that you can do even better if you hold fast to the values that endure.
To the teachers and the wider school community I say: through the quality of your own lives and your generosity open the hearts of these boys of today to what goodness and truth, love and kindness, honesty and integrity can mean in their lives.
To all here today I say, work to ensure that this school will become ever more a focal point of the life of the community of Palmerstown and support the school in the many ways you can.
May the Lord Jesus who indicated in our Gospel reading that children are signs of the kingdom bless us and enrich us with his gifts that will ensure that every boy who enters the precincts of this school will be enabled to realise the unique talents that he possesses and will be motivated to ensure that such talent is placed at the service of an enriched a strong community in the Palmerstown of tomorrow.