Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Address at the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta System Leadership Day 2020 at Rosehill Racecourse, Rosehill
“From Curiosity to Clarity: Catholic Education for an Age of Uncertainty”
24 January 2020
In recent weeks we have had a bitter foretaste of the effects of climate change and the refusal of some of our political leaders to address the roots of the ecological crisis. Instead of recognising this moment in history calls for, we have witnessed an ingrained culture of denial, fear and defence of the status quo.
The bushfire crisis should serve as a wake-up call to Australia and all Australians. It should also serve as a catalyst for global action in the way that Pope Francis has so prophetically challenged us in his encyclical Laudato si’. We must have the courage to move to the new future where God beckons instead of holding onto the past for fear of change. Courageous, informed and decisive leadership is needed to galvanise whole populations to adopt ways of thinking and living that are crucial in saving our planet from total devastation. The present crisis can be turned into new horizons of possibility, for us but also beyond us, to future generations and to the world that God loves. Catholic schools should be the academy for courageous, informed and decisive leadership that turns crisis into opportunity.
After 200 years of educating Catholics in Parramatta we can truly say: Australians Catholic education has never been more relevant. For as our Executive Director Greg Whitby has just pointed out, our schools are indeed an “oasis” many people turn to see the light of Christ and his compassion in times of so much change.
Let’s then especially never forget we must be on the “look out” for the marginalised and those on the edges so that our young people are taught to value what really matters. Our schools began in service of the disadvantaged. In 21st Century Parramatta with all its multicultural vibrancy – we must ensure the “dangerous memory of Jesus” and his solidarity with those on the “margins” is central to our planning as educators and all the practical implications that follow.
As missionary educators, we are not merely the keepers of the status quo. Rather, we are catalysts for renewal. We explore new frontiers and possibilities. Our job is to keep alive not necessarily memories of the way we were (like the song by Barbra Streisand) but the dangerous memory of Jesus’ life-transforming and socially subversive ethos.
Central also to our moving from “curiosity to clarity” is to continue to ensure that our Catholic school communities deepen their Catholic identity. The Leuven Project is an important tool in that regard. For we are not meant to merely repeat what was done in the past. Rather, we are to incarnate the spirit of Jesus, faithful to the past but also creative to the present and courageous to the future.
It is not by repeating the practices and customs of yesterday but by reimagining our faith story with fresh insights distilled from lived experience that we make it relevant and alive to the students of today.
The words of the prophet Ezekiel in the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones describe what we Catholic educators aim to do. “I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive”. That is our evangelising mission. We do not simply mimic what the previous generations have done. We put fresh sinews, fresh flesh, fresh skin to the Gospel that it may come alive again for the students in our time.
And if we want to achieve “clarity” about our mission we must all continue to grow and deepen our faith. I am sure this applies not only to our young people but includes our parents and the staff in our school communities. How can we form people to believe and live their Catholic faith in a secular society where the credibility of our Church as an institution has been badly damaged? That is no easy task.
Part 3 will be published tomorrow.
To read Part 1 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.