Mass for the Celebration of the Year of Faith


Mass for the Celebration of the Year of Faith


Primary School Teachers from Derry City


Nazareth House

Bishop Street, Derry

30th August 2013


I have no doubt that when this Mass was being organised and this Chapel was chosen you did not think that this would be the last Mass to be celebrated here in this Chapel.  It is very sad that the Sisters of Nazareth are leaving Bishop Street.  In this place they have given 121 years of witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  From the beginning they have been absolutely committed to the poor and to the most vulnerable.  They have been committed to education.  Thank God one of the powerful legacies that they have given us is the Nazareth House Primary School.  Their name will live on in Derry through the school. 


Nobody ever thought that the Nazareth House Residential Home would close.  We become used to things in life and we just presume that they are going to be there always.  We like it that way.  The majority of us are creatures of habit.  The majority of us like routine.  It is amazing the number of parents and even teachers that you meet at the end of the summer who say that it will be good to get back to routine.  Often, because we like routine, we can struggle with change.  We like things to stay as they are. 


Yet so little stays as it is.  The school community changes every year - new reception class - new primary ones - new teachers - new staff.  Everything changes.  Times we resist it.  Times we resign ourselves to it and times we love it.  We love it when that problem primary seven class leaves or even that problem colleague leaves - if such exists!  Yet for the most part change can be disconcerting.  We can struggle to deal with it.  How do we deal with change?  How do we deal with the ongoing changes in school - in education - in life?


St Teresa of Avila has a beautiful prayer about change.  She prays


            Let nothing disturb you, nothing affright you.

            All things pass away.  God alone remains.

            Patience obtains all that it asks for.

            The one who has God has all things.

            God alone suffices.


All things pass away.  Nazareth Houses close.  Teachers retire.  Primary Seven classes leave.  Colleagues leave.  In the midst of all the changes God remains.  In a Catholic School amidst all the changes we need to be aware that God alone remains.  We will naturally be aware of that if Jesus is in the centre of the school.  I don't believe that a Catholic School should be child centred.  A Catholic School should be Jesus centred.  If a school is Jesus centred then the child will grow and flourish and be at the heart of everything.  Jesus must be at the centre. 


You know that Jesus is at the centre of your school if every classroom in your school is a place of prayer.  You know that Jesus is at the centre of your school if your school is a place of compassion - a place of care - a place of forgiveness - a place of truth.  You know that Jesus is at the centre of your school if it is a place of joy. 


Sometimes we can get caught up in so many things - so many agendas and so many pursuits that we lose our centre.  Then when change comes it disturbs us and it affrights us.  We can become defensive and feel threatened.  We can feel threatened by parents.  We can feel threatened by other colleagues.  We can feel threatened by other schools.  Then we win or feel defeated and either way we are thrown into chaos because we have lost touch with our centre. 


God alone remains.  When we have to face change in life, and in school, as we do every day, God alone remains.  The constant in your school if you allow him to be there is God.  If God remains in your school, if Jesus is at the centre of your school the only real change that you will be called to is to become more and more yourself. 


When I was in Maynooth studying for priesthood we were often told that we had to change if we wanted to be good priests.  We were told that we were to become like this person or that person or this saint or the other.  It is right to be inspired by people but the only person that you can become is yourself.  That is the person that God created and that is the person that God loves and that is the person that God made beautiful.  When all the little beauties come into your class this year don't try to change them to make them anything other than they are.  Don't try to make them into the perfect pupil that you have created in your imagination.  Just encourage them to discover the beauty and the uniqueness of who they are.  Each one of us from the youngest child to the oldest staff member is as Jesus was described in the gospel today - the beloved of God.  Nothing can ever change that. 


So no matter what passes away, when we allow God to remain and when we keep Jesus at the centre of our schools we discover more and more that we are the beloved of God.  Then we treat people with compassion and care, with forgiveness and truth.  Then we are people of joy and our schools are truly Catholic.   


Fr Paul Farren, Director of Diocesan Catechetial Centre and Administrator of Templemore Parish (St Eugene's and Long Tower)