Press Release Le Chéile Issue 27

30 May 2017

Issue 27, May 2017 of the biannual journal Le Chéile: A Catholic School Ethos Journal has just been published and circulated to schools in the north of Ireland. The journal, a publication of St Mary's University College, aims to celebrate and promote the vision of Catholic education locally:

• By identifying, exploring and promoting ways in which this vision can be lived in Catholic schools.
• By seeking to empower teachers with a renewed and revitalised sense of the spirituality and vocational 
  nature of teaching.
• By aiming to encourage and inform practitioners in Catholic education locally.

This edition’s editorial is entitled:   ‘The Homes of Donegal’

The ballad, ‘The Homes of Donegal,’ was made famous by the Strabane-born singer, Paul Brady. The lyrics were penned by Seán McBride, a native of the Rosses and long-time school principal of my alma mater, St Baithin’s NS, St Johnston in east Donegal. As a former pupil of his, I have long cherished memories of his love for music, mythology and maps. Indeed, I think he is responsible for instilling in me an enduring fascination with maps. In my memory, the only standout visual resources on the walls of our classroom were an image of the Sacred Heart and three large maps, one (naturally!) of Donegal, one of Ireland and one of the world. Lifting his walking-stick and pointing to the global one, the old master would direct our student eyes to discover that our part of Ireland sat snugly, like Moscow, on the 55°N latitude. So far north he would explain, as he looked to Canada, where the ports are normally frozen over for much of the year. Not ours, however, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream mitigating the worst, God’s special gift.

Happy reminiscences of those maps often surprise me. They sparked my imagination as a child and gave me great joy. Yet, such maps are increasingly out of place in the contemporary classroom, replaced by technology, computer screens, iPads. Recently, the UK’s Royal Institute of Navigation, alarmed at the serious decline in map-reading skills among the young, urged schools to return to teaching such skills. It seems that most people today under forty cannot read a landscape or ordinance survey map. Who needs maps and map-readers now when we have GPS navigation and various mobile apps? Map-reading, the Royal Institute - nothing daunted - retorts, is an important life skill which can help develop character, independence and appreciation for maths and science.

The faith and values we share in our schools can be thought of as maps, co-ordinates of meaning and hope which have orientated and inspired many generations. But for many people today such maps are similarly obscured, illegible and even irrelevant. Like the cartographers of the Royal Institute, the Catholic teacher, particularly in relation to faith journeys, ought to be alert to finding new ways to stimulate and better orientate pupils. This, of course, requires creativity and imagination, like that teacher who wrote so charmingly on my heart: ‘For your hearts are like your mountains / In the homes of Donegal’.

This edition, as ever, seeks to encourage, resource and guide:

- Dr Martin Scanlan offers a glimpse of how Catholic primary schools in the United States – drawing on their
  distinctive ethos – are to the fore in modelling ground-breaking, inclusive approaches to special needs

- Prof. Alan Ford accounts for both the history of mutually exclusive interpretations of Irish history, especially
  concerning St Patrick, among Catholics and Anglicans in the past, and the greater ecumenical convergence
  common today.

- Fr Ryan Duns SJ explores parallels between scientific and spiritual inquiry in the contemporary school,
  insisting on the place of both chapel and laboratory in the work of Catholic education.

- Dr James McAuley muses on the qualities which make for a good teacher as he reflects on the noted Brother
  Agathon’s Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher (1785).

- Dr Kieran McGeown suggests that STEM – so prioritised by government and industry today – can be linked
  more effectively to school values and ethos.

- Dr Aidan Donaldson and Mrs Joan McCombe introduce a welcome new venture, the Catholic Schools
  Trustee Support Service, which aims to assist schools in the Down and Connor Diocese to deepen their
  engagement with their ethos.

- Two principals, Roisin Darcy (primary) and Marguerite Hamilton (post-primary) share their reflections on their
   experience of the celebrations earlier this year of Catholic Schools Week in their respective schools.

- Fr Gerard Magee (chaplain) explains the services offered at the Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen’s University.

- Underlining the link between home, school and parish, Dr Tracey McKay reviews a significant new book on
  parish pastoral councils.

- There are two student voices: Aisling Greene recalling the ways her schools marked the ‘Year of Mercy’ and
  Anne McCann on World Youth Day 2016.

- Finally, our front cover salutes the St Mary’s GAA team for their outstanding achievement in winning the 2017
  Sigerson Cup, a wonderful example of faith triumphing over might, a celebration of hope and perseverance by
  young men who prayed together on their way to victory and on their journey home.

For further information please contact Rev Dr Niall Coll.

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