Press Release Le Chéile Issue 31

27 August 2019

Issue 31, June 2019 of the biannual journal Le Chéile: A Catholic School Ethos Journal was published recently 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: ‘Second Mountain Teacher’. It reads as follows:

Teachers are getting older, at least that was my perception as I weaved my way around primary and post-primary schools in both Antrim and Fermanagh during teaching practice. A decade or so of austerity means that attractive early retirement packages are rare. So teachers are staying put. School staffs tend to have a higher proportion of teachers who are, what the American writer David Brooks terms, ‘second mountain people’. Earlier in their careers, climbing the ‘first mountain’, they had spent much time thinking about reputation management, keeping score, wondering ‘how do I measure up?’, ‘where do I rank?’ These goals are the normal ones which our Western culture sanctions: to be a success, to be well thought of, to get invited into the right social circles and to experience personal happiness.

Then something happens. Some reach the top of that first mountain, taste success and find it unsatisfying. ‘Is that all there is?’ they wonder. Others are knocked off that height by something that happens to their career, family or reputation, a bereavement, illness or addiction, some-life altering tragedy that was not part of the original plan. Some shrivel in the face of this kind of suffering, growing more afraid and resentful. But for others, this valley is the making of them; they see deeper into themselves and with a new clarity. Suddenly they are not interested in what the mainstream culture tells them to want. They come to want the things that are truly worth wanting. They are less interested in self and personal success. They want intimacy, responsibility and commitment. This leads some people to quit their jobs as lawyers, nurses and teachers. Others stay in their posts but are transformed. If they are principals, their joy is in seeing their teachers shine. If they work in a company, they no longer see themselves as managers but as mentors; their energies are directed to helping others to get better. As Brooks puts it, ‘They want their organizations to be thick places, where people find purpose, and not thin places, where people come just to draw a salary.’ Our schools need to give more thought to how best to encourage and harvest the gifts and joy of the ‘second mountain teacher’.

In this edition, Liam Bergin, with an eye to the great Dutch artist Van Gogh, exhibits a sacramental outlook on life as he helps us to recognise the dappled shades of divine life which we meet everywhere. Denise McKee urges schools to promote a culture of positive mental health and Breige Chambers underlines the importance of this work as she surveys the pastoral needs of students in a contemporary post-primary school. A similarly holistic and pastoral perspective shines through the articles penned by two primary principals, Susan Haughey and Brian Treacy, as they reflect on how the Catholic ethos of their respective schools shapes the character and imagination of staff and pupils alike. Gerry McDonald introduces the work of the Greater Falls Extended School Cluster in some of Belfast’s most deprives areas. Leo D’Agostino salutes the work of a remarkable young Irish novelist, Sally Rooney, and Regina O’Callaghan reviews an insightful new book by a Belfast man on Pope Francis. Turning to matters curricular, Sean McIlroy argues for a greater take up by Religious Studies Departments of Philosophy of Religion modules both at GCSE and A-Level and Siobhan Brennan and Bronagh Reid offer brief perspectives respectively on their happy experiences of the new primary RE programme, Grow in Love. In a more personal vein, Reamann Kennedy opens his heart to write poignantly about the short life of his baby son, Dara Jude and Padaí de Bléine gives an account of a recent camino. Finally, Baroness Nuala O’Loan offers generous praise for the work of this journal in the service of Catholic Education locally and underscores the importance Catholic schools should attach to encouraging the faith development of teachers and other staff.

For further information please contact Rev Dr Niall Coll.

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