First of all I would like to thank the Board of Management and staff of the school for inviting me to this celebration. I am here in my role as Diocesan Administrator and part of my work as administrator is to fill the role as Patron of all Catholic Primary Schools in the diocese. In that capacity I wish to congratulate all who have been involved in bringing this building project to a successful conclusion. I know that from the moment that the idea of building an extension was conceived, through the various stages of planning and approval and so on, down to the day you turned the key for the first time, that a great deal of commitment and time has been given by all concerned. Endless meetings, discussions, phone calls, board meetings, consultation and planning meetings. It’s a process that takes a long time and demands from all concerned perseverance, lots of patience, and a willingness not to give up, but to see it through to the end.

So congratulations to the Board of Management, the principal teacher and the school staff, parents who have supported the project., and pupils, of course, who had to be very cooperative during the construction of the building. We acknowledge and thank all our public representatives who worked on behalf of the project. I would like on all our behalf to thank the Department of Education and Skills for their willingness to support the proposal and to work with the School Board and Parish Community in making the building a reality, and of course the Department of Finance for allocating the funding for the project. Well done to all concerned who have made this new facility possible and who have brought it to completion.

On a day like this it is good to reflect on the role and the value of the local primary school in the community. Do we ever stop to think about our parish schools and the significant role they play in the life of the parish. Firstly a school is about children. Whenever we speak about school it is recognised that the most important constituents of any school are the children who attend. All our planning, all our curriculum development and faith formation is centered around the pupils of the school, working to provide the best possible facilities for them along with the necessary resources that our children deserve and need. The pupils must be at the centre of all that we do, because a school exists for its pupils. Today we see that much work has gone into providing the best possible facilities for the pupils of Killoughteen School and you rightly deserve them. In these difficult times where finding funding for projects such as this one is a major challenge for the department we consider ourselves blessed to be given the financial resources that enable the school board to build this facility.

A school is essential in building up a community. It is here that the seeds of lifelong friendships will be established. It is here that a sense of parish identity will be fostered so that we have a sense of belonging, knowing where our roots are, knowing our own place.

The local school is primarily a place of learning, a place where the best is drawn out of our children, where skilled teachers nurture the gifts of the boy or girl. For Catholic schools it is the place where the pupils’ God given gifts and talents are recognised, identified and helped to flourish.

A Catholic school not only seeks to impart knowledge to its pupils, it also seeks to impart the importance of Christian values such as decency, integrity, respect for others, kindness, honesty, generosity of spirit and forgiveness. It’s a place where we foster respect for the dignity of the human person as taught to us by Jesus Christ. We recognise that in our Catholic schools teachers work closely with parents and the parish or the local faith community in nurturing the children’s faith. Perhaps in the past we have taken all of that for granted, so we acknowledge the contribution our teachers make on a daily basis in all of our schools to the ongoing faith formation of our children. The danger is that we can begin to believe that this is the sole responsibility of teachers and that it somehow lessens the responsibility of parents in the work of handing on the faith.

The late Pope John Paul II said “The family, the great workshop of love, is the first school where people are not taught to love with barren ideas, but with the incisive power of experience.”

So the primary responsibility for the faith development of our children lies with parents. In the ceremony of baptism the role and responsibility of parents is clearly stated. It says that “parents are the first teachers of their child in ways of faith. May they also be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do”. In that sense from a faith point of view, every home is a mission field, every parent is a missionary for Christ. Your family situation is the first school, “the great workshop” as Pope John Paul says where Christian values are experienced, recognised, appreciated and learned by the children.

So Catholic Education is more than schooling. It is a lifelong process, beginning in the home within each family, that continues in the school and the local parish community. Through involvement and interaction with the local Christian community in the parish our children and young people continue to grow and develop.

These three dimensions of the home, school and parish must work together if Catholic education is to attain its goal of forming mature human persons in the image and likeness of Christ. Today we celebrate your school’s contribution to that work, we acknowledge that schools are critically important and we should never undervalue or underestimate their work.

Congratulations once again to all associated with this new school building. Your contribution to this project will long be remembered by the local community here in Killoughteen. Every blessing on you for your generosity and kindness.