There were 200 reasons to celebrate on Monday, May 24 as every diocese in the country held a Mass to mark the bicentenary of Catholic Education in Australia. The Sandhurst Diocese gathered at St Kilian’s Catholic Church, the site of the first Catholic school in our diocese, established in 1853. The event was livestreamed so that all Sandhurst communities were able to join in the celebrations.
The bicentenary marks the commencement of the first 'official' Catholic school opened in Parramatta in October 1820 by Irish Catholic priest Fr John Therry.
The Executive Director of Catholic Education Sandhurst, Mr Paul Desmond said it was a significant milestone in the history of Catholic Education in the Country.
“The 200-year anniversary allows us to look back with gratitude for the people who have shaped Catholic education in this country. It also enables us to look forward with confidence as Catholic education continues to flourish,” he said.
“The national theme, “Faith in the future” focuses on the core purpose of Catholic education, which is to form students in their faith, and to provide an education that enables our graduates to make a meaningful contribution to the world,” said Mr Desmond.
Local priest Father Rob Galea wrote the official song for the National celebration which he performed exclusively at the St Kilian’s Mass on Monday. Renowned Music Director and organist, Paul Taylor also performed at the Mass, playing the organ.
National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said the National Mass was a highlight of the bicentenary year.
"As a faith community, our National Mass to celebrate 200 years of Catholic education holds significant meaning, particularly on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians - the Patroness of Australia," Ms Collins said.
"The scale of Catholic education in Australia is unique in the world, serving over 777,000 students and employing over 100,000 staff.
The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison has written a congratulatory message to the Catholic education community on the occasion.
“Over 200 years, your schools, preschools and now universities, have transformed Australia through the millions of lives you have influenced,” the Prime Minister wrote.
“On this anniversary, we remember all who have been part of this heritage, including Fr Therry and Australia’s first saint, Mary of the Cross. We recall on this anniversary, the good days and the bad, the successes and disappointments; joys and sufferings; as well as the faith and community that has enabled Catholic Education to make this significant contribution to our national life.
“In doing so, we also recognise the clergy, religious, lay men and women, parents and parishes who have contributed so much,” he said.
There is much to be grateful for as the Catholic education community pauses to reflect on 200 years of service to Australian families. Over the years Catholic schools have educated millions of young people and today educate one in five Australian students.