This is the time of year when school classrooms and corridors, which have lain empty and quiet over the summer months, echo again with the sound of young voices and the busy activity of the school day. When I was in primary school, one of the memories I have of the new academic year was writing my name on the front cover of my new school copy books and then opening them to see the pristine and white pages inside. Another was receiving the textbooks for the year ahead, the combined weight of which made the school bag quite heavy!
Later when I was a parent, the cost of all these textbooks for our three children took me by surprise. Fortunately, when they were in primary school in Cork, a well organised system was in place so that schoolbooks were passed on by prior arrangement between families. Today I know buying textbooks is a thing of the past and that they are now paid for with a government grant and that is good news indeed. While education is far from ‘free’, such interventions are a help to the hard-pressed parent.
Reflecting on these texts and copy books, I am reminded that some knowledge is passed on as we inherit learning and wisdom from those who are older that us. At other times we start with a blank sheet, or a fresh slate and can fill these with our own creativity. We are encouraged to make new discoveries for ourselves. Both dimensions of the education process are important.
In our parishes, Sunday Schools and Sunday Clubs are reopening. From the conversations I am having with some of those involved in children’s ministry in the Diocese, I am aware of the impact the disruption the Covid pandemic had on this ministry and the lingering effect it has had on some parishes where teachers and leaders have retired or where children and their families have not reengaged once things opened again. In a sense, ministry to and among children has had to ‘reboot’ and my hope is that this year, further progress will be made as we refocus and rebuild.
With this in mind, I would like to thank Rachael Murphy and Carolyn Good for organising a training morning in St Laserian’s Cathedral in Old Leighlin on Saturday 9 September from 10 – 12.30. I want to take this opportunity to encourage those involved in ministry with children in our parishes to attend this event. I know you will be given resources, advice, and lots of encouragement as well as the opportunity to meet others doing similar work in other parishes across the Diocese. Rachael is the Network Coordinator with the Church of Ireland Board of Ministry with Children and Families, and Carolyn Good from Carlow Union, has agreed to be our diocesan representative on the Children and Families Ministry Network.
Finally, to all those returning to the primary and secondary schools in this Diocese and those commencing or returning to third-level education, I wish you every blessing. Before the summer holidays I managed to visit thirteen of the twenty-five primary schools under my patronage. I enjoyed meeting the pupils in their classrooms or at an assembly, as well as chatting to the hardworking staff in the staffrooms. Once term is up and running, I hope to visit the remaining twelve schools in the coming months.