Bishop John Sherrington celebrated Mass in thanksgiving for the silver jubilee of St Paul’s Catholic College in Sunbury on 26 June 2014.
In his homily, he recognised the school for its contribution to the lives of its pupils and their families, which is summed up in the school motto, “Achieving Excellence, Learning to Serve”.
Bishop John also recognised and thanked the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul’s who laid the foundations in St. Teresa’s Girls Convent School and those who laid foundations in Cardinal Godfrey Boys School.
He compared the work of the Catholic College to the momentous events in the life of their patron saint. Referring to Caravaggio’s painting of the conversion of St Paul, which depicts the saint as he lies on the ground, a strong muscular man brought low with the horse towering over him almost crushing him, he said, ‘in St Paul’s helplessness and weakness there is a moment of enlightenment and trust. He meets the Risen Christ who becomes the heart of his life and whom he will follow passionately and to whom he will commit all his energies and life.
‘He is led to Ananias who will open his eyes, enlighten him, and baptise him.
‘We might see in the person of Ananias a model for members of the staff of a Catholic school. Their task is to enlighten the pupils so that they not only excel in all the various subjects but also become firm and faithful followers of Christ.
‘The College through its activities seeks to bring its pupils from unknowing to understanding and knowledge, from fragments of faith to deeper faith, as it were from darkness and blindness to light.’
Continuing with the example of St Paul’s life, Bishop John then went on to say, ‘St. Paul describes in his writings an overwhelming experience of God’s love and mercy. He is forgiven for his persecution of the Church and begins a new life. He knows that he is profoundly loved by God. In his weakness, he must rely on God’s grace.
‘Such love is at the heart of the Catholic school: a love which manifests itself in the communication of God’s love for each and every child and every member of staff and also promises forgiveness and new starts. In recognising the need for God’s grace and power, we find strength not in ourselves, but in God alone.’
Comparing St Paul’s journey to enlightenment to the work of the College, Bishop John continued, ‘Paul is enlightened and instructed so that he might then spread the Gospel in a passionate and zealous way. Christ and his message totally captured the life of Paul and he restlessly continued to tell others of the love which was in his heart.
‘Learning about Christ is at the heart of the life of a Catholic College so that we might understand the goodness of God’s creation, the love of God and the world which He has given us.
‘Paul was a consummate traveller so that others may come to believe and so that he might share with them the faith which gives him true life.
‘In the same way, Catholic schools are called to be places of love, nurture, and care so that the whole person, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical and artistic, may have life in its fullness.’
Referring to the school’s dedication to teaching, Bishop John continued, ‘St. Paul’s Catholic College is committed to learning and teaching so that each child might be instructed and so develop his or her God-given gifts in all their depth and to their fullness.’
Addressing the students, he continued ‘This Catholic College follows the inspiration and model of St. Paul. An ‘apostle’ is one who is sent out. Paul was sent to preach the Gospel.
‘In the same way, each one of you is sent out from this college to make a difference in the world through your love and service. You are sent out, in the words used frequently by Pope Francis, as “missionary disciples”.
‘This calling is to make known the name and the life of Jesus Christ. This is not only by having the confidence and courage to speak his name and proclaim your faith in him but also by living the values of justice and truth inspired by the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, and, Above all, to be clothed with love and to share that love with others.
‘Through the sharing of your love in service and with concern for others, especially the poor and the vulnerable, you become the presence of Christ in the world.’