Less than a week before the school year commenced nearly 5500 teachers, school and parish leaders, priests, school administrators and Catholic Education Office staff from the Diocese of Port Pirie and the Archdiocese of Adelaide attended the Live Learn Lead Together conference.
After an impressive musical dance performance by Ding Productions and a stunning Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony by Yellaka, the gathering joined in prayer and song.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ welcomed everyone, especially those who had come from long distances across the State, to “this combined venture of Church”.
“The importance of what you do and who you are is contained just in the one statement,” he told the historic gathering.
“The Church could not be Church without you.
“You are privileged and gifted people, you who care for the young.
“There is no equal to you in someone attempting to live the mission of the Church, which is the mission of Jesus, I really want to give you my thanks and that of the whole Christian community who we serve.
“And remember that Jesus himself was a teacher.”
Administrator Delegate Fr Philip Marshall and US psychotherapist Kent Hoffman, who appeared via video link, provided a moving presentation on The Gospel in Four Sentences. Fr Marshall said when he looked around the auditorium and saw 5500 people he thought “what a power, what a capacity to make a difference to the world in a way that will make it more beautiful, more wonderful, more courageous, more loving and more kind”.
Catholic Education director Neil McGoran spoke about the history of Catholic education in SA, starting with a meeting in December 1844 of Bishop Francis Murphy and teachers Mr and Mrs William James to lay the foundation stone of the first school in Adelaide.
Dr McGoran said reflecting on the past was important in terms of determining Catholic identity, “who you are and who you say you are”. He then addressed the current strategy for Catholic education in the State, “which is demanding all of us to reach new levels of excellence in what we do”, and the integration of faith, life, learning and culture.
Referring to global and Australian trends, he said while the highest demand from employers was for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills, what ranked even higher were personal and social skills.
“Employers everywhere are looking for people who are decent people, who fit into a team, are good to get on with, creative, problem solvers, energetic and can get out there and try and create something new because if they don’t they’ll go out of business,” he said.
“Australia needs Catholic education more than it ever has before because Catholic education does that really well.”
The conference came ahead of the new school year for the State’s 102 Catholic schools comprising around 45,000 students and 6000 employees.
Predicted to be a year of significant change, 2019 will see many of the State’s Catholic secondary schools teaching Year 7 for the first time. A number of Catholic primary schools will also begin offering mid-year Reception intakes.
The afternoon session of Live, Learn and Lead included a presentation on The Power of the Word by Robin Moore, an educator and communicator who was the voice of cartoon character Blinky Bill for many years. ABC radio announcer Ali Clarke chaired a panel discussion which was followed by the concluding liturgy.
Videos featuring school children and teachers, cards with illustrated messages from students and mega-screens with images depicting Australia’s natural beauty were other highlights of the day.
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