Set your hearts on his Kingdom first: 150th Anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Devonport

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Set your hearts on his Kingdom first: 150th Anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Devonport

It is most fitting that the celebration to mark the 125th anniversary of the opening of this school is being held the day after the feast of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. The readings and prayers of this Mass are those that honour the first Australian canonised saint.

It was the arrival of the Sisters of St Joseph in Devonport that enabled the establishing of Our Lady of Lourdes School.

The Catholic Standard, back in February 1891, commented: “For some time we have been preparing for the advent of the Sisters of St Joseph, and it is with great pleasure I have to report that they have been installed in their convent, a new stone cottage rented for the purpose.”

The Standard goes on to report that three sisters arrived – Srs Francis, Baptist and Ignatius. The article comments that “the appearance of the religious habit excited curiosity among some of the inhabitants who had never seen a nun before.”

The presence of the Sisters in the broader community was commented on in an article in the Devonport “Morning Star” later in the year. It described the presence of the Sisters as a “new orb of light” in the district. The article goes on to say, “Formerly mass once a month, and often not that; now at least once a week, for besides the regular mass at the church at East Devonport, we are favoured with a celebration once a fortnight at the Sister’s Oratory, which the laity are privileged to attend, and which has proved a great blessing”. The article goes on to comment, “The Sister’s [sic] School is progressing marvellously, many children of other denominations attending regularly, as well of course as the full complement of Catholics many of whom have been literally dragged in”. The last comment is one I would like to know more about!

Thus did Our Lady of Lourdes School commence. The arrival of the Sisters not only enabled the school to commence but also their presence in the community was much appreciated.

In instances like this the vision of Mary MacKillop was being realised. Children were being given the advantage of a Catholic education and the Sisters enriched the Catholic life of the parish and, indeed, the local community. This is our heritage not only here in Devonport but also in so many isolated centres around Tasmania and Australia. The Church owes an enormous debt to St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and the valiant band of young women who embraced her vision.

When the main school building was blessed and opened in 1933 a Fr Upton, who was asked to speak about finance and elicit donations on the day, had this to say: “People ask why Catholics are not content with the State school system. Does religion really matter or does it not? If you think it does not then you may use the State system – and a majority think thus. But we think otherwise. When we say the Apostles Creed it is not an empty form of words. We believe in Jesus Christ, in his Resurrection, in Judgement, and in Heaven and Hell. And because we believe these truths we insist that God must have a place in our schools and in the lives of our children.”

It has been and continues to be the case that the transmission of the Catholic faith remains central to the purpose of our Catholic schools.

On occasions such as a significant anniversary it is good to recall the times and the spirit that saw the birth and growth of a particular project, in this case Our Lady of Lourdes School.

In a beautiful piece of teaching of the Lord given in the Gospel today, Jesus urges us to “set our hearts on his kingdom first”. He contrasts a view of life whereby the focus is on material things alone to a way of life that seeks God and relies on the provision of God for life. It is a bold teaching which we all struggle with.

The Lord is right, is he not? He said in the reading today: “can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?”
There is nothing we can do. Life is God’s gift to us. Life, every life, is under the care of God. Life, in the end, is to be surrendered into the hands of God.

I have just returned from Poland where I attended the World Youth Day. I had the privilege of joining some two to two and a half million young people in a Mass with the Holy Father. While in Kraków I was able to visit the place where the Lord appeared to St Faustina in 1931. While speaking a great deal to her about the depths of his mercy towards humanity, he asked that an image of what she saw in the apparition be painted, and requested that at the foot of the painting the words, “Jesus, I trust in you” be placed. This is now the well-known Divine Mercy image.

The words, “Jesus I trust in you” was to be the invitation to all who gaze upon the image. It aligns with the Gospel message of today and with the spirit of St Mary of the Cross Mackillop who radically depended on Divine Providence. A person of faith moves through life with a fundamental attitude of dependence on God’s good providence. It is one of the most reassuring and comforting aspects to being a believer.

This school has existed for one hundred and twenty five years because it has been a work of faith and of sacrifice. It has survived and flourished because it has a founding spirit that continues to inspire it even to this day.

Let it be true that our generation is no less inspired by the Catholic faith and by a true reliance upon our Merciful God, and no less dedicated to ensure that our children receive the blessing of a sound formation in the faith as the ground for their future.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 6 August 2016