Pictured above from left to right: Deputy Martin Kenny TD, Robbie Allison (Crossdoney Construction), Cllr. Madeleine Argue (Cathaoirleach, Cavan County Council), Tony Connolly (Chair, Board of Management), Cllr. John Paul Feely, Cllr. Peter McVitty, Deputy Heather Humphreys TD (Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation), Bishop Leo O’Reilly, Terence Reynolds (School Principal), Cllr. Damien Brady, Deputy Niamh Smith TD, Senator Joe O’Reilly, and Micheál Maguire (Architect).
Photograph courtesy of Adrian Donohoe, Photographer, Cavan
I am delighted to be here today for the official opening and dedication of Scoil Naomh Bríd, Ballyconnell. The school celebrates its golden jubilee this year – the main building opened its doors in 1968 – and that building has been completely refurbished and upgraded as part of this project. The extension contains the new ASD facilities and support rooms and offices and of course this marvellous Assembly Hall where we are seated. So today we are effectively opening a new school and I want to congratulate and compliment all who were involved in any way in the planning, design and building of this wonderful educational facility.
I thank the Department of Education and Skills for the funding to undertake this project and bring it to completion. I thank the parish, the current parish priest Fr Oliver O’Reilly and former parish priest, Fr Eamonn Lynch for providing the very suitable and valuable site for the new building. I thank the Principal, Mr Reynolds, and his very dedicated staff for the great work you do here – and it must have been difficult during the period of refurbishment and construction.
Despite the disruption caused by the building works your school has many notable achievements to its credit. It’s a Green School, an Active Sports School and a Health Promoting School. Not surprising then that you are also Cross Country Medal winners. On the learning front I believe you are Maths Week Champions, a Digital School of Excellence and a School of Excellence in STEM subjects, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Parents play a crucial role in the life of any school and I am told that Scoil Naomh Bríd has a very active Parents Association. But there would be no school at all without you, the pupils, and this school is blessed with a great body of pupils who have wonderful talents, great enthusiasm and willingness to work. So well done to staff, parents and pupils.
I thank the Board of Management and its chair Mr Tony Connolly and the previous board for the vision and determination to have an ASD unit and proper facilities here in Ballyconnell, for using the opportunity to do a complete overhaul of the school, and for your work in managing this major project from beginning to end. You have given very generously of your time and talents to ensure that this community has the very best education facilities for your children. You do it year in year out, even when there is no big project in hand. You do all that on a completely voluntary basis and you don’t even get travel or other expenses. Well done to you and on behalf of all of us, thank you. We are indebted to you all for your generous public service.
The physical buildings have now been completed here in Scoil Naomh Bríd and magnificently done. But the work of building up the school community must continue. As a Catholic school this is a Christian community and the task of building up this community is central to the life of the school. This is the building that St Paul is talking about in the first reading which we heard a few minutes ago: “You are God’s building … I laid the foundation and someone else did the building. For no one can lay down any other foundation that the one that is there already, namely Jesus Christ.”
When St Paul says that Christ is the foundation of our Christian community, it means that we are guided by his example and his values. In our lives and in our relationships with each other we try to live up to the ideals St. Paul puts before us, things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. He says: Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. There can be a quarrels in school now and again, in the classroom and in the playground. It can be hard to forgive, hard to admit even that we have done something wrong. There can even be bullying at school and that can make life absolutely miserable for some students.
It takes a lot of things to make a good school like this one. It takes a dedicated, professional staff, good pupils, interested parents. It takes hard work, good facilities and resources. It takes good leadership and good management. But there is something else needed as well. It’s the glue that keeps the whole lot together. It’s what Jesus spoke about to his disciples in the Gospel. It is love. Love in the sense of being patient and kind, gentle and generous and forgiving. Love is the most important ingredient of education. If we don’t learn to love we might be geniuses at mathematics and wizards with computers but we run the risk of being failures in our personal lives. The secret of a happy life is to be able to form good, healthy, mature relationships. Love is the key to that. I believe it is also the secret of happy families, a happy school and of a civilized society. Can I leave you with words of Pope Francis during his recent visit for the World Meeting of Families: “The world needs a revolution of love. Let that revolution begin with you and your families.” That revolution of love is already happening here in Scoil Naomh Bríd. I pray that it will continue and flourish long into the future.