St Joseph’s Foxford (School’s Anniversary)

“Let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard.”

The vineyard is an image of God’s people. Look how he tended and cared for it.

But those into whose care he entrusted the vineyard were not always so caring.

A Catholic school is a  vineyard, too, and we are its minders and keepers, and it is so good today to be celebrating St. Joseph’s School – the vineyard of this Christian and Catholic community.

First of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to preside at this Sunday Eucharist. We are celebrating 50 years of St. Joseph’s Secondary School. The Eucharist always calls us to gratitude, and today we are giving thanks to God for 50 years of blessings on St. Joseph’s.

The school was founded in 1961 by the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters’ contribution to the welfare of  this town and its people over long decades was extraordinary, and their spirit lives on even if the Sisters are long since departed.  In an era of far greater poverty and far less opportunity than anything we are experiencing today, the Sisters of Charity trusted in Providence – the Providence of God – as they sought to live out their vocation to be, in deeply practical ways, what they said they were: Sisters, to each other and to everyone, in the hard, unrelenting work of Charity or Love  – after the heart and life of Jesus. There is nothing soft about the Love of
Jesus! Rather it is tough and demanding. In their trust in God’s Providence and  the example of their charity in action they have left a heritage to this town  and to St. Joseph’s School that is precious and necessary – now as much as it ever was if not more –for the sake of the people and especially the young  people of this town and its hinterland.

The great gift of the 50th Anniversary Celebration is that it makes us look again at the founding spirit and motivation in 1961 of the Sisters and their co-workers. The school was an enterprise entirely founded by the Sisters of this community. They received no state aid. What group would dare today attempt such an undertaking without state finance? Have we disabled ourselves in looking always so much to the state? But that’s what real faith does! And trust in God’s Providence! It enables us – gives us faith in ourselves, in what we can achieve together – pooling our resources. Far from being old-fashioned or passé, we need such faith in God and His Providence now as never before. And there is no point in this Celebration without an honest acknowledgment that without the Faith – in God – and from that a belief in our own capabilities – this school might never have been born.

“Caritas Christi urget nos” – “the Charity (the Love) of Christ urges us on” was the motto of the Sisters and is now the school motto. The Love of Christ it was that urged them and their helpers on against many odds – or made them disregard the odds – to establish the work of the Love of Christ that is a Catholic School at its best,
that is St. Joseph’s, and ever will be, please God.

For that is what Catholic Education is about. It is about truly loving our young people! A school is a true community where young people discover and experience the amazing truth about themselves – as men and women – that they are Children of God, loved with an everlasting love, possessing a dignity that is nothing short
of sacred and destined for life in all its fullness. You don’t need to be famous or lauded by the fickle crowds when you know in your heart of hearts that you are precious to God and have a unique contribution to make on this earth. Love, dignity, the sacredness of life, life in all its fullness: wondrous words applicable to every boy and every girl, to every woman and every man.

This Sunday is the Day for Life – calling us to ‘solidarity and to hope in these difficult times’.
Isn’t that a fine description of a Catholic School – Giving Life, Solidarity with each other, and Hope in difficult times? The fact is money, no more than fame, is not the source of either hope or happiness. We’re always in danger of losing our way on that one. Hope and happiness are born of solidarity, love, and good relationships – in marriage, in the family, in the parish, in the school. Good relationships demand hard work, self-sacrifice, fidelity and forgiveness. Now who wants to forgive today? Or to promote fidelity of self-sacrifice? Listen to how the voices of anger, ingratitude, blame, and fault finding,  so fill our airwaves and are often so lauded. That is not the spirit that gave Foxford its Mill or its School. That is not the spirit on which St. Joseph’s was founded. It’s not the spirit that inspires you today, or brought you together for this celebration.
You are here, we are here, at the Eucharist, because we need each other and we need God. And because we are so grateful, looking back, and so much in awe, of the selflessness and sacrifice on which this school is built. And yes, we can look back in anger, too – Catholic bishops, priests and people, are sinful and failing – but we cannot stay there. We can rise to forgiveness; we do not and will not succumb to any culture of blame and
bitterness, for it offers neither hope nor future. We embrace a culture of Life and a culture of Love, a culture of forgiveness and solidarity with one another, and with all who are in need. We are Catholic and we stand for Life,
for Love, for living in Communion and trust in God’s Providence. That is the basis on which St. Joseph’s was founded, continues to grow, and takes its stand today.

So, on this Day for Life, we salute all those who have contributed – as founders, teachers, students, parents – over 50 years to St. Joseph’s School. We thank God for them and ask His blessing upon them. And we face the future with confidence for we trust in the Providence of God and the Love of Christ, which continues to urge
us on and inspire us, that we and our young people will bear the good fruit of which they are so capable, and that we, the Catholic community, may be true labourers in His vineyard, “people who will produce its fruit.”