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Bishop Denis celebrates the opening of Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford


We gather at the end of the second week in Ordinary Time to mark the official opening of the new Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford and alsop to mark the launch of Catholic Schools Week in Kildare & Leighlin. How delighted I am to visit this beautiful church, dedicated to St. Mary. A few weeks ago I called in Fr. Ger to quietly visit Stratford on Slaney. A village settlement that goes back over two hundred years. The gospel sees the apostles called, and so al of us are called to follow up, let’s for a moment pause and pray for his love and mercy …


Who remembers this wonderful composition from our Religious Programme, originally ‘Alive O’, now ‘Grow in Love’?

Jesus had a special job,
To how the world, the love of God,
But wondered if when he was gone
someone would carry on.

So Jesus chose some of his friends,
And all on whom he could depend.
He chose them from his followers
and there were twelve of them.
There was Peter and Andrew,
James and John,
James the less
And his brother Jude.
There was Philip and Bartholomew,
There was Simon
And Matthew too.
There was Judas Iscariot
There was Thomas
And that’s the lot!

Today Jesus calls his Apostles to follow Him and in doing so He calls all of us. The ‘Apostles Song’ brings todays’ gospel alive! Today Jesus is calling all 74 boys and girls attending Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford.

I so well remember being very moved by the beauty of this church dedicated to St. Mary in Stratford on my visit here last November. I recall the window to Christ the King. And the image of Our Lady of Stratford – “Muire, Mathair Ath an Sráide, gui orainn”. And the picturesque signage outside reminding us of the butterflies, birds and animals that habitat this area – the heron, the kingfisher, the bat, the fox, the red admiral. Cn anyone remember any other names of birds or animals you might find in Stratford?

I am delighted to join Mary and the staff, the parents and pupils, along with Fr. Ger and Sr. Eileen on this special day for the parish. I warmly welcome past Principals Eilish McDonald and Tony Graham, you are both most welcome, as are past staff members. I am also delighted that Maeve Mahon is present, Maeve does enormous work resourcing and supporting our Primary Schools across Kildare & Leighlin. I am using the occasion of my visit to Stratford on Slaney this morning to launch Catholic Schools Week in our diocese. I have chosen to launch it on one of the edges of our diocese, here in Baltinglass Parish. This years’ theme is ‘Living in harmony with God’s Creation’. We all must live in this planet together. We must make room for one another, be sensitive to each other, be in harmony with one another.

What does ‘harmony’ mean? Let’s say we sang ‘The Apostles Song’ in a different key, with different words, with several different tunes, what would happen? A great theme of your Mass today is ‘Mercy’. The wonderful first reading where St. Paul was writing to the Colossians and writing to all of us. “Forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins”. It isn’t easy, is it? The Apostles were commissioned to be Ministers of Mercy, of Forgiveness. Hands up those making First Penance this year?

Catholic Schools Week is a simply reminder of the essential place the Catholic School has in the life of all our parishes. Do you know how many schools I am patron of in Kildare & Leighlin? Let’s count them there is

  • Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford
  • Bigstone NS
  • Our Lady of Fatima (Grangecon NS)
  • Scoil Naomh Iosaf in Baltinglass

And that’s only Baltinglass Parish; there are 159 other schools.

Our schools are led very well by our Principals, our Staff, our Teachers, our Resource Teachers, our SNA’s, our Secretaries, our Cleaners, our Caretakers. We also have very good parents Councils and Parent Bodies. And overarching all our school structure is what we call our Board of Management. Peggy, I am so delighted you are here today, representing all who chair the 163 school boards across our diocese and the 1,304 who volunteer on our boards. I am going to present to you a candle on behalf of the diocese, for you to light and say a prayer at your very first meeting in the coming weeks. Every school has got one of these candles!

And so I ask you Peggy:

  • Do you accept the responsibility to manage Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford. on my behalf and on behalf of the parish community?
  • Do you promise to continue to nourish and strengthen the Catholic ethos of Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford?
  • Do you promise to continue to help ensure that all children in Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford are given every opportunity to reach their full potential as children of God?

And so I pray:

Loving God,
We ask you to bless the work of all who will work
as members of the Board of Management of Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford.
May their work be characterised by a conviction
that Jesus Christ is at the heart of every activity
in Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Stratford making it a place where all are welcome,
all are valued and all are called to be the very best that they can be.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I look forward later to visiting your school, cutting the ribbon and blessing the building. I compliment all who sponsored a brick, fundraised in any way for this new building. I was delighted to read on-line of the success of the ‘buy a brick’ campaign. I notice you joined Twitter in April 2018! So what is the story of Stratford School?

The story of Stratford School – originally built 1911.
Toilets & cloakrooms added in 1956.
Early 2000’s Eilish McDonald, the Principal then along with the BOM looked for funding to build but was refused because there wasn’t enough yard space.
Process resumed in February 2015 by new Principal Mary O’Keeffe, who had become Principal in 2009.
Building commenced in June 2018.
New School ready for September 2019.

And finally who remembers this one, that sums up beautifully our Catholic Schools …

Circle of Friends:
You have friends, you are not alone
Thanks to them, you’re not on your own
You are strong even when you feel small

From the rain, they will shelter you
In your pain, they will comfort you,
They will always pick you up when you fall

Circle of friends
All around you
Circle of friends
Strong and true
Circle of friends
Always there for you.

Even when you are far apart
To your friends, you’re joined heart to heart
Far away you are not on your own.

You’re not there, but they think of you
In their prayer, they remember you
You are never ever truly alone.

Circle of friends
All around you
Circle of friends
Strong and true
Circle of friends
Always there for you.