by Kieran Fouhy
An early mantra I learned from my first years of teaching was at the dining table and from
wise teaching brothers.
I would arrive at the dining room frustrated that half my chemistry class were missing or boys hadn’t turned up to my detention, or worse, skipped my rugby practice!
And so I would get the rejoinder from the end of the table: “Teach them, frére‚ and they will
come.”
How true! Good teaching/coaching is so attractive and students will overcome almost every obstacle to be present!
Teaching is the mission of the Church. And in Catholic schools, teaching happens. A Catholic school is not some cosy vicarage with adoring devotees.
Catholic schools operate in a hard world with the ruthless steel of competition for minds, ideas and resources.
Funding is linked every three months to those who participate.
The students of Catholic schools come from the shadowlands of poverty, of digital disconnection, transience and rainbow clouds of false dreams.
And yet they still want to come to Catholic schools.
Why?
A Catholic school debunks the myth of a secular world — as if there was a secular and a sacred world. Where does God live if not in the hearts and minds of every person?
They debunk the myth of secular subjects. Theology is a scientific discipline competing for time with maths and history.
They debunk that view that rules are to be an end in themselves. Rules lead to mercy and compassion and always for the greater good.
They hold the torch to social justice where the “other” is the centre of the village.
They don’t enrol students — they enrol families.
When a Catholic school builds, it is not just classrooms, but enduring works of architecture that reflect the Glory of Our Creator. AMDG = Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
And the life the students exhibit in singing, music, sport and learning reflects the message of the Gospel: “I have come that you may have life.”
And Catholic schools believe like the Leonard Cohen refrain — “There is a crack in everything. It lets the light in.” There is a crack in human relationships that needs to be restored with
justice.
So Catholic schools are the north part of the south world — and when society turns north they are the south part. A countercultural proposition.
So is building more Catholic schools — we are being true to the mission of the Church.
But there is another mantra I have learned in my time of teaching.
“When in doubt — build.”
Building community, building buildings, restoring lost causes, building men is an immensely satisfying vocation.
I have learnt in my own life when one plans for a project without any knowledge where the money is coming from — or indeed even the pathway to follow — it will somehow happen.
And that is called hope — the essence of any Catholic school.
Kieran Fouhy is the headmaster of St Peter’s College, Auckland — a Catholic school
for 1200 men.

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