A document from Pope Francis was a focus for reflection at the recent National Association of Principals of Catholic Secondary Schools (NAPCSS) conference.Keynote speaker Dr Rocio Figueroa, a lecturer in systematic theology at Good Shepherd College in Auckland, spoke about the importance of persevering in love and joy, based on the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetita, the Joy of Love.

When the exhortation was published, there was extensive media coverage both within the Catholic Church and in secular society. There was much debate concerning the Eucharist and whether it should be received by civilly remarried Catholic divorcees or not.

At the conference, Dr Figueroa gave her interpretation of Amoris Laetitia and topics she thought were fundamental to understanding it.

“This is applied to our teachings in schools that reality is more important than ideas,” she said.

“The Pope wants to find new ways to attract people to the Gospel. In our times, it is not just by words or ideas alone, but principally through the beauty of love.

“The only way to save our world, to save our young people is through love. Young children only understand love through experience, when they feel loved by us.”

Dr Figueroa said the role of principals is very difficult — trying to do a job in a professional way and working hard for the students.

“But at the same time we must not forget to maintain  personal relationship[s] actually based on love, with the whole body of the school. It is only through this love that we can save the world,” she said.

The lecturer highlighted an important principle from Pope Francis — his statement that reality or people are more important than ideas and this leads to the key to understand what truth Jesus represents.

“Jesus is not an idea, Jesus is a person. To encounter the truth means to have a personal encounter with Jesus in which the truth becomes flesh in our lives.”

The 2018 theme for the principals’ conference was “Persevering in Love”. The conference was held from August 12 to 14 at the Quality Hotel Lincoln Green Conference Centre in Henderson in Auckland.

The NAPCSS chairperson, Chris Rooney from Liston College in Henderson, was on sabbatical during the conference.

Tony Shaw, from Catholic Cathedral College in Christchurch, stepped into the acting chair role.

“It is a privilege to support the mission of the Church through working in a Catholic school,” he said.

“Teaching in a Catholic school is a vocation and we encourage our young people to consider this as a career. Please pray for the work of the wonderful network of Catholic schools within our diocese and across New Zealand.”

The annual conference was moved to Auckland this year as this was a preference for members. The conference will be reviewed to assist planning for 2019.