Recently I met a young girl visiting South Africa. She was in her final year in a Catholic school in Ireland. I asked her why she went to that particular school in the south of the country, far from her home in the north. The reason: both her mother and grandmother are proud past-pupils of that same school.
Why do our parents send their children to the schools they themselves attended? What is special about our Catholic schools? Many glibly talk about a school’s “ethos”, but we struggle to define it. Possibly it cannot really be defined. Maybe it is more like the air we breathe, the atmosphere in which we live, the particular ‘culture’ that gives value and meaning to everything that happens in the classrooms, on the playing fields, in the Chapel, at the functions that punctuate the school year. That culture is not rooted just in good discipline, good facilities, good results, important as these may be.
Possibly we get closer to describing the ethos of Selly Park when we speak of gentleness and courtesy, of care and respect for every member of the staff and every young person. But a Catholic ethos must go deeper still. It must be defined in terms of faith, a faith that is alive and that is lived. It is this that determines both our identity and our mission. Our ethos then rests on the solid foundation of belief in the love of a good God who never takes back His love, in the love of His Son who loved us enough to die for us. It is rooted in our faith in the unique dignity and destiny of all of God’s children and of every single member of the school family. That faith in God and in people underpins every aspect of the daily round and the daily grind of Selly Park. Within that atmosphere of faith (Catholic ethos if you wish) each young person gradually develops outlooks and attitudes, a philosophy and a faith that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Chairman of the Board