Opening and Blessing

01 May 2015

Homily for Opening and Blessing
Our Lady of the Assumption Primary School, North Strathfield, 1 May 2015

The most recent Disney movie is a remake of Cinderella. Young Ella’s parents are devoted to each other and to her, but her Mum gets sick; before she dies she tells Ella always to have “courage and be kind”. Her Dad remarries and then he also dies. Ella’s step-mum is bitter and her step-sisters mistreat her: she becomes their servant and can only stay warm by sleeping near the cinders of the dying fire – hence that name “Cinder-Ella”.

But one day Cinderella meets a prince in the woods who falls in love with her but doesn’t know who she is. Hoping to win her love he invites all the maidens of the kingdom to a ball. An angel called “Fairy God-Mum” transforms Cinderella from messy servant into beautiful princess, but she’s only got till midnight. After a dream night her curfew approaches and Ella runs away, leaving her glass slipper behind. After searching everywhere the prince finally finds the only girl who fits the shoe and proposes to her that she marry him and become princess. Cinderella’s final words to her step-mum before she leaves are “I forgive you”.

It’s a good story isn’t it? The wicked step-mum thinks the only way to be happy is through getting lots of things like toys and gold and controlling other people. But what about the really good things that you can’t buy or control, like being alive and healthy in this wonderful world? Or experiencing love and peace at home and at school? Or the really exciting adventure of learning new things? Or being forgiven by others and extending that same mercy yourself? What about grace: that is, the really, really good stuff that money can’t buy and that in the end we don’t deserve, because it comes from God? Cinderella experiences grace – a prince who comes out of nowhere to save her – and that gives her the wherewithal to extend grace to others like her step-Mum. 

2000 years ago another young woman was told by her Fairy God-angel not to be afraid, to have faith and courage to match her goodness. When that Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary “Hail Mary, full of grace” her answer was like Cinderella’s, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord: I’m God’s child and what He wants, I want.” It glass slipper fit perfectly. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit and the Word who is God was made flesh. Jesus wants to be our prince, wants the Church, all of us, to be His princess. What did Mary say to that idea? What do we say? Yes, God, I want to be yours so “Let it be done unto me, according to your word.”

Today, it is my great privilege to open and bless this new primary school named in honour of that young woman. We don’t just call her Mary anymore but “Our Lady of the Assumption”, because she’s a princess, a Queen now. But that doesn’t mean she’s gone far away to live in a palace. No, she lives in this parish, in this school. And because Jesus was close to her always and she stuck by Him through thick and thin, good times and hard times, He’s never far from her. If He’s in heaven, she’s in heaven; if she’s here at school, He’s here at school! So you’ve got a great Patron!

Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School is the 150th school for our Archdiocese! As Sydney keeps growing, not just outwards but upwards, there are more and more families wanting places for their kids in our schools. We’re very proud of that. We appreciate their trust and confidence in us, in Catholic schooling. You are the first 68 kids in a school that will one day grow to around 450. With the principal and staff you are the founders! So when you talk to Jesus, when you talk to Mother Mary, don’t forget to pray for this school, that it will be the school they want for you and for the kids who come after you.

We think you are special and that’s why there are some special people here today. I acknowledge from the Church: Very Rev. Michael McLean Episcopal Vicar for Education; Fr Mihai Anghel your Parish Priest, with other local clergy; Dr Dan White the Executive Director of Schools in the Archdiocese, with your Regional Director, Regional Consultant and other senior CEO staff; Dr Brian Croke, Executive Director CECNSW; and Mrs Cathy Young, your Principal, with her Assistant Principal and staff, and with other Principals and Assistant Principals of nearby schools.

I acknowledge with gratitude the presence today of our civic leaders: the Federal Member for Reid Mr Craig Laundy MP, State Member for Strathfield Ms Jody McKay MP, and the Mayor of Canada Bay Mr Angelo Tsirekas with the General Manager, Gary Sawyer. To our representatives I say: we are very grateful for the help you give us in running our schools and especially in paying our teachers. But as this school demonstrates, we need more schools in Sydney. I ask our parliamentary representatives to communicate this back to our parliaments: the Catholic Church is in education bigtime and for the long haul. It saves the Commonwealth and State lots if we build, maintain and staff schools rather than you. But we need some help if we are to keep up with the demand, if we are to build new schools and enlarge existing ones.

Today I also want to acknowledge the CEO personnel who planned for this school, the proud Architects and Builders BVN, Grindley and Cash McInnes, the parents and parishioners, teachers and staff, and friends of the school.

To you all I say: congratulations on a great achievement! Now it is your job, my young friends, like Cinderella, like Mary, to experience the good things God and His friends have given you, and in turn show kindness to others. What does Jesus want for you? That you be happy and holy. What does Our Lady of the Assumption want for you? That you be happy and holy. What do your families want for you? That you be happy and holy. What does your new school want for you? That you be happy and holy.

So what do you want for you? To be happy and holy! God bless you! Our Lady of the Assumption: pray for us!