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Centenary Foundation Day Mass: Homily by His Eminence Cardinal Nichols

Academic Event

Extracts from the Homily given by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Westminster Cathedral on 19 September 2014 at Centenary Foundation Day Mass.

Today I offer my warmest congratulations to The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School as we celebrate together this centenary. I congratulate and thank the School for the fine traditions it has fashioned and maintained over these 100 years since its modest founding on 21 September 1914. I thank the School, and all involved in it, for its fidelity to a founding vision together with its development in response to constantly changing demands. Cardinal Vaughan School is both steadfast and innovative, a point of real strength in the diocesan network of schools and one willing to play its part, as called for by its motto, in loving and serving fellow Catholic schools in the Diocese. I thank you for this.

The founding vision of the School is that of Cardinal Francis Bourne. On coming from Southwark to Westminster in 1903 he made education one of his key priorities. His concern was mainly with primary education but he had a vision of founding a network of secondary schools across this growing diocese. Your school was part of that powerful vision which took many generations to achieve.

Cardinal Bourne’s time was a time of profound and widespread opposition to Catholic Education, not from a secularist standpoint but from the dominant Protestant Liberalism of the day. Cardinal Bourne had a long battle, conducted very skilfully, to defend and establish the position of Catholic Education as a true and proper expression of parental choice and therefore having a true and proper place in a democratic society. Bourne won the day, and so your school exists, as a memorial to his illustrious predecessor. 

Our battles for Catholic Education today are less intense but real. We live in a very plural society in which cohesion and mutual understanding is so important. Catholic schools recognise this. Thus we put forward systematically the principles on which a good society can be based, drawing on the wealth of Catholic Social Teaching, a treasure that others are beginning to recognise. In the same vein, we have long recognised the importance of studying the beliefs and practices of other religions, doing so from the constructive basis of a living faith in God. If there is a problem with religious literacy today, with ignorance of other religions, as many are suggesting not least in light of the problems faced in Birmingham, the problem does not lie in faith schools, in Catholic schools. It lies elsewhere, wherever religious belief is treated in a minimal manner, or even disparaged. That is where the problem is to be tackled.

At the heart of a Catholic school – as is demonstrated in this great celebration of Holy Mass – lies the person of Jesus. He calls us together, person by person, so that we can know, love and serve him – amare et servire – and in doing so find our fulfilment, just as St Paul says: ‘I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness.’


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