This month our school communities are celebrating Catholic Education Week in Victoria and Catholic Schools Week in some dioceses of New South Wales. We are also celebrating National Close the Gap Day, Harmony Week and International Women’s Day.

We are also preparing during this Lenten period of fasting, prayer and service for the celebration of Holy Week and the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It’s a busy time, but also an important reminder of both the breadth of our mission in Catholic education and the diversity of our communities.

Tomorrow night I am honoured to speak at the University of Notre Dame Australia’s Iftar Dinner with the Affinity Intercultural Foundation where I will touch on religious diversity, freedom and harmony in Australian policy-making.

Without pre-empting too much of my talk, I believe it is more important than ever for faith-based communities – from many diverse backgrounds – to come together to advocate for religious freedom which includes the right of families to send their children to a school that reflects their beliefs and values.

As we mark the many occasions this month, and this important season in the life of our faith, we are ever present to the diverse needs of our school and wider communities particularly those from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds.

In seeking to promote diversity, freedom and harmony, the document, ‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ signed by His Holiness Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahamad al-Tayyib says the role of religions is “the firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace; to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence; to re-establish wisdom, justice and love…”

As we continue during this season of Lent, may we be ever present to the needs of those in our circle of influence, and those across the world who experience poverty, suffering, violence and marginalisation. May our faith in the salvation of humankind bring hope, peace and freedom.

New appointment

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the NCEC’s new director of resources Steven Jeffery who has been seconded from the Queensland Catholic Education Commission. Steven will work with the commission to identify opportunities to improve access to a Catholic education for families and the resourcing of our Catholic schools. We welcome Steven.

Jacinta Collins
National Catholic Education executive director