The leap of faith reported on in AD2000 (October 2006) involving the launch in 2007 of two new colleges in the Wagga Wagga Diocese, fully committed to the teaching and practice of the Catholic faith, has become a reality.
The Blessed Mary MacKillop Colleges, trading as Christ the King Boys' College and Our Lady of the Rosary Girls' College, have commenced Year 7 classes this year. They are independent colleges providing instruction in the Catholic faith and are not part of the Catholic school system under the CEO.
The establishment of the colleges became necessary to help fulfil the great command of Our Lord to St Peter, 'Feed my lambs, feed my sheep', which every baptised and confirmed Catholic has a duty to follow.
Our school philosophy has firmly in place the requirement that Catholic teachers live the faith and follow the teachings of the Church. Without this condition, the students' instruction in the faith would be compromised, with a conflict of interest between teachers not in full communion with Church teachings, due to their own interpretations or opinions regarding these. Such a situation could easily undermine the foundation on which the Church and our colleges are built.
The acceptance of families to the colleges is dependent on the parents' commitment to ensuring their children are supported by Catholic values; their readiness to attend 'Key Parent Function' evenings during the year; and their promise to see that their children attend Sunday Mass each and every week without fail.
Every Friday the school bus takes students to the lunchtime Mass at St Michael's Cathedral, Wagga Wagga. The children have confession available, as well as Adoration and sometimes Benediction before Mass. Students from Christ the King Boys' College are altar servers at this Mass.
Key virtues are chosen and emphasised each month and incorporated into class teaching while feast days are celebrated with Masses, special activities and prayers.
Texts are carefully monitored for unsuitable content and only the most appropriate ones are selected for student use.
Next year, the schools are due to expand incorporating Years 5-8. After 2008 the schools will expand the top end classes, one year at a time, so that by 2012 each will contain Years 5-12.
All independent studies have shown that both boys and girls perform better academically when taught in single-sex classes. This arrangement is also more helpful for Catholic instruction and advancement in the virtues. For this reason our colleges have been set up as separate entities.
However, our initial year has seen some classes become co- educational while others remain separate in their respective boys' and girls' colleges. The need for co- educational classes will be lessened as student enrolments increase.
We believe religion classes can help improve the students' overall academic performance as they are more inclined to have a developed conscience which fosters respect for the teacher and closer attention and obedience.
The young people in this year's foundation Year 7 should serve as excellent role models for other students in future years, no doubt to the delight and satisfaction of all parents concerned. Positive peer group influence is one of the essentials for an effective Catholic education.
We are most fortunate in having the Dominican Nuns teaching at the colleges. Their spirituality and knowledge of their subjects are of enormous benefit in the formation of the students.
At our colleges prayers begin each class, the Angelus Bell rings at midday and religion classes commence with a visit to the Oratory for prayers and a decade of the Rosary. Crucifixes and religious statues and illustrations adorn the walls of each classroom.
Priests visit the colleges regularly and are always warmly welcomed. Most recently, their visits have included an examination of conscience followed by Confession, discuss- ion of the Church's teaching on evolution, Italian pronunciation and a missionary talk by a priest from The Fathers of Mercy.
Overall, our diocese is particularly fortunate in having so many young, enthusiastic priests who are the products of Vianney College.
We would like families to consider the move to Wagga Wagga if their circumstances permit so as to utilise our colleges with their total commitment to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
We are presently leasing premises in central Wagga Wagga and now have 'gift recipient status'. We would much appreciate any help regarding funding or finance towards a permanent site for our colleges. We have taken the 'leap of faith' so please help if you can. For enquiries please contact Blessed Mary MacKillop Colleges, PO Box 2373, Wagga Wagga 2650, (02) 6921-8999.
Bill Andrews has played a leading role in setting up the Blessed Mary MacKillop Colleges.