Many people in the Wagga Wagga Diocese and beyond have been following the establishment and progress of our schools since their inception in 2007.
The planning of two independent high schools, Our Lady of the Rosary Girls School and Christ the King Boys School, began in 2006 as a response to a need amongst many Catholic families looking for a different approach which would ensure their children leave school not only knowing their faith, but practising it.
Besides this, the schools hope to meet the demand for a high achieving, single-sex education. These schools have been established independently of any affiliated group within the Church.
The schools were opened under the title of Blessed Mary Mackillop Colleges operating from the one site, as a co- educational group, due to the small intake in its first years. When the school first opened its doors in January 2007 it began with nine students in Year 7. By the end of that same year there were sixteen.
This year the school has expanded, incorporating years 5-8 and is operating as a middle school. The enrolments to this point are 50 students. Next year we will be adding a Year 9 class and a Year 11 class for girls only. This means that our students will be sitting for the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate for the first time in 2010. As one of our students commented, 'Last year we were so small, it didn't really feel like a school, but this year it does.'
When our numbers are sufficient we will break off into two schools as was originally planned, so that single-sex education is offered, since this is the preference most parents have. This decision to offer single-sex education is not just a response to parent demand but a well considered decision based on research which proves that girls and boys perform better academically when taught in single-sex classes. It has also revealed that students respond better to instruction in the Faith in a single-sex environment.
So what does the school offer to its students?
Our school philosophy has firmly in place the requirement that all Catholic teachers employed at the school should be prepared to teach the faith through both word and the example of their daily lives. Without this condition the student's instruction would be compromised. The aim of the school is to have a unified approach between home and school, based on the imparting of the truth according to the teachings of the Church.
The principal controversies in Catholic education of the present day rage around the teaching of religion to children. At Blessed Mary Mackillop College we see the teaching of religion as a twofold duty, to God and to His children. God, who entrusts to us their religious education, expects us to set His revealed religion before the students as truly, as nobly, and as worthily as our capacity allows.
The child has a right to learn the best that he or she can know of God, since the happiness of one's life, not only in eternity but even in time, is bound up in that knowledge. We are very fortunate to have the Dominican Sisters teaching in our school.
We see religious education as falling into two periods during the students' life at the school: one in which the essentials of Christian life and doctrine have to be learned; the other in which more direct preparation may be made for the challenges of faith which must be encountered when the years of school life are over. Our aim is to prepare our students to live in the world, but not to be worldly.
Education at Blessed Mary Mackillop Colleges is not just academic, neither is sporting prowess of prime importance. When a student comes to our school, we endeavour to educate the whole person, which includes the academic and sporting dimensions, along with development of the individual student's character.
Discipline and obedience are part of that training, which leads to gradual self-government, not to sudden emancipation. Obedience must be first of all to persons, prompt and unquestioning, then to laws, a 'reasonable service' (Romans 12:1), then to the wider law which each one must enforce from within; I am speaking here of the law of love which is the law of liberty.
At Blessed Mary Mackillop Colleges we try to discipline gently but without weakness. We are careful in our warnings, slow in our punishments, but we endeavour to be unswervingly true to what is of principle, asking persuasively not for the sullen obedience of slaves, but rather free and loving submission which will help each child grow in character.
A 'finished education' is an illusion or else a lasting disappointment; the very word implies a condition of mind which is opposed to any further development, a condition of self-satisfaction. We hope that when students leave our school they will continue to pursue learning for the rest of their lives.
The parents, teaching staff and the School Board have high ideals for the school which will mean that there will be very great challenges. However, they are not insurmountable. Staffing challenges as well as financial challenges prove to be the most difficult and it is hoped that readers might be able to give us some assistance in these areas.
I am privileged to have been part of such a wonderful project from the beginning and hope and pray that it will continue to flourish.
See website: www.blessedmary.nsw.edu.au