BY Staff Reporter | June 29 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Catholic education celebrated at Pluscarden Pilgrimage

Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen Diocese has encouraged people to ‘take up our responsibilities’ towards children each day, and to prepare God’s way in young people’s hearts.

The bishop was speaking at the annual Aberdeen Diocesan Pilgrimage to Pluscarden Abbey, which brought people from across the diocese together on a bright and sunny day. This year’s event marked 100 years of state funding for Catholic schools, and was celebrated on the feast of the birth of John the Baptist June 24.

“Let’s try to be John the Baptists ourselves: passionate, preparing the way of the Lord in the hearts of the young, ready to ‘decrease’ so that Christ ‘many increase,” the bishop said.

“Because there is an obviously question—for us who are older, who have in differing ways responsibility for the young. What do we want for them? How can we serve them? It touches us all.”

He said this responsibility falls to everyone including teachers, parents and grandparents, parish catechists and children’s liturgists, youth leaders, priests and deacons—all who ‘have care for the young in whatever way.’

“Because here’s another partnership: of home, school and parish. And the question to all of us is: what, in relation to the young, are we about? What do we want for them? Better, what divine purpose are we serving?”

The bishop added that ‘children are a gift’ and talked further on the maturing of the spirit, discussing our spirit as ‘the sign and seal’ that, in Pope Benedict’s words, ‘each of us is the result of a thought of God.’

Bishop Gilbert discussed the ways in which the child’s spirit is ‘matured’ or ‘strengthened’— through God ‘in the places we cannot reach,’ ‘in the wildernesses of sorrow and solitude,’ and by ‘sensitivity to the ­suffering and those deprived of justice.’

The pilgrimage focused on the theme of education, and proved timely in the wake of praise for Catholic schools from Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and a commitment for a further £100,000 of funding for the Catholic teacher education programme run by Glasgow University.

“This year’s diocesan pilgrimage was an occasion for the diocese to see itself in its rich diversity: of age, ethnic background, parishes, groups and schools, and spiritual gifts,” Bishop Gilbert said. “It was an occasion too, in the centenary of the Education Act, to reflect more widely on our responsibilities towards our children. It was a joyful event, blessed by sunshine and grace.”

With many children in attendance, John Horton, who was appointed last year as the diocesan choral director for Catholic schools, made a special contribution with pupils from many Catholic primary schools as well as other youngsters, combining their efforts to sing the parts of the Mass and more.

The young people had the opportunity to join in harmony with the monks of Pluscarden Abbey and the cathedral organist, and the day included performances from the Aberdeen Diocesan Choir, the African Choir and ‘Kids 4 Jesus,’ all singing to great effect while venerating Our Blessed Lady on the feast of St John the Baptist.

The extraordinary celebration allowed the packed abbey to reflect on 100 years of Scottish Catholic education, working in partnership with the state.

During his homily, Bishop Gilbert reflected the feast of St John the Baptist, along with the context of the joyful occasion.

“Here we are surrounded by children and young people. Here six of our seven primary schools are represented. Here are the Kids for Jesus, children from Aberdeen’s Polish St Stanislaus School. Here are youth groups from Aberdeen and Elgin and elsewhere, led by the St Andrew Community and the Dominican Sisters. And, together in Christ, the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church gathered in this place, we recall the centenary year of the Education Act (Scotland), 100 years of partnership between the Catholic community and local government.

“How good to be here! How right and just to thank all those who keep our schools afloat and make them the bright communities of Faith and learning and good values that they are!

“And how good too to hear the value of that 1918 Act and of the 350 plus schools we enjoy as a result recently so ringingly reaffirmed by the First Minister.

“Let’s not forget that until the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 to open a Catholic School in England, Wales or Scotland was a crime, and the punishment life imprisonment. Yes, praise the Lord. And to us, like a shooting star and a guiding star, comes this simple word of the Lord: ‘The child grew and his spirit matured.’”

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