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Dedication of Studies

 

Mr Jim Clarke, CEO of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) presents an award to St Mary’s student teacher Ciara Maguire from Garrison Co Fermanagh

 

Mr Jim Clarke, CEO of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) presents
an award to St Mary’s student teacher Ciara Maguire from Garrison Co Fermanagh

 

 

St Mary’s University College in Belfast recently celebrated its annual Mass for the Dedication of Studies.

Mass was concelebrated by Rev Fr Paul Fleming, Rev Fr Edward McGee and Rev Fr Feidhlimidh Magennis who are members of the Religious Studies Department. Addressing the wider college students and staff, Fr Edward McGee in his homily spoke of the established legacy of the college as a faith-inspired community that gathers to dedicate its studies each academic year. He spoke of an educational community which celebrates cultural diversity with high levels of incoming and outgoing student mobility through the Erasmus and Study USA programmes, as well as consistently high levels of academic achievement and a distinctive faith-based ethos which involves a ‘shared college identity as a faith community, commonly engaged in the noble pursuit of Truth and Wisdom through human, pastoral and intellectual development.’

Focusing upon the prayer of St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 3:14-21), Fr McGee examined four pillars at the heart of the university college community. Firstly, there is the pillar of holistic formation. ‘Alongside a strong commitment to academic achievement, St Mary’s engages in the development and formation of the whole person; to allow the “hidden self to grow” (Eph 3: 16). Education is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full.’

Reflecting on the words of St Paul who urged the Ephesians to take courage that they are ‘planted on love and built on love’ (Eph 3: 17) and recalling the African proverb that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, Fr McGee identified the second pillar of the university college community with an acknowledgement of the nurturing environment in which academic and faith formation takes place. He explained that ‘developing a sense of gratitude for those who support opportunities for formation and growth creates a nurturing environment where we experience pastoral care and encouragement’.

 

Mass for the Dedication of Studies concelebrated by Rev Fr Paul Fleming, Rev Fr Edward McGee and Rev Fr Feighlimidh Magennis

 

The third pillar of St Mary’s outlined by Fr McGee was its long-established commitment to social outreach and community engagement, succinctly summarised in the words of Pope Francis as he addressed educators and students in Ecuador (July 2015): ‘Educational communities play an essential role in the enrichment of civic and cultural life. It is not enough to analyse and describe reality: there is a need to shape environments of creative thinking, discussions which develop alternatives to current problems, especially today.’

Finally, at the heart of the university community there is the pillar of vision, where ‘students are called to be protagonists rather than observers of history, giving glory to God “whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3: 20)’.

During the Mass, prayers were offered for the college community and for the late Dr Madeleine Lombard, a highly respected, talented and cherished college lecturer who died earlier this year.

The liturgy was also enhanced by music and singing provided by the college Folk Choir which is led by Music Tutor, Orla Nugent. Before the celebration of Mass, a number of awards were made to St Mary’s students and recent graduates to recognise significant achievements during the 2015-2016 academic year.

The College Principal, Professor Peter Finn congratulated the recipients of awards and thanked the sponsors, First Trust Bank, NASUWT, CCMS and the Students’ Union, affirming that ‘their support makes the recognition of excellence possible’. He reported that St Mary’s was the third ranked institution in the 2016 UK National Student Survey and second only to Cambridge University in the Guardian League Table for Education. He also stressed the College’s commitment to community engagement in a spirit of social justice.