THE BEST IS STILL TO COME
by Pauline Ronan
Head of Religious Education: Notre Dame Catholic College, Liverpool.
This year, the Notre Dame conference in Wrightington witnessed our sister schools coming together to celebrate and develop our vision whilst examining and discussing the hallmarks of our distinctive charism. Sr. Catherine Darby SNDdeN invited us to ‘open our hearts’ and be ready to accept the insights from other schools from across the country while sharing some of our own wisdom.
Sr. Margaret Walsh SNDdeN brought the story of St Julie and Françoise alive through the work carried out in the Heritage Centre, Namur. Sr. Margaret identified key moments of St Julie’s life which ultimately shaped the distinctive nature of Notre Dame Education today. The sisters expressed delight that the charism of St Julie is very much still alive and being lived fully in our classrooms and amongst our staff with the goodness of God at the forefront of everything we do. The concept of the ‘Best is still to come’ looks to the future vision while being shaped by the events of the past.
The ‘stand out’ theme for the conference was the phrase ‘liberation through education,’ these words remind us that our purpose is to open hearts and minds and instil aspiration. St Julie’s words, “what the teacher is, is more important than what she knows,” recognises that a Notre Dame character in our staff is paramount and is in turn transmitted to our pupils. Modelling morality and wisdom to our young people is a responsibility and a privilege; the conference reaffirmed for many people the need for a holistic approach to educating the whole person and very much ‘giving the pupils what they need for life’. St Julie’s sentiment of social justice is echoed in the ethos of the Notre Dame schools in the UK, this was apparent in the sharing of ‘good news’ which was uplifting and provided ideas that can be shared.
Having time to reflect and discern was a key purpose of the Notre Dame conference, particularly for new staff that had never attended before, and Sr. Catherine adeptly set the tone for this to happen. Some of our colleagues from Plymouth described the conference as “coming home” and this statement resonated with many of the Notre Dame participants who take great pride in belonging to the Notre Dame mission in the UK and internationally. This feeling is one that we would like all Notre Dame Staff to feel.
Finally, we reflected on what ‘seeds’ we would take back to our respective schools and this is where the conference really came alive; the planning, sharing and date setting for key moments over the next few years was both inspiring and exciting. I think as Notre Dame Schools we can take great comfort in the fact that St Julie’s mission is very much alive and being lived fully in our schools’ vision and ethos. No doubt our future trips to Walsingham, Rome and Boston will bear all the hall marks of a Notre Dame vision that we are honoured and delighted to have a hand in shaping.
Many thanks to the Sisters of Notre Dame for guiding, nurturing and directing us in what it truly means to live out a Notre Dame educational model in the 21st Century.