Concluding remarks by Sr. Maire McHugh OP, Mission Area Prioress Ireland, at the Thanksgiving Mass to mark the closing of St. Rose’s Dominican College, Belfast. 

Ascension Sunday 2nd June 2019,

St. Paul’s Parish Church, Falls Road, Belfast

How often have we found when looking through the lens of the Gospel that we can always see our own lives. For me today is one of those times, as I listen to the Gospel story of the Ascension. It is a Gospel about change, about transition. No one likes change! yet for the disciples the departure of Jesus was an important point of growth for them. Jesus was to be with them in a very different way. Yet for them his leaving was very painful indeed. Letting go of the physical presence of Jesus and adjusting to the new reality that was unfolding for the disciples did not sit comfortably with them.

This is a time of transition and change for those of you who have been so loyal to St Rose’s College.  Like all endings, it can leave you disturbed and bereft. And yet, very often too the very idea of endings can be a time of inspiration and the promise of new possibilities.

Though St Rose’s, Dominican College, is closing, each of you, members of the Staff, the Board of Governance, Past Pupils, have embodied the values of Dominican Education, that search for the Truth, the source of inspiration that guides you in your efforts to respond to a rapidly changing world…or as Sr Catherine of Siena said, “Preach the Truth as if you had a million voices. It is silence that kills the world.”

None of us can underestimate how over the last number of years, the reduction of budgets, the years of uncertainty and the amalgamation with two other schools, has affected you the staff and board members. However, as Grace Mc Callion said in her invitation letter, “we have come to the end of an era which evokes mixed emotions, so it is important that the achievement of all are honoured and commemorated.”

There is no doubt that since 1961 – 2019, the Staff in St Rose’s has provided the very best for each individual child and has appreciated the varying gifts and talents of every student. This could only have come about as the result of the total commitment of all the members of staff to the welfare of the students and the support of the Board of Governors, who always had the needs of the students to the forefront. Those needs were many as most of the students came from very disadvantaged backgrounds, from different faiths and cultures and many for whom English is not their first language. You faced those challenges courageously. With the advancing technology of the 21st C and new means of conveying information and knowledge, the staff has always shown great resilience, constantly adjusting to rapidly changing needs. This has demanded on-going professional development, so that you could provide new courses for your students and be constantly innovative in response to syllabi change. Also, to deal with a population downturn and its effect on St Rose’s school from 1000 to 200 students, the staff have needed the ability to be proactive.

Sound leadership has been displayed on the part of the Principals and the Board Of Governors throughout the last 58 years, with the introduction of theoretically applied courses which provided the pathway for so many students into University. There is no doubt that the focus has been on meeting the needs of the students, encouraging them to believe in themselves and to always remain true to themselves.  Again, I quote St Catherine of Siena, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

No one likes to remember the years of the “Troubles” here in Belfast, but we are grateful that St Rose’s staff who provided a safe place for the students, going to extreme lengths to ensure their safety and well-being.

Always alert to the signs of the times and showing a willingness to adapt to changing conditions, over the last number of years, despite the difficulties, the Board of Governors and the Staff have fully embraced collaboration with Corpus Christi College and Christian Brothers School, Glen Rd, to provide the very best for the students and to form a new co-educational school, All Saints.

On behalf of all the Dominican Sisters, I would like to say a sincere thank you to the present Board of Governors and its chair Mr James Mc Kerrow, who with gentle negotiating power and endless courtesy has steered St Rose’s into amalgamation.

We are very sad indeed that St Rose’s, as a Dominican College, will no longer exist. However, we are reassured, knowing that the students of St Rose’s, have been endowed with rich, positive educational experiences in keeping with the Dominican ethos.

A very special word of acknowledgment and appreciation to Dr Bob Cummins, who has represented the Dominican Sisters through the long negotiation of the amalgamation under the guidance of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).

Recalling again the Ascension story today, Jesus instructs the disciples to “stay in the city” – to wait patiently for the moment of grace. May this time of waiting be a moment of grace for you too.

“May you be blessed with constant hope, with confidence in what awaits you, and a strong trust that all shall be well. May you be blessed with graced surrender to let go of what keeps you from growing, to learn from the obstacles that arise, and to live each day with a spirit of openness.” (Joyce Rupp)

And from all the Dominican Sisters we say, may each of you go with courage and trust. And may our love support you as you go in peace with our deep gratitude alive in you as you depart from St Rose’s.

Following the Eucharist celebration guests were invited to return to the school for refreshments and an opportunity to visit the school and chat with friends and colleagues.