That was the powerful and sincere message sent out by Archbishop Tartaglia to teachers and staff in Catholic schools, during a special Cathedral Mass to mark 100 years of the 1918 Education Act.
In a moving appeal he urged teachers to let pupils see their own faith and to never tire of working to improve the lives of their young charges.
The full text of the Archbishop's sermon follows. If you know a teacher, why not forward them this text as a gift - a way of saying "thank you" for all they do for our young people.
1. My dear friends, it is a real pleasure and honour to welcome you to St Andrew’s Cathedral to celebrate our annual Mass for the Teachers and Support Staff of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Glasgow. Our celebration this year takes on a more historic dimension as we mark the Centenary of the Education (Scotland) Act of 1918 which brought Catholic schools into the public provision of education and, as such, was a watershed year and a watershed event for Catholic education in Scotland.
2. I don’t intend to give you a history lesson this evening, but it is important to acknowledge that 1918 was not the beginning of Catholic education in post-Catholic emancipation Scotland. We know that there were Catholic schools in Scotland from at least the 1850s, perhaps before. The presence of representatives of some religious congregations here this evening is a visible testimony to that, since religious men and women were key to Catholic schooling both before and after the 1918 Education Act. In fact, education for Catholic children was considered such a priority for the Church, that historians tell us that very often the parish built schools before they built the church.
3. But undoubtedly the 1918 Education Act which brought Catholic schools into the public provision of education was a vital launch-pad for the success of Catholic schools in Scotland, a success which intensified when comprehensive education was introduced in the 1960s. Taken together, these developments meant that the children of the Catholic community as a whole could access both primary and secondary education equally with other strata of society, that Catholic schools were funded and resourced equally by Government, and that Catholic teachers would be on the same salary scales as all other teachers such that Catholic teachers became fully part of the teaching profession in Scotland.
4. I think it is fair to say that Catholic education has flourished amazingly in the last 100 years. While there are undoubtedly some pressure points, the denominational sector, as it is called, sits comfortably alongside the non-denominational sector in an educational settlement which is both visionary and unique in world terms. And catholic schools have shown without a shadow of a doubt to be good for the Catholic community and good for Scotland.
5. In Catholic education, we like to talk of a partnership between the family, the parish and the school. In terms of the schools, teachers and staff have been completely central to Catholic education. If Catholic schools have been good for the children and young people of our communities, if they have been successful in formation and education both before and since the 1918 Education Act, this is down in large measure to the teachers in our schools who have created and sustained a Catholic identity in our schools, a Catholic identity which has served our children and all pupils, which has been good for our children and for all the boys and girls who are pupils at Catholic schools.
6. So, I want this evening’s Mass really to be a celebration of Catholic teachers in which we thank God for our Catholic teachers, for their dedication, for their professionalism, and for their commitment to the faith formation of their pupils, and take this opportunity on behalf of the diocesan church, on behalf of the parish communities and on behalf of the families of the diocese to say a heartfelt and affectionate thanks to all our teachers and school staff.
7. In the first reading, the prophet sings the praises of the goodness of the Lord. My dear Catholic teachers, you are the gift of God’s goodness to your pupils, to the Church and to the wider community. St Paul says this evening that he thanks God for all the graces received through Jesus. He thanks God because the Church has been enriched especially in its teachers and preachers. You are our teachers, and I and the priests and parents and families of this diocesan church thank God for you. Without you, we would be much the poorer. With you, we can give our children and young people a sure foundation in faith and in virtue.
8. We can be rightly proud of the last 100 years and more of Catholic education in Scotland. It has been truly a remarkable achievement. But I have no doubt that there will be more challenges, possibly even more arduous, in the next 100 years. And I am sure that good and resourceful people will emerge from our communities and from the Catholic teaching profession, well after I have departed the scene, to devise ways and systems and programmes and protocols for confronting and overcoming these challenges. But we will always need a spiritual and supernatural core, based on grace, based on the Gospel, from which to engage with future challenges and to turn them into new opportunities for Catholic education.
9. And the words of Jesus in this evening’s Gospel can articulate that spiritual core for Catholic teachers and all teachers in Catholic schools. First of all, “You did not choose me, no I chose you and commissioned you to go out and bear fruit.” Your laudable profession is also a vocation from God and from the Church. The Lord chooses you. He sends you, not as servants but as friends. Teach and bear fruit. “Remain in my love”, he says; “Keep my commandments…..love one another as I have loved you.” We are all called to holiness, my dear friends, to respond to the Lord, to keep his commandments and to love one another. The greatest thing you can give the children and young people in your classroom and in your school is to let them see and understand that, as their teacher, you are responding to God’s call in your life and that it is a good thing for them to follow Jesus. To show them that this is what brings you enduring and lasting joy is a most precious gift.
10. When I was preparing this homily, the picture of the icon of Jesus the Teacher, created for this Centenary Year, was sitting by my laptop. In that icon, some of the history of the Catholic community and of Catholic education in Scotland is skilfully depicted. But front and centre is Jesus our Lord and our Teacher. And he is the source and centre and inspiration of Catholic education in the last 100 years. He needs to be at the centre of the lives of our schools for the next 100 years. He needs to be at the centre of our lives and the life of every Catholic teacher into the future. Remember his words: “I chose you. Keep my commandments. What I command you is to love one another.” My dear Catholic teachers: thank you and may God bless you always.