Feb 19 , 2021 (Vatican News) : The Catholic Church in Australia celebrates 200 years of its contribution to education in the country. The Bishops, in a pastoral letter, highlight the distinctive contribution of clergy, religious and laypeople to this significant milestone in the life of the Church.

The Bishops in Australia have written a pastoral letter to school leaders, staff, students and families for the 200th anniversary of Catholic education in the country, celebrated throughout 2021 with a range of events, beginning with the national virtual launch on Thursday.

The bi-centenary anniversary celebrates the founding, in October 1820, of the first official Catholic School in Australia by Irish priest Father John Therry. The school, according to Catholic historians, taught 31 students. An Irish Catholic convict, George Marley, who was sent to the colony, opened the school for Fr. Therry and ran it for three years. In 1837, the school was transferred to the site of the present St. Patrick's Cathedral in Parramatta, and it was subsequently entrusted to the care of the Marist Brothers in 1875.

The letter issued on Wednesday recognizes “the contribution of religious, clergy and laypeople to the foundation of Catholic education and the distinctive role Catholic schools play in education and forming young people of faith and service in their communities,” the Bishops said.

Currently, Australia has 1,751 Catholic schools focused on educating approximately 768,000 students and employing 98,000 staff. Nearly forty percent of the schools are located in regional, rural and remote communities.

According to the National Catholic Education Commission, about 63 percent of all primary and secondary students in Australia identify as Catholic, a drop from 70 per cent nationwide in 2014, AP Australia reported.

In Australia, Catholic schools receive some 80% of their funding from the government.

Further information on the anniversary can be accessed on www.200years.catholic.edu.au

Courtesy : Vatican News

Watch Video : National Launch - Celebrating 200 years


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