Wednesday, 9 February 2011


I am a bit of a belt and braces sort of chap. I like the T,s crossed and the I,s dotted and then I know where I am. It may mean I'm a tad insecure or it may mean that I'm a control's for you to decide. My wife has her mind made up!

So, I thought I would follow through from a nagging thought that I had in the build up to the brilliant and highly successful Cardinal Vaughan stake out (Candlelit Vigil). My thought concerned the top honcho at the Catholic Education Service, Dr Oona Stannard and the CES itself. If memory serves me correctly, Oona is the Irish version of Winifred, but I guess Oona would prefer that to remain a well kept secret so, please, do not mention it to anyone.

Picture: Fr Ray Blake's Blog
Winifred Oona Stannard
Truth to tell there does not seem to be a lot to say re Dr Stannard's CV - brilliant as I'm sure it is. It is just a bit spartan in its detail. A few years as a teacher, 10 years as an HMI (Oh, Lordie) and then the CES. I hold a great deal of respect for doctorates but I do not think that anyone other than a medico should worry too much about putting Dr after their name. It reminds me of the long haul flight where the Captain put out a call over the tannoy: "If there is a doctor on board could they please make themselves known to a member of the cabin crew". A few mniutes later another message came over wearily stating: "If there is a medical doctor on board could they...etc., etc."
The CES website does its job, if you are a teacher or parent but what took my eye was the blurb  on Education Sunday.
Now you must have heard of Education Sunday? No? Well the website tells me that it traditionally (nice word, Oona) is held on the ninth Sunday before Easter. Hmmm.....that had me counting off on my fingertips before giving up in disgust.
But then, silly me, if you click on a bit you find that it is on 20 February - OS likes to make us work a little to find the info!
But, as yet, I am no wiser, what is it for? Why do they hold it? Well it is a day of prayer and celebration and, another fact, it is inter denominational so I suppose that means what precisely?

Here's what Oona's blurb says:

 Education Sunday is a national day of prayer and
celebration for everyone involved in the world of
education. For more than 100 years there has been
an annual recognition of Education Sunday in
England and Wales (traditionally on the ninth Sunday
before Easter).
The resources are designed to help you prepare for
your own celebration on or around Education Sunday,
or on any other day throughout the year, such as at
the start or end of the academic year. You can use
these resources in your church, in local schools,
colleges and universities and in other places of

Now all of this is news to me, my Church does not have posters promoting this important ecumenical event - does yours?

Then I read the Chairman's message (always a mistake, the words anodyne and meaningless spring to mind). The Chairman is, of course, Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP and, if you think me too cynical, here's a bit of what His Lordship writes:-

"Our schools must always be places where faith, hope and love are fostered, and in this special Year of Celebration of Catholic Education I am full of hope for the future. I hope that you, too, will pause to reflect upon the great and wonderful achievements that happen unsung daily in our schools. These may be good academic results but they also include the warmth of the welcome which a child who cannot speak English receives or the concern our children have for young people in plight in a faraway country. But above all it is the miracle of grace that takes place in the hearts of young people because of the presence of Christ at the heart of their school".


 Hmmmm.......................grammar needs a bit more attention, please stay behind after school, Bishop. I am also further confused by his mention of it being a Catholic celebration, perhaps he meant to use a small 'c'. But then, Chairmen never write their own messages, it's normally done by a PR type of person.

And, to sum up from my original point, the thing I was looking for was a report on the goings on at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. OK, I was not expecting a miracle, I just wanted to see how the CES played their hand over the affair. No, nothing or, Dim as they say in Wales.

So, I will leave you with  one of the CES's download resources (under the heading of Creative Prayer Resources) for the great day. I hope that you are sitting down and have a cup of weak tea handy (good for the nerves). It is, I warn you pretty dynamic and exciting stuff......(I have added a word or two in red) goes:-


Use these creative prayer ideas in an all-age worship service, at a more informal prayer event, or as prayer stations in your prayer room.

Ask teachers, pupils and others involved in education in your congregation to bring an object with them to worship (what? worship an inanimate object? what are they thinking of ?)which represents their school life or their involvement in education. It could even be an object which relates to something they would like prayer for.
Bible verses: 1 Peter 5:7 Philippians 4:6-7
Sing a song together or play a piece of music and ask those who have brought objects with them to bring them to the front of the church and place them on a table or altar, (nothing should be placed on an altar other than sacred objects such as missal, chalice etc) as if prayerfully bringing them to God. This is a simple (true) and powerful (untrue) way of connecting worship and sacred space with everyday life. A prayer like this doesn't need to use a lot of words (a bit of  a smack against conventional prayer here) and provides a visual focus for a simple, spoken prayer or quiet reflection. (Ugh!)

Utterly banal and pointless.....
..Small wonder the parents of Cardinal Vaughan have got a fight on their hands!


  1. Richard, what a great joy your blog is! Nothing to add, just bravo!. Keep it up.

    God bless

  2. Christopher, thank you so much for your kind comment, it means a great deal to me as, at times, I wonder what I am doing....maybe it's an age thing.
    Without wishing to be accused of being a member of the mutual admiration society....I draw great strength from your posts also.

  3. Ben - I thought you were already a member!

  4. Apart from breaking the First Commandment - I'd guess that many schools don't "do" the Ten Commandments - this sounds like a reprise of the notorious 2008 Youth Sunday "resources" signed off by that other doughty defender of the Faith, Bishop Conry.
    The CDW received a sackload of letters of complaint with accompanying evidence and the reply to one of them was: "The Dicastery has taken into account your letter and made appropriate contacts regarding those matters to which you referred."
    The perps have lain low for a while but they never give up.
    I suppose the rest of us will be expected to fork out in support of this sentimental New Age (circa 1970s) drivel via a second collection.

  5. It sonly seems a few years ago that we stuck ot he convention that only those who had earned a PhD called themselves "Doctor". Oona is old enough tp know this, why then does she give herself "airs and graces" when surrounded by real academics