Every school year has its highs and lows with events that stand out from the day to day routine and rythmn of school life. For Mount Carmel secondary school in King’s Inns Street, fondly known by many as ‘K.I’., October 5th 2012 was one such occasion. Past and present management, staff, pupils and parents came together to celebrate the founding of the school in 1812. What a wonderful day it was!
Preparations began many months in advance. Annals of times past were sought and found. ‘Is it really 200 years?’ ‘Yes it is’! Who were these founders? What was their vision? Are we living it out and being faithful to the vision and mission of Mary Aikenhead? In our hearts, we knew we were, but we need to make sure!
Invitations went out, but how does one contact generations of past students and staff, even in these times of mass communication? We tried and thankfully, many came to celebrate this occasion with us. Those who could not do so, were remembered and prayed for on the day.
The day was joy filled, beginning with the celebration of the Eucharist in St. Saviours parish, Dominick Street. Fr. John Harris O.P. celebrated the liturgy, reminding each person present, most especially the students, how uniquely loved and precious each one of them are in the eyes of God. He referred so often to the group of lay women whose visions, faith, and commitment led to the foundation of the school. He spoke eloquently of Mary Aikenhead and her Sisters, their lives of loving service to those in need, and he challenged all present to live their lives in that same spirit. The school choir animated the celebration, joyfully and reverently, each choir member beautifully unaware of just how much a contribution they were making to a moment in time, never to be relived. How fitting that our main celebration was around the table of the Lord, with the Word and the Bread being broken and shared.
The school hall in King’s Inns was buzzing with activity for the next few hours. After a short history of the school given by the current principal, Mr. Gerard Cullen, presentations were made to four Sisters of Charity who were principals of the school between 1973 and 2006. (Sr. Rosemary McGowan 1973-80, Sr. Mary O’Toole 1986-93, Sr. Rosaleen Crossan 1993-96 and Sr. Teresa McAllister 1996-2006). How fitting and how appropriate to honour those women who have been so instrumental in making Mount Carmel what it is today, facing many difficulties, but never giving up on their mission. Ms Jane Lynch, was also acknowledged, much to her own astonishment, a woman who went to primary and secondary school in Mount Carmel, and who has worked since 1979 as secretary to the school. She is not just the secretary, she is the present Matriarch. Born in Henrietta Street, her deceased parents lived locally and worked as cleaner and care taker respectively in the school for many years. The Lynch family epitomise everything that our school is about – hard work, dedication, commitment and service.
Past staff and pupils toured the school building, reliving many happy and funny memories. They marvelled at the improvements which have been made to the building and the up-to-date facilities which the current pupils and staff enjoy. There was a great sense of a shared history, and a great pride among the pupils that their’s is a school with a long history, a school which stands for very definite values and to which they now belong and are currently leaving their own prints.
Gerard Cullen rarely takes an assembly in the school without reminding the students and the staff that Mount Carmel is a community. He wants the school to be a happy community where each person feels respected and cared for, where people look out for one another, and are helped to flourish. He and his staff work tirelessly for this each day, as they take up and face the many challenges and difficulties involved in educating young people today. October 5th 2012 was a proud day for them all. It was so evident that what they work for is already a reality. The school is growing in numbers and plans are already underway for a new wing to the building. I think the group of founding lay women, Mary Aikenhead and her Sisters must have shared an extra special moment in heaven as they looked down upon their legacy. With God’s grace they will enjoy another such moment 200 years from now!