Castleknock College Union
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End of Boarding at SVC

Thanksgiving Homily

May 31, 2006
End of Boarding at SVC -

Patrick Shaffrey, Kilian McConnell, Seamus Morgan, Paul Coffey, Sean Farrell, Brian Collins, Conor Layden, Darren Louth & Kevin Mahon - the final nine to have boarded for their entire six years at SVC. 


A Time Of Change

Thanksgiving Homily delivered to celebrate the end of Boarding

by the Very Rev. Peter Slevin, CM.

To know that there is someone out there who cares for us, makes the world of difference. It saves us from the feeling of being abandoned like the ancient mariner -

Alone, alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide, wide sea

Jesus commissioned his apostles to preach the Gospel to all nations, saying that he would be with them always. That's all he promised them. Simply, "I'll be with you always... to the end of time". There were no other assurances. Just, "Trust in me. I'll be with you always". But this was the most important assurance he could have given them. Even though it didn't guarantee them a trouble-free life, or even success; they knew that as long as Jesus was with them, they would have the courage and strength to face whatever difficulties lay ahead. A sense of the presence of Jesus with us doesn't change the world for us, but it can give us the courage to face it. We don't ask God to change the world to make life easier for us. We ask God only to assure us that he will be with us as we face some difficult situation. God's closeness shields us against a sense of abandonment, and gives us encouragement and hope for the future.

When, on behalf of the recently founded Vincentian Community, Fr John McCann bought Castleknock on 24th October 1834 for £3,600, he and they might not have had the money to pay for it, but they had the assurances of their faith - "Trust in me. I'll be with you always". Those early Vins had deep religious convictions, the evidence of which surrounds us this evening in this Chapel. It was the fourth in the history of the College - the first being in the original house, then as the buildings developed, numbers 2 and 3 were up the corridor in what might be remembered as the Physics Hall, Library, Senior Play hall, the Snooker room, or the computer room - depending on when you were here. But this final version was built on a grand scale and embellished to cast a spell on the minds and hearts of Castleknock men and draw them to God. No doubt it holds many memories for each of us.

The Chapel was characteristic of the changes that occurred over the years; indeed, I don't think that there was a decade among the seventeen of the College's existence that change didn't occur. Change is a sign of life and vitality and the present building and renovations are signs of that. Some of you were here the night that Eugene McCabe, author and past-man of 1948, gave a reading. There is a phrase that he used and it is most relevant today -

If you forget the past, you have lost an eye; if you live in the past you have lost both eyes

We remember the past 171 years and thank God for all the graces and favours received during that time. But we also look to the future to continue the Castleknock vision of excellence in academic education; the vigorous spiritual life of the students, staff and community; and a healthy sporting life and activities for all. Though most schools have similar objectives, the means by which each hopes to obtain them vary. In our case, our spirit and ethos is a tradition coming down from the founders of the College and the charism of St Vincent de Paul. This is enshrined in our Mission statement:

To have a College which is concerned with the development of the whole person in a Christian atmosphere which encourages involvement in a balance of religious, intellectual, cultural and sporting activities and which promotes the growth of self-worth and respect for others in the spirit of St Vincent de Paul.

St Vincent in his Rule for his Community wrote that his followers should "live together after the manner of dear friends'. They were to be simple, humble, meek, and friendly - rather like the members of a natural family, and I think that we owe the peculiar family atmosphere of Castleknock to the abiding influence of St Vincent.

The family of St Vincent at Castleknock includes community, teachers, all staff, and the pupils. And each one of you in this Chapel this evening is part of that family and welcomed as such. Just as a family demands loyalty and support from its members, we have always appreciated and valued the support of our past-men down through the years, and the continuing support at present.

The cohort of students in the College contained boys from various backgrounds and from all over the country - every county in Ireland is represented among our alumni. In more recent years the diversity was enhanced with students from all over the globe, and some may think that we will lose that in the future. I don't agree because our admissions policy reserves places for a large percentage of the intake being from Kildare and Meath. After all, the founders of the College were from Meath. In addition, this country now has a multinational population and we have many international students; and in the last few days we have had bookings for boys from Russia and Spain who will live in the locality and attend here. The cultural mix was an essential element in furthering the development of each student It will remain so in the future.

This is primarily a Mass of Thanksgiving. We each personally thank God for the graces and blessings we have received in this familiar environment and also throughout our lives. We thank God for those past-men who have filled, with distinction, high office in Church and State. We thank God for those who became priests, for those who have served him by exemplary lives, many of which are known only to God alone. We thank God for those who have served him in the world of medicine, in hospitals or patients' homes, also carers of the sick and dying. We thank God for those of the legal profession who have given good counsel and upheld the laws of God and country. We thank God for the past-men who gave Him glory in many other professions, too many to enumerate: and most importantly, for the many good husbands and fathers who have cared for their families and handed on to the next generation trusted values and faith to the next generation. We thank God for the protection the College has enjoyed - its safety and security, the well-being of its inhabitants, and its preservation from calamity or disaster.

We have a lot to be thankful for.

Secondarily this is a Mass of Hope as we plan for the future. In that we are fortunate in having a loyal and dedicated Staff who give themselves unsparingly in the total education of the students. I am always surprised and encouraged by the numbers of Staff to be seen in the College late in the evenings and on Saturdays when there is no class. They are most dedicated in the spirit of St Vincent, and indeed I think he would be glad to call them his sons and daughters.

Most important for the future is the student body itself and a visitor might find the present cohort not significantly different from that of yesteryear. They are friendly, confident, self-assured and rounded personalities. I can assure you that the ethos of the College is alive and well in the present student population.

The founders of the College took our Lord's words at face value: Trust in me. I'll be with you always. They chose part of a verse of Psalm 19 as their motto. The verse reads

Some put their trust in chariots, others in horses, we however trust in the name of the Lord

I know little about horses or chariots - Fr Des (MacMorrow) might know more about horses, or even chariots - but we all trust in the Lord.

Nos autem in nomine Domini