The annual conferring at St Patrick's College in Thurles took place on Saturday afternoon last with four people receiving degrees.
This has become a most special day in the life of the College and it signifies a celebration of the work done by both staff and students alike.
Those conferred with degrees were — Paul Quail, Co. Down; Derek Doherty, from Scotland; Martin O' Connell from Killenaule; Fr Thomas Breen PP, Ballingarry. The College wishes them well in their future careers.
Distinguished guests for the occasion were —Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly and Patron of St Patrick's College; Fr Christy O'Dwyer PP Cashel and chairman of the Management Committee of St Patrick's College, to whom the College is indebted for many years of service; an tUasal Tadhg O hEalaithe of the Higher Educational and Training Awards Council; Mr Luke Murtagh, Tipperary North VEC; staff representatives of St. Patrick's College; staff representatives of Tipperary Institute.
Mr O hEalaithe, Dr Clifford and Fr O'Dwyer each spoke and warmly congratulated the conferees and their families. Mr O hEalaithe was delighted to announce that Paul Quail was named the Student of the Year 2003 by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council. A sense of pride in the quality of the work undertaken in the last year was noted. The College was also congratulated on the success of its recently introduced evening theology programme, to which many students in the area, and beyond, have enrolled.
The recent submission to HETAC of a new degree programme for approval was warmly welcomed. This new programme was devised in collaboration with Tipperary Institute, and will bring a new future for joint business and religious studies to Thurles and the region.
In his keynote address Rev Father Tom Dunne spoke about the changing educational needs and educational policy in Ireland. He said—
'Along with other areas of Irish society, the educational sector has undergone profound change in recent decades. The successes achieved have been many and noteworthy and rank among the best in Higher Education around the world. The challenges presented by the formulation of policy for Irish education have been met with imagination and professional competence. The challenge is ongoing as new conditions in the country emerge, and our success as a country in the future will undoubtedly demand flexibility and creativity on the part of both educational policy-makers and the institutional providers of Higher Education. It is crucial to national development that the highest academic and training standards are maintained, along with the professional versatility necessary to meet the demands of a growing and increasingly diverse society and economy.'
He continued by saying that St. Patrick's College, committed to the promotion of Arts and Humanities, is ideally equipped to achieve a meaningful dialogue between faith and culture, and this much-needed integral formation of the student. Students attending St. Patrick's College will continue to find here a human formation that will help them towards the necessary discernment about the meaning of life and about the bases and development of values and ideals. Arts and humanities explore the world of 'value' and not merely 'fact.' St. Patrick's College is determined to expand further its role in this region and beyond, as a significant interlocutor of the academic, cultural and scientific world.
'The College recognises this as a process already well under way. A number of significant ventures in the past year make this evident.
* The introduction of an evening course in theology has proved a successful and stimulating development for the many students who have enrolled. The College is determined to expand its facilities to provide other opportunities in theological and philosophical studies.
* A most important and exciting development is the proposed Bachelor of Education in Business and Religious Studies, which was submitted for approval to the Higher Education and Training Awards Council last July. This degree programme was developed in collaboration with Tipperary Institute. This degree, which we hope will be available to students of the College next September, will mark a very significant coming together of the business and religious studies spheres. It will also be an important model of inter-institutional cooperation, and be a prestigious course choice for students from this region and beyond for the future. We highly esteem the possibilities for collaboration between St. Patrick's College and Tipperary Institute. These sister institutions, by pooling their resources, can respond in a creative manner to the felt needs of the region.
* St Patrick's College is also deeply committed to the values of religious education. In this regard, it is now strengthening its already well-established role as a centre for catechetical and spiritual education and renewal. The College is, furthermore, a centre for pastoral development for the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly and surrounding area. The past year has seen a significant growth of religious educational and pastoral activities and initiatives within the College, some of them involving persons travelling significant distances to avail of the opportunities and resources at St Patrick's College.
In this way the College has and will continue to promote and strengthen the synthesis between faith and culture which, Pope John Paul II reminds us, is 'a necessity not only for culture, but also for faith.'
St. Patrick's College looks to the future with confidence in its ability to deliver an academically excellent, person-centred, culturally enriching and faith-informed programme of degrees, research, and other spiritual and pastoral initiatives. Guimis cabhair De, ar dTiarna Iosa Criost, ar an obair seo.