pg1: cover note introducing the address text, the venue and time
pg4-5: text of Bishop Clark's address at the prizegiving in Notre Dame School, Norwich
Monsignor Wace, Sister Mary, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Very impressive! At the end of Sister Mary's detailed and exciting Report, and after the distribution of prizes and awards, I found cause once again to be inordinately proud of Notre Dame, particularly for the quality of what is called in round terms its education. Not just scholastic achievement nor prowess in sport and athletics; for the vitality of the school community, its zest for life, its care and thought for others, its certainty that it is good to be alive. I am reminded of the saying (by whom I do not know) that the man or woman of spirit tries his or her hand at anything! There is no need to defend to this audience the conviction, held by so many, that Notre Dame stands high among the scholastic institutions of this city and county. In a special way it belongs to the City of Norwich – a Fine City!
But it also finds a significant place among the institutions that go to make up the Diocese of East Anglia. For, when reflecting on the place of this School, these staff and these pupils, these Governors, in the life of our city, it is right to point to the position the School holds in the Catholic educational system of the diocese, a diocese that covers the three counties of East Anglia. It is a Catholic school, and it stands or falls by its adherence to Catholic faith and values as much as, or even more so, by its all-round educational achievement. The two, far from being contradictory, are completely compatible.
I am, therefore, delighted to congratulate the School and to offer my thanks to the Headmistress, the Staff and, of course, to the Governors and the PTA. The present record is inspiring and a witness to much dedication and generosity. But there is also present – what is essential to any living, forward-looking community - a sense of pride and self-confidence. This is a night to celebrate this pride. Notre Dame is fully alive.
Obviously, I am expected to refer to our present situation. Equally, I do not want to abuse my position here tonight nor enter into contentious debate. The respite we received on Thursday is at least a sign that there is much more to be considered before irrevocable decisions are made. It would be easy just to say: NO ROAD – and leave it there. But there are some things that should be said and publicly said.
The writer of an article in Saturday's TIMES – the article was entitled 'Getting London Moving' - observed: 'we are looking for solutions which will improve mobility and improve conditions for residents. One appreciates that our own authorities here in Norwich are pursuing the same course and finding it overwhelmingly difficult to reconcile them. But what is important and must not be forgotten is that 'residents' is not restricted to homes but includes all that makes up a living city. Notre Dame has been resident in Norwich for a long time and has its proper address. We do not want it changed.
Let it be also said that one has considerable sympathy not only for our neighbours who are threatened by the THREE OPTIONS but also for the planning authorities themselves. Norwich is a developing city and needs more infrastructure if it is to grow purposefully and prosperously. At the same time one is justified in asking what are the values which guide the present decision-making. We are not dealing just with a traffic problem. We are asking what kind of city our authorities have in mind in reaching decisions that affect the present identity of our city. Destroy schools and homes and present environment and one is left asking what you – the planners - consider important. A city is not just a mercantile or business centre whose interests, however good, are treated as paramount: it is a complex concentration of human communities. Business, trade and mercantile concerns are mingled with permanent residences and institutions which are frequently rooted in our past and enable us to be the present. Destroy the latter and you take away our identity. Would Norwich be a fine city, then?
These words are not meant to be emotive, even though we feel deeply about any decisions that would be destructive of our school's existence. All I ask – yes, it is a lot - is that our authorities keep all these elements in review as they reflect on what is best for the future of our city and county.
But there is one feature of our school that I have only lightly touched on. Notre Dame is a Catholic school. 'Catholic' indicates what we hold is at the heart of the school community and shapes its philosophy. 'Catholic' points to what we consider to be important in our choices. We are beings who choose, beings who cannot opt out of choosing. We choose careers, holidays, possessions, friends, even GOD. Many choices are made over our heads but many are ours, for which we (and no one else) are responsible.
We can be neither human nor Catholic if we do not exercise our need to choose and to defend choices once made. We should, therefore, not be surprised when we are asked by an outsider; what is so important about your choosing Notre Dame? Why did parents guide you towards this School? Why did competent and loyal staff choose to teach and serve here?
You must provide the answers to such searching questions and be ready to stand by them. Some of our faith convictions enter prominently into all this. We know almost unconsciously where we came from, where we are going and the kind of journey we are embarked upon. We are in fact here because we accept that we come from God, we are on pilgrimage to God and God is there when we die to welcome us into eternal life. Such awareness on our part makes a great impact on our choices. Far from detracting from our education in from our taking part in an enormous and exciting list of school activities, this framework to our choices gives colour and joy, purpose and seriousness to our being a full member of Notre Dame. The festival of Christmas emphasises the great Christian fact that God also made a choice and stands by it: for each of us is worth the world to him.
In concluding, I would like to express deep and abiding thanks to you all. I would also want one fact not to be lost to history - that this school exists as a Catholic School in the Diocese of East Anglia because of immeasurable generosity on the part of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame. I salute the Sisters past and present and commend them warmly to the care of their Patron. Then I salute this vivid and lively Notre Dame School Community - teachers, Governors, parents, staff, chaplains and, most of all, you the pupils, recognising at the same time the continuing debt we owe to the officers of the Local Education Authority. May we always, when faced with difficulties and temptations, have the courage to say: "NO ROAD"!