A Mary Ward education has always been a global reality. In a recent virtual response to Pope Francis’ Global Compact on Education, Sr Noelle Corscadden ibvm, Global Institute Leader, affirmed the centrality of education in the mission and ministry of followers of Mary Ward in 120 schools and education centres in 40 countries around the world. Mary Ward schools exist in Ballarat and Bangladesh, Kirribilli and Korea, Toorak and Tanzania, Marryatville and Mauritius, Coorparoo and Canada, Nedlands, Nepal, and Normanhurst. Loreto Ministries continues to respond to Sr Noelle’s challenge to work with all Loreto educators to shape a transformative educational experience that overrides the concerns of ‘our individualistic and throw-away culture’ (Pope Francis).
Sr Noelle highlighted the congruence between the 2017 Mary Ward Schools Compass and the Pope’s seven commitments in his recently launched Global Compact on Education. This included the importance of education for girls in a post-pandemic world – a world in which it is believed millions of girls will not return to school. Sr Noelle further affirmed the centrality of relationships and the dignity of every person in our schools – a focus that is evident in the work of all in our network.
The challenges in the contemporary educational landscape highlighted by Sr Noelle form the heart of Loreto Ministries’ planning in 2021. Together with Pope Francis, she invites us to listen to young people with compassion and creativity. The Loreto Ministries’ board and Loreto Centre staff have been deeply moved by the recent thoughts of senior student leaders as they reflected on their leadership roles during this pandemic year. Sr Noelle called upon all members of our network to take to heart the human right to education and the need to work collectively to provide quality education for all. Loreto Ministries’ support of educational facility upgrades and program development in Vietnam, and involvement in webinars exploring education for justice with Mary Ward educators from our Australian schools, continues to sharpen our commitment to equitable access to high quality education.
Another issue raised by Sr Noelle was the digital divide – a concerning hallmark of the global COVID-19 educational response. While technology has brought the Mary Ward network together in a way never previously imagined, it is clear that access to digital devices and a good internet connection precludes millions of young people from access to education. In Melbourne alone, 40,000 laptops were distributed to students by the state government at the beginning of Lockdown #1.
As we work through our planning for 2021, Loreto Ministries commits to ‘engage with the bigger picture’ (Mary Ward Schools Compass) via support and leadership in the areas of mission, communications, policy development, finance and governance, to ensure that Mary Ward’s vision and values remain at the heart of our educational enterprise.