I WAS born in Grafton and attended St Mary's Primary School and what was then St Mary's College, a co-ed school. Both schools were fully staffed by the Sisters of Mercy.
I then had three years at Woodlawn College.
When I came back to Grafton as the Parish Priest of St Mary's Parish in 2004, both schools were in the process of moving from Victoria St, where I had attended them.
Monsignor Hennessy and the Sisters of Mercy had laboured hard and long to build the schools with the backing of the parishioners of St Mary's.
Father Frank Mulcahy had built Holy Spirit College for Years 11 and 12.
Then Father Michael Roohan and myself, together with a building team and the support again of the parishioners, built the schools you see today.
The question can be asked: Why do we have Catholic schools?
There are two reasons why we spend so much money in planning and building them.
The first is because this is where we teach the students about Jesus and the Christian gospel. For a Catholic school, this is what makes us different.
Second, this is where the students learn about other subjects they will need, not just to make a living, but especially how to live a rich and fulfilling life.
Catholic schools would not be the wonderful places of faith and excellence without being staffed by committed Christian teachers.
These are teachers who are able to teach the students about Jesus and the Christian gospel because in their own lives they are doing their best to live this life themselves.
Like all of us, in our humanness, they, too, can struggle to make sense of life as it is today in all its complexity, and look to how the Christian faith can help them understand the meaning of what is happening.
I want to say something very special to you all, something I have learnt over many years and which I now pass on to you.
God is in our DNA as humans. God thought us up. God is our manufacturer.
If we do not understand this, then we can live our whole lives without really being happy.
There will always be something missing.
Many try to find what is missing by making more money, by having more power, by having more and more possessions.
But there will still be an emptiness.
If they have a $10 bet on a race horse and it wins, they will be sorry they didn't have a $20 bet!
As my parting gift to you all, please remember, God is in our DNA.