The changes which nave taken place in Catholic education in the last 100 years have been enormous. From the limited objectives of basic literacy for a labouring class religion and the indoctrination of' children in catechised beliefs, it has progressed very far on the way to a full integration within the State system, aiming now much more to develop each child's potential to the full. In the process it has helped to reduce and remove class barriers, to encourage social mobility at the same time as producing convinced and convincing Catholic contributors to the local community.
Nowhere can this evolutionary change be seen more vividly and with greater effect upon the role and esteem of the Church in society than in Cardiff where schools St. Patrick's and St. Illtyd's College each in its own unique way, typify the changes and are this year celebrating 100 years and 50 years of service respectively. In 1873, as near as possible to the 1870 Education Act, the Rosminian Fathers who had been working in the city since 1839, helped by the generosity of the Marquis of Bute, the Catholic landowner of most of the district at the time, opened the school-chapel of St. Patrick in Cirangetown.
Financial problems for buildings and salaries were never far away, yet money seemed always to be found for children's outings, the beginnings, perhaps of the introduction of the now fashionable environmental studies into the curriculum. Example after example can be quoted to show tnat the principle of co-operat-i ion between parent, priest and teacher in building and binding the parish community really has been lived through and has not remained an attractive bit of theory produced to justify the existence of Catholic schools to successive governments.
It was where St. Patrick's and other parochial schools had to finish, educationally speaking, that St. Illtyd's College had to begin. They served their original purpose but their limitations of buildings and staffing were obv,ious and they could not alone provide the more advanced form of education needed if Catholics were to move out into the business and professional life of the city.
It was to meet that need that the De La Salle Brothers were invited to open a secondary school for boys in the improvised buildings of the old university settlement in Splott on the other side of the city.
It must be very hard, perhaps impossible for the students today in their magnificent new buildings set in spacious grounds on the eastern outskirts, to understand what it was like to be an Illtydian in the 1920's. What was proved, as had been proved earlier in the case of schools like St. Patrick's. wai that, as important as buildings and facilities are. alone they do not educate.
They had, and have, an abiding principle. to Serve the Catholic community in the city. It is this principle which has enabled them to meet each need as it arose so that reorganisation and a change of emphasis have not left them isolated from the main stream of Catholic educational development serving only the privileged, but fully integrated with it and providing for all ability and social groupings.
And so it now tackles the boy of 11 who has difficulty in reading and the student of 18 who aspires to a university with equal consideration and with
equal success. Bombings, rebuilding on site, removal to a new site. abolition of the I I
plus, introduction of both restricted and unrestricted catchment areas as it provides sixth form education for other :1-16 schools the quality of
The fact that Catholics now hold their proportionate place in the city and exert their influence on its affairs at the same time as enriching its religious life, is the measure of the soundness of the principles established by such a legendary headmaster as the late Bro. Gilbert. He was sent in 1928 to close the school. Instead he extended it against odds greater than those faced when it was opened five years earlier.
Each school now approaches a new era. St. Patrick's is to leave its 1873 buildings to occupy new ones on the nearby site cleared houses which were part of its original catchment, a fitting fixing of tradition in its centenary year. St. Illtvd's in its
comprehensive role is widening its contact with Cardiff Catholics.
It is interesting to note that St. Patrick's booklet prominently features its Welsh language prowess, reflecting that its second century roots will be more in the wider and changed community than in the Irish immigrants which fed it in the 19th cenLeuvreyr Nevertheless, its Irish sources will no doubt continue to be respected and acknowledged whenever it processes behind the parochial pipe band which its P.P., the late Canon Tom Phelan, inspired.
If Catholic education is to survive it will be largely because schools such as St. Patrick's and St. Illtyd's continue to give the service that makes them and the community one.