by MICHAEL OTTO
The Church hasn’t valued higher education in the way it should have, says a prominent New Zealand artist and academic.
In an address given at the Good Shepherd College graduation in Ponsonby on June 5, Lady Mary Barker said that, as a body, the Church has generally been suspicious of new thought and ideas.
It has also been suspicious of allowing people to think for themselves, especially lay people,
Lady Barker cited Irish historian Eamon Duffy, who said that if the Catholic Church is to fulfil its intellectual and moral mission, “it is the laity, you and I, who will have to do it”.
But this work “cannot be done in a ghetto”, Lady Barker said. “We have to become more outward looking,” she added.
“We can only find worthwhile solutions to the problems and dilemmas of our society if we engage with that society and work alongside other men and women of goodwill who, like us, are trying to make sense of the complicated world in which we live.”
Lady Barker also said that those graduating who are going to be priests have an extra responsibility when it comes to ongoing learning.
“People will come to you for advice. Your advice can affect generations,” she said. “You have
the power to encourage and enhance faith. But you also have the power to crush any spark that
might be there.
“You can change lives, hopefully for the better but, as we all know, there will be occasions when
you fall far short of that ideal.
“When that happens, and it will, you must learn from it. Take risks, learn to believe in yourselves,” she added.
Lady Barker said the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is the measure of expectation.
Referring to the practice of oral exams at Good Shepherd, she said such a process is necessary
for those preparing for priesthood. “Priests have to be well prepared to preach the Word. They
have a duty to explain, to teach, to communicate and to be understood.”
But there will be times when “only discernment, compassion and understanding matter”.
In introducing Lady Barker, Good Shepherd principal Msgr Brendan Daly noted that she had made good use of the college’s library and faculty while working towards her doctorate in art history.
Her thesis was on Rembrandt’s depictions of the mother of Jesus. That required research in Mariology as well as the art, he said.
At the graduation, 12 people received Bachelor of Theology degrees and eight received Graduate
Diplomas in Theology.
An acknowledgement was made of Mark William being awarded the Rev. Dr Brian Murray Memorial Prize, granted annually to the student with the highest level of achievement in theology for the Sydney College of Divinity Bachelor of Theology Degree.