Retired Auckland diocese vicar for education Linda McQuade has been honoured by Pope Francis, who made her a dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great for her more-than-40-year service in education.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn, who presided over a small investiture ceremony held at the Pompallier Diocesan Centre on June 27, thanked Ms McQuade for applying her passion for Catholic education to schools in the diocese.
“Linda’s a person of great vision, great skill and great humility, so she’s probably finding this a bit difficult,” Bishop Dunn said. “Linda brought her passion for education and encouraged all our schools to become great places of learning, but also great places for evangelisation.”
Ms McQuade started out teaching in the 1970s, and was appointed deputy principal at McAuley High School in 1983.
Bishop Dunn said the Sisters of Mercy had the courage and vision to appoint her as principal of the college.
“Those who knew Linda at McAuley knew she built on the great foundations of McAuley High School, and the college just grew from strength to strength and became the premier school in New Zealand for young Pacific Island women,” the bishop said.
In 2000, Ms McQuade moved to Marist College, and fell in love with the Marist charism – she became a lay associate of the Marist Sisters and, in 2005, took special vows as a consecrated person.
Ms McQuade said it was initially hard for her to understand the charism. She was given books and retreats by the sisters at the school.
“It was just beautiful, and I did fall in love with that. That was the change in my life in terms of realising how important my faith was to me, and hence the decision [for] consecrated life,” she said.
Ms McQuade went on to work for the diocese in 2006, and represented Bishop Dunn in various meetings and events as proprietor of the diocese’s 43 primary and 15 secondary schools.
Ms McQuade said Catholic schools have changed over the years as society has changed.
“We now have a different responsibility, and that is really more involved with students starting to really understand and know Jesus Christ, and fall in love with Jesus Christ, because if they fall in love with Jesus Christ, they commit themselves to the Church,” she said in her thanksgiving speech. “For me, that is the work we now have to do in our schools.”
Ms McQuade acknowledged her mother, who was her role model and inspired her to become a teacher, the priests who have helped her along the way, the Mercy Sisters as well as the Marist Sisters, people she worked with in Catholic schools and at the diocese.
“I just want to finish by simply acknowledging Bishop Pat . . . just for who you are. You are the person who enables people to have the freedom to go and do things. You don’t micromanage them. You just give them the ability to run with projects,” she said. “You are really a servant-leader and good role model for us.”
Former McAuley principal Anne Miles and former Marist principal Monica Johnson also thanked Ms McQuade for her service.
“You have such a love for Catholic education,” said Mrs Johnson. “Your award is well-deserved.”