Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Back to school opportunities

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane

Last week the first school uniforms began to appear on our footpaths. For that first day or so they were a novelty. And now it's back to normal and the young people are heading to and from school as if there had been no long holidays.

For the first-timers it was and probably still is all excitement but for the regulars, one is reminded of the lines from the seven stages of man in Shakespeare's 'As You Like it': "Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel/And shining morning face, creeping like snail/Unwillingly to school."

It's that time of year when many people think about learning something new, going back to school to pick up new skills. These days there is a myriad institutions and centres of learning offering so many enjoyable possibilities. There's hardly a subject or skill that is not on offer. 

Modern technology has given us the possibility of learning so much from our own homes. 

Computer technology has landed learning possibilities on our doorstep. But I can imagine the same computer must be the bane of so many doctor with patients calling to their GPs and telling them what's wrong with them. Everything has its drawbacks.

Learning is a lifelong process. Albert Einstein said that intellectual growth ends only at death. The more we learn the more we realise how little we know.

In early August I was asked by The Priory Institute in Tallaght to give them some help in advertising the courses they have on offer. They felt that with my background in journalism I could point them in the right direction.

I ended up writing small pieces for regional newspapers on the courses that the institute offers. In order to do that I contacted people who were either currently doing courses at The Priory Institute or had completed studies there.

Without exception every person with whom I spoke was genuinely delighted they had done the course.

I spoke to a large cross section of people, young and not-so-young. One man I phoned explained how studying theology had given him a great insight to his faith.

Someone else said about the course: "There are times when I lift my head from the books and think, 'Why when I was growing up, did no one ever tell me about this beautiful religion of ours' ".

A woman from west Kerry said: "Weary of the shallows? Take the plunge and discover the treasure called theology."

There is so much talk, dispute, controversy, scraps and disagreements about issues concerning religion and faith in Ireland that I often wonder what exactly do we know about our religion or about faith in God. What do we know about worldwide religions and their history? I'm inclined to think very little.

Theology is an exciting discipline. It is about exploring the mystery of God and God's interaction with us. Christian theology focuses on Jesus, 2,000 years of history and scholarship. It looks at how we try to speak about God. 

Ireland was known as a 'Catholic country'. That is changing at breathtaking speed.

But the Ireland that is disappearing was never renowned for its theological expertise.

Has there been an overemphasis on pious aspects of our faith, bordering on superstition? 

The Priory Institute is affiliated to the Institute of Technology Tallaght and offers a wide range of courses, including degrees, diplomas and certificates.

What makes The Priory Institute special is that learning is done from home, interspersed with study days and tutorials with support from a dedicated coordinator.

For further information log on to www.prioryinstitute.com; email, enquiries@prioryinstitute.com; phone 01 - 404 8124.

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