The Catholic Bishops have written a pastoral letter to school leaders, staff, students and families to mark the 200th anniversary of Catholic education in Australia.

Entitled 200 Years Young, the letter recognises the contribution of religious, clergy and lay people to the foundation of Catholic education, and the distinctive role Catholic schools play in educating and forming young people of faith and service in their communities.

The letter was released at today’s national launch of the 200th anniversary by the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC).

Today, there are 1,751 Catholic schools educating 768,000 students and employing 98,000 staff. Nearly 40 per cent of Catholic schools are located outside metropolitan cities in regional, rural and remote communities.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education, has called on all those involved in Catholic education to acknowledge this significant milestone in the life of the Church.

‘From very humble beginnings with the opening of the first official Catholic school educating just 31 students located on Hunter Street in Parramatta, Catholic schools have grown to educate more than one in five Australian students, with many others attending Catholic pre-schools, colleges and universities’, Archbishop Fisher said.

‘We are fortunate to have Catholic schools in most towns and suburbs, and university campuses in most capital cities, serving students from diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

'While they are no longer all from poorer families, as so many were in the first century-and-a-half of Catholic education, we continue to welcome and ensure our schools are accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, refugees, those with disabilities and students who are financially disadvantaged.’