Address at Vespers for Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time on the occasion of the conferring of the Bishop of Parramatta Student Excellence Awards
6 September 2018
Tonight, it is with great joy that we have come to celebrate the Student Excellent Awards night here at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
This is not an equivalent of an NRL best and brightest players award evening. This is not even about Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta showcasing the cream of the crop in high achieving students.
If it were, we would go against the very ethos of Catholic education, which does not measure itself merely in terms of our how many top students we have or the highest ATAR results et cetera. I believe that the point of Catholic education is not about creating an elitist system of schools with high achieving students.
We are not here to compete against private schools or any other system. What makes Catholic education distinctive is the formation of our students and communities into people and places that embody the Reign of God.
Having said that, I hasten to add that we do recognise excellence, which is achieved by hard work, discipline, dedication and enquiry.
The application of these virtues is rooted in the teaching of Christ and it is the cause of celebration tonight. Like good and faithful servants, these students do not take for granted what has been entrusted to them: time, talent, ability, support system, family, friendship, mentoring et cetera. They have made the most of the opportunities God gave them. They did not bury them.
They took necessary risks in investing them and producing the dividends at the proper time.
The honor we bestow on them tonight recognises not only what they have done but also the positive attitude with which they have imbued their environments and relationships.
It is not so much the quantity of their deeds or their results but the quality of their commitment.
They share the honor with loved ones and others who have supported them and made it possible for them to give of themselves. I have a sister who has a daughter doing Year 12 this year. I am amazed how hard it is to be a committed parent of a HSC student or indeed any student, especially when dealing with the stresses and strains of the exam season. It is not just the taxiing, cooking and other chores.
It is the constant presence and support. It is being at the child’s beck and call 24/7. It is like being a sentinel. I reckon parents deserve more recognition than anyone else in this whole business of students pursuing excellence.
Ultimately, the recognition is not just about anyone involved in the pursuit of excellence. It is about honouring God and we are so privileged to be His instruments as we endeavor to develop our gifts and talents in service to the Church and the broader community.
As we renew our gratitude to God, may we commit ourselves to be good and faithful servants, learning to grow and use what we are given for His glory and the benefit of our brothers and sisters.
Most Rev Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta