Beginning teachers and new school principals gathered for a moving celebration at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta on Thursday 25 March.
The annual Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Commissioning Mass is an opportunity for Bishop Vincent Long and Parish Priests to bless and welcome these dedicated staff to their new roles.
Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director Greg Whitby greeted each attendee by name, and thoroughly appreciated the chance to connect in person after addressing beginning teachers virtually as part of their professional learning earlier that day.
“We can look with confidence to that future because of all of these talented young people who’ve chosen a vocation of being a teacher in a Catholic school,” Greg said. “You will make a fantastic difference to the young people in our care.” He also thanked new Principals and other System Leaders for accepting the challenge of leadership, stating, “we are leaders together”.
In a stirring homily, Bishop Vincent told staff that their vocation “engenders hope and encourages transformation”. His powerful address called educators to be a catalyst for change, working for “human fraternity, compassion and community”. Referencing the inclusiveness of the first Australian Catholic school established in Parramatta 201 years ago, Bishop Vincent spoke about shared commitment to Catholic education for all.
As the Commissioning Mass was cancelled due to COVID-19 in 2020, the occasion saw many new staff gather together for the first time. Since the beginning of 2020, there have been 12 new school principals and 118 new teachers at Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta schools across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
Catherine McAuley Westmead Principal Mary Refalo was one of the new school leaders commissioned at the Mass. “I love my job,” Mary said. Reflecting on Catholic leadership, she observed: “It’s a joy and an honour to lead a school that invites our students, staff and families to grow together in faith and learning.”
St Paul’s Catholic College Greystanes Mathematics teacher Luke Sultana is the only beginning teacher at his school this year and has been well supported by his colleagues in starting out. For this young graduate of Bede Polding Catholic College South Windsor, the work is all about serving students.
“I really enjoy being with the kids in the classroom, seeing their bright ideas and what they have to offer,” Luke said. “Their sense of humour is also very relatable.”
St Michael’s Primary Baulkham Hills beginning teachers Annie Owusu and Courtney Orman are also really enjoying their new roles teaching Year 3 and Year 1 respectively.
“I love so many things,” Annie says. “Every day is a bit different: it’s really fun.” Annie was drawn to working in Catholic education through her own schooling at the Catholic Learning Community of St John XXIII in Stanhope Gardens and Gilroy Catholic College Castle Hill. “I think it’s important that good values are instilled at a young age,” she said.
Colleague Courtney Orman is excited about getting to know her students. “I love seeing the growth of kids,” she said. She identifies building strong relationships focused on learning as a key part of her work. “I also love the community aspect at a Catholic school,” Courtney said.
Jessica Karatovic, a Leonay local who has recently started working at St Canice’s Primary Katoomba, loves the “family feel” at her caring Blue Mountains workplace.
“It’s warmth and welcome from everyone,” Jessica said. She also identifies “phenomenal support” from her colleagues as a success factor. “I’m surrounded by so many talented educators who have just embraced me.” She also comments that her students know she’s a beginner and help her along!
Each beginning teacher left the memorable event with a gift to further nourish them in their vocation: a copy of Pope Francis’ new book Let Us Dream: the path to a better future. The Mass was also live streamed here for those who were unable to attend, including staff impacted by the recent flood emergency.
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.