Hundreds of selfless volunteers have been commended for their service and dedication to teaching the faith to students in public schools.
Men and women from our parishes and students from Catholic Colleges from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains were acknowledged for their ministry as Special Religious Education (SRE) Catechists at the annual Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Mass and Awards Presentation on Friday 3 November.
“The ministry of CCD is vital in the life of the Church in Parramatta, and we are very proud of the fact that many volunteers, including young students, some of whom are here, dedicate themselves in the service to the young people in our non-Catholic schools throughout Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains,” Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, said in his opening remarks.
“We renew our commitment to be catalysts and agents of God’s reign of love, unity and justice. You will be witnesses of hope. Jesus is the foundation of that hope. Let us do everything that we are inspired to do to bring about a better future and a better world for all.
“May the Lord strengthen us in our commitment to be the guiding light for the young and impressionable so they too may know, love and serve Christ.”
Bishop Vincent indebted to catechist volunteers
In his homily, Bishop Vincent thanked the volunteers for their active, faithful and generous discipleship.
“You embody a missionary spirit of Christ. You choose to go beyond yourselves in order to enter the world of young people, sharing God’s knowledge with them, enriching them not only in the gift of the head, but more so with the gift of the heart, the gift of love.
“Your faith lived in the crucible of everyday life, in all its trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, is the best gift that one can share with others.
“I am greatly indebted to this army of volunteer catechists in the Diocese for being the heralds of the Gospel.
“God only knows of the impact of your ministry to the young people in our Diocese.”
Long-term catechists honoured with special awards, blessings
At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Vincent presented volunteers who have served as SRE Catechists for 15, 20, 25, 30,35, 40, 45 and 50 years, retiring coordinators, and those completed specialised training with awards.
Peter Carroll from St Margaret Marys Parish, Merrylands, was one of the recipients of a special Papal Blessing given to those who have 20 years of service as an SRE Catechist.
“What I find most rewarding is being able to influence the children in good, sound Christian values in their development against the corruptive influence of the world’s values and helping them to have a solid foundation for their future lives.”
For Laura Eid from Sacred Heart Parish, Westmead, who celebrated 40 years as an SRE Catechist, the influence of former school Principal Anne Smith inspired her to say ‘yes’.
“She just kept saying it me how rewarding it is. I was 19 then, so I started going, and I just couldn’t stop. It really is so rewarding, going up to the school, seeing the children and teaching them about God.
“I love speaking about how wonderful God is and how precious it is to have Him in your life. If I don’t have God in my life, Mother Mary, all the angels and saints, I can’t cope. They’re first in my life in all things, and that’s what drives me to do something good for someone else.”
Student SRE catechists putting faith into action
Alongside the recognition of parish-based volunteers, student SRE Catechists from 13 Catholic Colleges across the Diocese were also presented with awards for their service.
Stella and Sidney from Delany College, Granville, are among a group of Year 10 students from the college that go to their local public school every Wednesday to share their faith.
“Today’s ceremony was inspiring. I wasn’t sure that there was a pathway after high school to continue being a [SRE] Catechist but seeing people getting awards for 50 years of service was really inspiring,” Stella explained.
“What I like most about being an SRE Catechist is putting our learning into action and inspiring the younger students. Some of the stuff they were learning, we are learning at school too, so we’re able to simplify those concepts and teach it to them.”
Sidney added, “I enjoy going out into the community, talking to these primary school students and teaching them about the Good News and the Gospel message as a whole.”
Gathering honours selfless dedication of catechists
Recognising the incredible contribution and commitment of the SRE Catechists, Merilyn Hancock, Head of CCD, made special mention of Anne Sullivan from the Parish of Baulkham Hills, who was recognised for giving 50 years of service to the ministry.
With the 2023 school year coming to an end, Merilyn encouraged anyone interested in sharing their faith with children to join the ministry in 2024.
“We encourage parishes to invite more people to take up the mission of sharing the joy of the Gospel with public school children.
“Lessons are only 30 minutes a week, with 30 minutes of preparation time required.
“Training and resources are provided to all SRE Catechists, who have strong support from their Parish Priests, Parish Coordinators, Regional Coordinators and the CCD Office.
“Our SRE Catechists say that their own faith is renewed by teaching others, and we thank God for his blessings in this ministry.”
We thank all SRE Catechists across the Diocese of Parramatta for their love and dedication to sharing the faith.
If you are interested in wanting to share your faith and the love of God with students in our public schools, contact your local parish or reach out to Maree in the CCD office on (02) 8838 3486 or email email@example.com
View images from the CCD Annual Mass and Awards Ceremony here or below: