Whether caring for the environment, their community or those in need, hundreds of students, staff, teachers, parents and clergy from throughout the Diocese of Parramatta gathered for the 2023 Education Mass to celebrate what Faith in Action looks like and how they’re making a difference in the world.
Held at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta, the Mass and associated Mission Expo showcased how Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) school communities come together in the spirit and mission of the Church.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, commissioned all present to be faith-filled prophets of hope and justice and to make a difference in our world.
“This is what Catholic Education is all about,” Bishop Vincent said in his inspiring homily. “A challenge to see, a challenge to act and a challenge to relate to the world around us in a way that Jesus shows us. A challenge to be a community of hospitality, compassion and love.”
The Mission Expo stalls, led by students from across the Diocese, celebrated the many expressions of faith and service that are already present in our learning communities including Catechist teaching in local government primary schools, Eucharistic minister training, as well as advocacy and support of church agencies such as Mercy Works, St Vincent De Paul and Jesuit Refugee Services.
There was also a stall led by students recently returned from World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal who shared experiences of their pilgrimage.
“We’re so grateful to all the schools for their generous support of our Mass and Mission Expo and we hope that all who attended are able to return to their communities encouraged and inspired to continue to build our Catholic identity and mission,” said Mark Smith, Acting Director Mission.
St Canice’s Primary Katoomba had a fascinating display highlighting their work in supporting St Vincent De Paul and also the recently launched Sky Country Dreaming program that educates students about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
“We’re a really small school but we have really big hearts,” said Grace Lineham, Year 5 student at St Canice’s Primary.
“We love to look after people. No matter how big or small, everyone can make a difference.”
Grace’s Year 5 classmate Sophia Parrott was keen to highlight the various ways her small school supports those in need.
“Each class has their own bucket and each week we bring in a new food and we donate that food to Mini Vinnies,” said Sophia. “We also do a lot of fundraising through special events and activities. Last month we had a paper plane making competition, a chalk day, pyjama day and games night and bubble day and that was all in one month. We had so much fun and it all went towards supporting a good cause.”
Along with St Canice’s, St Joseph’s Primary Kingswood, CathWest Innovation College, Caroline Chisholm College Glenmore Park, Nagle College Blacktown, Sacred Heart Primary Westmead, Catherine McAuley Westmead, Parramatta Marist High and Patrician Brothers’ College Blacktown also presented at the expo.
“At CathWest, our school is very much about hands-on learning and what you see here today is about being hands-on and helping those in need and taking care of the environment, so it’s a lovely and caring place to live,” said CathWest Innovation College student Alyssa Couzins.
Bishop Vincent joined the large crowd, talking with students and staff about their schools’ social justice and mission initiatives.
“This is all about the heart of our Catholic schools,” said Tania Melki, CSPD Mission Partner. “It was beautiful seeing how engaged the younger students were in learning about all the wonderful things other schools and students do. It’s igniting that flame of something they might want to do in the future.”
Christine Howe, CSPD Deputy Executive Director and Director Learning, reminded everyone of the example set by St Mary of the Cross MacKillop to guide our commitment to faith and action.
“St Mary of the Cross MacKillop wanted an excellent education for all, to open doors to a better future and I am confident that she would feel very proud of what our Catholic schools have become for all our students and the community,” Christine said. “They are places where every student wants to truly become the best person they can, which means standing up for your faith, being courageous, compassionate, humble and a person of service.”
With thanks to Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD).