After two years of being held virtually, the Education Mass and Mission Agency Expo reunited Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) representatives to connect in shared faith and translate it into swift and practical action. With 80 caring local school communities, this commitment to social justice makes a real difference across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
Held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta, the annual event is an occasion for students to gather with Principals, parents and carers, Religious Education Coordinators and Diocesan Priests to celebrate their role in the Mission of the Church.
Opening with an inspirational Homily by Bishop Vincent Long and a moving address by Deputy Executive Director Christine Howe, the event brought together school communities and central office staff to observe the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as provide an opportunity for social justice.
“Whether we are pastors, principals, leaders, teachers, parents, guardians and students, we have been called to accompany one another on the journey to wholeness and to lead our learning communities to become critical yeast in critical times,” said Bishop Vincent. “In the footsteps of our pioneers, we offer an education that forms young people into men and women committed to the common good, social equity as opposed to individualism and self-interest.”
Local schools were strongly represented in the ceremony with readers from Emmaus Catholic College Kemps Creek, St Madeleine’s Primary Kenthurst, Our Lady of the Rosary Primary Kellyville, St Joseph’s Primary Kingswood, Marian Catholic College Kenthurst and the choir from Catherine McAuley Westmead.
CEDP Relieving Executive Director Christine Howe said this year’s Education Mass was a celebration of the important role of schools in achieving social and environmental justice. “The commitment that each of you, our students and staff, have about the big issues that matter to you, is inspiring. We are so proud of each of you and look forward to seeing you continue to lead in whatever ways that you can – there will be many opportunities if you simply look for them. Your communities and our world need you to go forward as people of faith and action in the future”.
Following the Mass, participants were invited to explore the Mission Agency Expo which highlights the work of Mission Agencies in the Diocese of Parramatta, inviting schools to explore new ideas and the various opportunities to put faith into action in their own communities.
“Today was actually an awesome experience, it was my first time coming to the Cathedral and it’s nice to see a lot of new faces”, said Trinity Kemps Creek student Zachary. “The message that I got from today is that we are not just here because we are representing our schools, we are here to appreciate these organisations and to appreciate our lives and opportunities”.
“It’s been a wonderful experience to be back together with all the schools in the Diocese to celebrate and to hear the words of the Bishop who’s encouraging us to go forth and be Jesus’ representatives in this world,” added Trinity Catholic Primary Kemps Creek Principal Cathy Hey.
A chance for communities to connect with the people and the organisations conducting this life-giving work, schools were joined by organisations including Jesuit Refugee Services, House of Welcome, Catholic Mission, Jesuit Social Services, Catholic Earthcare and the St Vincent De Paul Society.
“It’s delightful to be at the Education Mass to see a lot of students, parents and staff so keen to put faith into action and learn more. Through St Vincent De Paul society and the other Catholic organisations we look forward to continuing working and seeing good work starting in our community,” said Royden Ng, Greater Western Sydney Schools Engagement Officer at the St Vincent De Paul Society NSW.
By engaging with the several agencies that work with schools on social justice initiatives, students and staff felt inspired to do more, united in their common goal of helping the underprivileged and promoting stewardship.
“It’s been a good day, we’re learning about projects and spreading Mission. It’s definitely inspired me to go back to my school, help spread happiness and help other people”, said St Monica’s Primary Richmond student, Mikayla Gauchi.
“I think this experience has been wonderful, I’ve been able to learn a lot about all the organisations that are here to promote different ways of supporting our community. I think it’s really cool and we are looking forward to implementing some things into our own school” said Lily, Student Leader at St Clare’s Catholic High School Hassall Grove.
Collectively, schools experienced a renewed passion to build on these connections and enhance their personal and community commitments, illustrating what was a transformational opportunity for all attendants.
“Today has definitely inspired me, I want to go back to my school, share it and get them all pumped up and helping out in the community,” said St Agnes Catholic High School Rooty Hill student Aiden Priestly who was recently recognised with a Bishop’s Award for Student Excellence.
“This event today has inspired our school community to work together as one, to unite in our Catholic roles in life. All the stalls here have given us a new look into Catholic life and mission,” added fellow student Julia Freedman.
“Today was a fantastic opportunity to network with our mission partners”, said Religious Education Coordinator at Penola Catholic College Emu Plains, Mitchell Sutton. “What we’re really looking to do is build connections between us as a Catholic community and with our work with those who are on the margins and the most vulnerable, to build awareness, connection and a sense of Christ’s love”.
Mission agencies had nothing but praise for the continuing service of the Catholic community and students’ devotion to achieving equity.
“We couldn’t do a lot of our work without the Catholic schools and Catholic parishes who are really generous and their values align with our values of being welcoming, discerning and courageous”, said Claire Thomas, NSW Schools and Community Engagement Manager for Jesuit Social Services Western Sydney.
From the beginning of 2023 Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) will have a new name, Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd. In the spirit of leading together, the organisation will also have a new governance framework and a Board made up of community members.
It is not expected that these changes will have an impact on the day-to-day operation of schools, or upon students, parents and carers, and parishes. With more than 43 000 students and 5000 staff, there will be many opportunities to continue to support the Mission of the Church through Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd.
With thanks to the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.