Catholic schools in the Diocese of Parramatta are working together with many other local and global Church organisations to serve the wider community of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
These new Faith in Action partnerships help students to support the good works of Catholic organisations including Catholic Mission, Catholic Care, Peace Justice Ecology Office, Jesuit Social Services, Jesuit Refugee Services, Together for Humanity, St Vincent de Paul, Caritas, Columban Centre for Christian Muslim Relations, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), House of Welcome, and Young Christian Students.
Complementing learning and teaching in schools, this “agency network” provides real life opportunities for students to contribute to the charitable works of these organisations. Online meetings are held once a term, which allow agencies to engage directly with one another, foster stronger relationships and facilitate better understanding across all stakeholders.
St Mary’s Rydalmere Religious Education Coordinator Natalie Coglan says the network is a really useful source of information on what the needs of each charitable organisation are.
“This is such a great opportunity to provide schools with the chance to engage in dialogue with our Catholic agencies,” Natalie said. “It opens up dialogue between schools and the agencies and is usually a springboard for a follow-up email or visit afterwards.”
Gilroy Catholic College Castle Hill Religious Education Coordinator Sean Finucane also values these meaningful chances to listen and ask questions too.
“It can often spark a relationship between a school and an agency,” Sean says. “Hearing from other schools about how they have engaged with an agency can offer new strategies too.”
Additionally, follow-up meetings are held once a term between schools and agencies. These meetings allow all to discuss further school engagement and explore natural points of connection to the Religious Education curriculum. This collaboration not only benefits the agencies but also supports teachers by providing them with Outreach and Social Justice resources. Teachers can also collaborate with other schools, creating meaningful connections and enhancing the educational experience for students deepening their understanding of Catholic Social Teachings.
For agencies like Caritas, this partnership provides a significant advantage. It offers them an avenue to disseminate updated information about their work, particularly during important events such as Project Compassion. Through meetings and interactions with school representatives, Caritas colleagues can engage in fruitful discussions, answer questions, and provide the necessary information to support their initiatives. This direct engagement allows everyone to go beyond being mere names on an email. It enables deeper connections ultimately building relational trust.
The Faith in Action partnership is motivated by God’s teachings, specifically Micah 6:8, which conveys that God has revealed what is good and expected of us: to practise justice, display mercy, and humbly walk with God. A diverse representation of Catholic organisations ensures that various aspects of outreach and social justice are addressed and that a wide range of expertise and perspectives are brought to the table.
This partnership also provides opportunities for participants to find common ground, share experiences, and learn from one another, ultimately enhancing the collective efforts in serving the community and fulfilling the mission of the Church. Pope Francis calls each one of us to reflect on “I am a mission on this Earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 273).
This article was originally published in the 2023 Season of Creation | Spring edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.