Recently some of our students and staff attended the unveiling and blessing of the new St John Paul II statue at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, which is a wonderful tribute to his Holiness and his passion for engaging young people in the life of the church.
The Bishop of Parramatta’s Student Excellence Awards, which were held in the Cathedral a few days earlier, reminded me of another outstanding artwork at the Cathedral, Rachel Ellis’ ‘Communion of Saints’.
Entering the ‘old’ Cathedral from the narthex, the Communion of Saints Shrine is located in the niche to your right. It features an image of the distinctive Cathedral doors and a host of ‘saints’, people of all ages and cultures gathered around. The artist hoped to convey “the continual process of becoming holy” in this joyful piece that takes as its theme the Communion of Saints: the Church itself.
When Pope Benedict XVI addressed school students in the United Kingdom in 2010, he emphasised the importance of the growth of holiness through Catholic education, calling on students to become ‘saints of the future’. This is the mission of each of our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Parramatta.
The Student Excellence Awards recognise an outstanding Year 12 student from each of our secondary schools. It was a privilege to witness these excellent young people receive awards for their impressive contributions to school and the wider community. It was a gathering full of diversity, joy, and holiness, and I have no doubt that there were ‘saints of the future’ in the pews.
It was also encouraging to observe the support that students received from their families, with many mums and dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents, and other proud members of extended families present.
We must also recognise the importance of great teachers and their role in forming young people of faith and action, particularly as World Teachers’ Day approaches on 30 October. Pope Francis’ words to educators delivered in 2013 are instructive: “Educating is not a profession but an attitude, a way of being; in order to educate it is necessary to step out of ourselves and be among young people, to accompany them in the stages of their growth and to set ourselves beside them”.
To share this journey with students, their families, and educational communities is both challenging and humbling. I know your prayers will be with all our Year 12 students as we accompany them in the final stages of their secondary schooling. May they always continue to learn and grow in holiness as they venture beyond their school communities to lives of service in Jesus Christ.
Executive Director of Schools
Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools – Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta