By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook
The first annual Social Justice Day, held on October 12, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta gathered students from Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta schools to learn about social justice issues and have fun making new friends.
Students were challenged by Pope Francis’ call to “be the face of Mercy” in an essay competition. Mr Greg Whitby, the Executive Director of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta presented awards to students who came first in each school within the diocese.
Parramatta’s Bishop Vincent Long gave a keynote address to launch the 2016 Social Justice Statement of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to the students. Bishop Vincent is also the Chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, which produced the official statement, ‘A Place at the Table: Social justice in an ageing society’.
The report detailed new injustices that emerge with Australia’s aging society. These include loneliness, ageism, elder abuse and isolation, which need to be understood and stopped.
“In my Asian background, there is more filial duty to care for the elderly,” Bishop Vincent said. He also stated that it was previously unthinkable, “at least not respectful, to not have elderly parents with you”.
A workshop on the content of the statement helped students analyse injustice against the elderly.
The afternoon included a ‘Call to Action’ from Mrs Rayella Haines, a senior parishioner from Our Lady of the Rosary, St Mary’s and Luke Tobin – Caritas Justice Educator, who gave examples of caring for the elderly from their personal lives.
A subsequent workshop developed concrete action plans to respond to these challenges in schools and local communities.
Sr Louise McKeogh, the Diocesan Social Justice Coordinator commented on the quality, reflection and contribution of the students to the essay competition and of their meaningful engagement in the justice day.
Especially inspiring was the reflection from Casey Pennell of Marian Catholic College, Kenthurst. “As I watch the news daily, I can’t help but wonder what has happened to our world today. Have we forgotten how to care for one another and treat friends and strangers alike with respect and understanding?….I hope that my generation can one day help to make a difference by listening to those who who dare to speak up against the violence in this world and the affect it has on so many lives,” Casey said.
Congratulations to Casey Pennell, Peter Trogrlic, Paris Mcilwrath for coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the Social Justice Essay Competition overall.
Equal congratulations to the best of each school present:
Delaura Cauchi (Bede Polding College, South Windsor)
Julia Evangelista (Catherine McAuley College, Westmead)
Meghan Estoque (Emmaus Catholic College, Kemps Creek)
Claudia Dixon (Caroline Chisholm College, Glenmore Park)
Sarah Hatton (Gilroy Catholic College, Castle Hill)
Justin Cooper (McCarthy Catholic College, Emu Plains)
Elyssa Antoun (Nagle College, Blacktown South)
Kallista Pudun (Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta)
Patrick Skaf (Parramatta Marist High School)
Oshani de Costa (St John Paul II Catholic College, Schofields & Nirimba)
Sarah Arnold (St Columba’s Catholic College, Springwood)