Catholic volunteers who share the Good News with children in public schools have been acknowledged for their dedication and commitment at the annual Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Mass and Awards Presentation.
Hundreds of Special Religious Education (SRE) Catechists from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains gathered for a joyful thanksgiving celebration at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, on Friday 18 November, with Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta.
“We conclude the academic year with a deep sense of gratitude for the grace of God that has enabled us to bring the Word of God and the love of God to the young and impressionable, especially those in non-Catholics schools of the Diocese,” Bishop Vincent said in his opening remarks.
“I welcome members of the CCD, both the young and the young at heart, as we pray for the continued gift of dedication and commitment as we seek to be the harbingers of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“I am proud of the fact that CCD in this diocese is one of the strongest in the country, and that is evident by a very strong army of catechists in our schools and our parish communities, who week in and week out share their faith, their knowledge and love of Christ and his Gospel with the children.”
Bishop Vincent ‘indebted’ to messengers of the Good News
During his homily, Bishop Vincent told the SRE Catechists that they embody the missionary spirit of St Paul and the disciples in sharing the Good News beyond their familiar and comfortable environments.
“We give thanks to God for your active, faithful and generous discipleship, which is a basis for your ministry of spreading the Gospel.
“You choose to go beyond yourselves, just as [the disciples] did, in order to enter into the world of the young.
“You meet them as they are, you share the knowledge and love of God with them, you enrich them not just with the gift of the head, but even more so, with the gift of the heart – the gift of a life lived fully in the Gospel of Jesus.
“Your faith tested in the crucible of everyday life, with all its trials and tribulations, its joys and sorrows, is the best gift that one can offer to another.
“I’m tremendously indebted to you for being those messengers of the Good News.
“I’m confident that the impact of your ministry to young people in our Diocese will be long and lasting.”
SRE Catechists ‘humbled’ during awards presentation
At the conclusion of Mass, awards were presented to SRE Catechists who had achieved significant service milestones. Special awards were given to parish coordinators who were stepping into retirement and two long-serving CCD Regional Coordinators. Students from Catholic Colleges who serve as SRE Catechist helpers were also recognised for their service.
Jing ‘Joey’ Wang from St Margaret Marys Parish, Merrylands, was very proud to have been recognised for completing the CCD Level 3 Training Course, which she describes as helping to refresh her faith and refresh the lessons she teaches in the Merrylands area.
“I get a sense of achievement and fulfilment as a catechist. In a regular job, you may feel pressured or stressed, but being an SRE teacher is very enjoyable and I like to put more effort into teaching the children, especially the little ones,” she said.
Kevin McFarlane, a parishioner of St Patrick’s Parish, Guildford, who was recognised with an award for 15 years of service to SRE, was humbled by his award.
“None of us as scripture teachers ever look for recognition, we’re doing God’s work, and our recognition is our eternal reward,” he said.
“I love teaching the kids – all age groups – it’s a great joy.
“I’m inspired by being able to influence the kids. In sharing my life with them – how God has impacted in my life, and the love of God and learning about the Bible – I hope will make them better people and will help them see that God becomes a part of motivating them in their lives.”
Cecilia farewells her “dream role”
At the conclusion of the awards, the CCD community paid tribute and farewelled their passionate and dedicated Director, Cecilia Zammit, who is stepping into retirement.
With a heavy heart, Bishop Vincent thanked Cecilia for her outstanding service to the Diocese, describing her as a “pastoral, affirming and inspirational leader.”
“I would like to pay a debt of gratitude to you and thank you for all that you’ve done and who you are. May we continue to build on the legacy you leave behind,” he said.
In her farewell speech, Cecilia described working in CCD as an “absolute dream role” and thanked some of the people who have helped her achieve her dreams.
“Over the past 47 years of my working life, I have had the strong support and encouragement of my husband, Frank, and our children, on good days and not so good days.
“I acknowledge the love and support of my siblings and their spouses whose advice, encouragement, affirmation and listening ears many times throughout my working life has sustained me. I have been able to follow my dreams because of them.
“I have had the absolute privilege and honour to lead and learn from the CCD team – extraordinary faith-filled women who are dedicated, generous and nothing short of impressive in their talents and commitment to the catechists in their parishes.
“I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work side-by-side with Maree Collis. Her wisdom, reliability, commitment and talents ensures that training and other events happen. Without her, my ideas and plans would not have come to fruition.
“I want to acknowledge the great leadership, guidance and friendship of Bishop Vincent, Fr Chris de Souza, Fr Peter Williams, the many priests in this diocese and the religious sisters and brothers who have accompanied me in this journey.
“Many thanks to all of you for your support of me today and over the years, both personally and professionally.
“I look forward to the next chapter.”
Anyone interested in becoming a Special Religious Education (SRE) catechist teacher in the state schools across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains can contact their parish office, or Maree Collis on (02) 8838 3486.
Rewatch the 2022 CCD Annual Mass and Awards Presentation here.
View images from the Annual Mass here.
Read the full list of award recipients below:
40 Years of Service as an SRE
|Margaret Ryan||Parish of Richmond|
30 Years of Service as an SRE
|Diane Zerafa||Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown|
|Mary Thompson||Sacred Heart Parish, Luddenham-Warragamba|
|Josephine Falzon||St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens|
|Colleen McCunnie||St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens|
|Anne McNally||Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills|
25 Years of Service as an SRE
|Perfecta Mollinaro||Holy Cross Parish, Granville|
|Carmen Portelli||St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong|
|Rita Zammit||St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong|
|Irene Galea||Parish of Richmond|
|Jane Buttigieg||St John Vianney Parish, Doonside|
Papal Blessing - 20 Years of Service as an SRE
|Dino Canciani||Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook|
|Michael Sobb||St Patrick's Cathedral Parish, Parramatta and Holy Name of Mary Parish, Rydalmere|
15 Years of Service as an SRE
|Pauline Corea||Parish of Baulkham Hills|
|Ian Ward||Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown|
|Christine Rannaste||Our Lady of the Way Parish, Emu Plains|
|Lana Leatherby||Holy Cross Parish, Granville|
|Kevin McFarlane||St Patrick's Parish, Guildford|
|Clara Markoulis||St Patrick's Parish, Guildford|
|June D'Souza||St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst|
|Francisca 'Yontje' Tery||St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong|
|Anthony Scopelliti||Parish of Richmond|
|Mary Vella||Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, St Marys|
Recognition of Catholic Schools
|Bede Polding College||Windsor South|
|Caroline Chisholm College||Glenmore Park|
|Marian Catholic College||Kenthurst|
|Patrician Brothers' College||Blacktown|
|Penola Catholic College||Emu Plains|
|St Andrew's College||Marayong|
|St Columba's Catholic College||Springwood|
|St John Paul II Catholic College||Schofields|
|St John XXIII Catholic College||Stanhope Gardens|
|St Patrick's Marist College||Dundas Valley|
|St Paul's Catholic College||Greystanes|
Retiring Parish Coordinators
|Claire Maguire||Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath|
|Lorene Gorman||Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook|
|Joseph Elias||Holy Cross Parish, Granville|
|Julie Daly||St Bernadette's Parish, Lalor Park|
|Susan Debrincat||Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kellyville|
|Antionette Mifsud||St Joseph's Parish, Kingswood|
|Mary Gale||St Mary of the Cross MacKillop Parish, Upper Blue Mountains|
|Fred Keuneman||St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith|
|Geraldine Farrugia||Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Rouse Hill|
|Kristin Borg||St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie|
Conferring of Graduation Certificates - Level 3 Primary Training Course
|Claire Vella||Parish of Baulkham Hills|
|Natasha Benet||Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown|
|Noemi Romero||Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown|
|Fr Zvonimir Gavranovic||St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens|
|June D'Souza||St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst|
|Helen Perich||Sacred Heart Parish, Luddenham-Warragamba|
|Jing 'Joey' Wang||St Margaret Marys Parish, Merrylands|
|Arsenia Custodia||St Aidan's Parish, Rooty Hill|
|Carmel Fenton||20 years of service as CCD Nepean Regional Coordinator|
|Carol Vella||20 Years of service as CCD Hawkesbury Regional Coordinator|
|Cecilia Zammit||Presentation to Retiring CCD Director|