Coming to the end of their schooling journey, Year 12 student leaders have been given the opportunity to reflect on their years of Catholic education.
Student leaders from 27 systemic, independent and PARED schools in the Diocese of Parramatta participated in the LIFTED ‘Breakfast with the Bishop’ at Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta, on Thursday.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, and other senior leaders in the Diocese listened and reflected on what was being shared by the young leaders.
Students were encouraged by Fr Peter Williams, Vicar General and Moderator for the Curia, to answer questions throughout the day honestly, rather than responding “what we think they [the leadership members] want to hear.”
The first session of the day involved students defining the notions of ‘wokeness’ and ‘cancel culture’ and their effects on themselves as young people and in society.
In the second session, students were asked to reflect on their (typically) 13 years of Catholic Education.
Students shared what they had appreciated from their education, and then offered suggestions for the future direction of Catholic education.
One of the recurring points that emerged was the hope that younger grades can study other religions. Currently, it is only introduced at HSC level.
As Australia celebrates 200 years of Catholic Education, Greg Whitby, Executive Director, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP), said that this gathering of student leaders was a remarkable way to mark that event.
“To sit and listen to your reflections on your Catholic schooling is a real privilege,” Mr Whitby said.
“I guarantee you that we will put into action the things that you talked about, because you will be responsible for the next couple of years, maybe even a hundred years.
“You are now agents of the Gospel. You have been well equipped to go forward and make a difference in this world, a world that sorely needs your brains, your talent and, most importantly, your faith, which will provide you the lens to make the decisions that you need to make about the future,” he said.
Students from Xavier College, Llandilo, said that the LIFTED Breakfast was a “harmonious experience”, that being in the presence of the Bishop was a blessing, and it was a good way to strengthen the community.
Leaders from Marian College, Kenthurst, said the event was a great opportunity to gain new perspectives from other leaders in the Diocese and how their ideas can be implemented in their own school.
In his closing remarks, Bishop Vincent said it was an honour and privilege to listen to the students.
“We used to think that priests and bishops had the authority to teach, and the lay people, even young people like yourselves, had to listen – there was a ‘teaching church’ and a ‘listening church.’
“But sitting here, I thought to myself, I think the order might be reversed. You have a lot of things to teach me as well, and you certainly have today.
“Today, you exhibited a sense of confidence, you are articulate, you are well-informed, and you are worthy of the leadership positions that you have been called to.
“You have been a real gift to us at CEDP and the Diocese of Parramatta,” Bishop Vincent said.
To validate the discussion, students were invited to complete a survey before the event. The statistics showed:
- 90% of student leaders felt they had flourished in leadership;
- 75% said their faith was important and significantly deepened by their Catholic education;
- 85% felt heard and supported by their School Principal and leadership team;
- There was a 50-50 split in feeling hindered by ‘cancel culture’ and sharing their opinion in society;
- 64% believe being ‘woke’ is important to them; and
- 98% would like opportunities to accompany future school leaders
The LIFTED Breakfast is part of a series of initiatives for Year 12 student leaders organised by Catholic Youth Parramatta and CEDP, following on from the annual LIFTED Leaders program run in February.
Check out our highlights from the LIFTED Breakfast below.
View images from the LIFTED Breakfast with the Bishop here or below.