Everyone in the Diocese of Parramatta will be part of The Parramatta Way, a statement of a new way of thinking about Safeguarding throughout the Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
Designed by a group representing the Church community in the Diocese, The Parramatta Way asks parishioners, employees, and clergy to act with justice, love tenderly, acknowledge the diversity in the Diocese and promote Catholic social teachings.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, explained the rationale for The Parramatta Way.
“Young children thrive when they live and grow in a healthy environment, including family, extended network, neighbourhood and community. They flourish when their needs are met and their relationships within the ‘bigger picture’ are nurtured,” he said.
“As Catholics, we believe and draw inspiration from the God of right relationships. It is the relational model of the Trinity which was revealed in Jesus’ style of radical solidarity, service and love that we seek to emulate.
“The Parramatta Way of Safeguarding is built on the foundation of Christian faith. We mirror the way of Jesus who came to empower all to live life to the full. May we help create and facilitate safe, caring and nurturing environments for our children to thrive.”
Seventeen-year-old Nathan Khoury, from Parramatta Marist High School, Westmead, was invited to participate in the working group that developed the statement. The diverse group discussed how to articulate what Safeguarding means and consisted of members of parish communities and the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta school community, youth and employees.
“Everyone in the group felt they had an obligation to ensure The Parramatta Way covers all people,” says Nathan.
“We felt Safeguarding is a way that members of the Diocese can follow the footsteps of Christ, as people of the Church. We can be there for those that need protecting.”
Nathan explained the responsibility the group felt for past survivors of abuse. “So many people have been through so much,” he said.
“We need to let people who have been harmed through the Church, that ‘we are here for you’.”
At the same time, the statement needed to set the direction for the future. Nathan explains the deliberate inclusion of the words “zero tolerance of abuse”. “We want to make it clear that no abuse is acceptable.”
He admits when he was first invited to participate, he felt a little unsure of what he could contribute. “When I first got the invitation to participate through my school principal, I thought ‘I’m not a professional. How will what I say have any impact?’”
However, he soon realised the value different perspectives brought to the project. “The Diocese of Parramatta is one of the most diverse communities in Australia,” he explained. “We realised we also needed to honour the gifts and talents our people can bring no matter their background or ability. Knowing you can bring your gifts to Church life, helps people to thrive.
“We wanted the words to reflect that sense of belonging for everyone, which also comes with protection and support.”
The Parramatta Way acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land in which the Diocese sits – the Darug and Gundungurra people. Indigenous artist Brett Groves, who grew up in Mt Druitt and now lives in the Blue Mountains, developed the artwork for the statement.
The artwork represents the 46 parishes, the District of Marsden Park and the Holy Spirit Seminary, the two rivers, the mountains and the people of the Diocese of Parramatta. He also explained that he was attracted to the project because the project felt inclusive and felt that it was helping “right the wrongs of the past.”
Related: The art behind ‘The Parramatta Way’
To Nathan, the development of The Parramatta Way symbolised the type of Church he wants to belong to. “A place where people understand their obligations,” he explained. “A place of discussion, warmth and protection.”
The Parramatta Way statement can be seen on the Safeguarding website safeguarding.org.au.
Next year, it will also be displayed in the Bethany Centre, the offices of the Diocese of Parramatta.
Tracy McLeod-Howe, Head of Safeguarding, hopes that parishes will also display the artwork on their websites and in their churches and buildings.
“We want everyone in the Diocese of Parramatta to have access and understand this is how we treat all people, especially the vulnerable,” she said. “The Parramatta Way asks us to act as God has asked us to, as explained by the verse Micah 6:8
‘This is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God’.”
You can download a copy of The Parramatta Way here.
For information about Safeguarding in the Diocese of Parramatta, go to the Safeguarding website or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org