The CEC is responsible to the Bishops of NSW and the ACT and to the NSW and Australian Governments for the administration of Catholic education in NSW.
Every August the CEC visits a different diocese, and holds its monthly meeting there, to enable the members of the Commission to gain insights into the education being offered in the various dioceses.
As part of the visit, members of the Catholic Schools Office Leadership Team accompanied the Commissioners as they visited a range of schools across the diocese.
Bishop Comensoli was joined by the Director of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Mr Ray Collins, and visited St Joseph’s High School at Aberdeen and St Joseph’s Primary School at Denman. They were joined by Mrs Sharon Cooke, who represents Indigenous parents on the CEC and Mr Ian Baker, Director of Education Policy and Programs at the CEC.
As they drove in to the grounds of St Joseph’s Aberdeen, a number of students holding their school’s flags, lined the driveway on horseback as others played bagpipes or stood proudly and waved to welcome the visitors to their school.
Following a student-led prayer, student leaders gave a presentation to the group about the history of their school. Following morning tea which was hosted by the school’s hospitality classes, students took part in a question and answer forum about the school. Students spoke about the unique role their school has in the local community and also about the outstanding initiatives and education offered which helps in the formation of well-rounded students at “Joey’s”.
The group was then invited to tour the school. Bishop Comensoli saw livestock and chickens and watched students drive tractors as he took in the country vistas. He then viewed some spectacular HSC artworks, spoke to a Year 8 Religion class about the sacraments and admired a number of new facilities, in particular, the Trade Training Centre.
Director Ray Collins said it was great to welcome the Commissioners to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and demonstrate the educational opportunities and facilities, and most of all, talented students and teachers, across Catholic schools in the region.
“Whilst I had the pleasure of joining Bishop Comensoli travelling to Aberdeen and Denman, it was an opportunity for all the members our Leadership Team to showcase the high quality education, facilities and technologies offered in our schools. The hospitality demonstrated by CSO and school staff to our visitors was extraordinary and appreciated by our guests.”
The school visits were also an opportunity for the Commissioners to engage in conversation with staff and students, many of whom led tours of their respective schools and spoke about its history and what was on offer for students.
“We aim to cater for our students’ varied interests and abilities. St Joseph’s Aberdeen’s focus on rural VET courses, for example, was particularly interesting for a number of the Commissioners.”
On Wednesday evening, the Commissioners returned to Newcastle to join clergy, student leaders and principals from the diocese’s 56 Catholic schools to celebrate the annual CEC Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Peter Comensoli together with Vicar General, Fr Brian Mascord and a number of priests from across the diocese. Mr Collins said, “...it was a beautiful Mass enhanced by the singing provided by students from our ASPIRE Performing Arts program and from St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton.
“As Catholic schools we celebrate our heritage and faith, together with our wider parish communities, so it was only appropriate that we do this with a Eucharistic celebration.”
The following day the Commissioners held their monthly meeting at the CSO Office in Newcastle West.
Photos courtesy of Emma Blackford and John O’Brien