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.
As a member of the Catholic Education Commission I always look forward to the opportunity to visit another diocese. I have very fond memories of the visits I have been able to make to the Dioceses of Wagga Wagga, Wollongong, Wilcannia-Forbes, Bathurst and Lismore. One of my great memories is witnessing how the Catholic Education Office in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes supports its teachers in such a diverse diocese. As I travelled from Forbes to Condobolin and then to Hillston, Cobar, Bourke, Brewarrina, Nyngan, Trangie and Narromine I was struck by the commitment of the staffs of those mostly small schools to their roles in Catholic education.
Last week it was the turn of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle to welcome the CEC to Newcastle and to host the members of the commission in a number of our schools across the diocese. And what a welcome it was!
On Wednesday, Bishop Peter Comensoli , the Chair of the CEC and Bishop of Broken Bay, and 17 members of the CEC and its secretariat, visited schools across all areas of our diocese. The welcome extended to them was extraordinary, delivered by principals, staff and students who are obviously very proud of their schools. The visit impacted on the CEC members in different ways, with many stories relayed at our meeting on Thursday morning.
If I had to summarise the commissioners’ observations in their various host schools , it would be their delight at the quality of student leadership in our diocese, something that Bishop Bill has identified and commented upon since his appointment as bishop of our diocese. Similarly one of the commissioners remarked on “how comfortable the students were in their own skin” and how they communicated to the visitors to their schools.
On Wednesday evening Bishop Comensoli and our Vicar General, Fr Brian Mascord, along with a number of our diocesan clergy, celebrated Mass in Sacred Heart Cathedral for the Commission and we were joined by principals, staff and students from across our diocese. 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 K-12, Singleton.
The hospitality demonstrated by CSO and school staff to our visitors was extraordinary and so much appreciated by our guests. I had the privilege of escorting Bishop Comensoli, Mrs Sharon Cooke, who represents Indigenous parents on the CEC and Mr Ian Baker, Director of Education Policy and Programs at the CEC, to St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen and St Joseph’s Primary School, Denman.
The Upper Hunter hospitality extended to us was extraordinary. In both cases it was the student leaders‘ demonstration of great pride in their schools that so impressed our visitors. As one student at Aberdeen said to me, they were proud to show us that their school is an important part of our diocese and that Catholic education flourishes in the Upper Hunter.
I shared in this pride on hearing many positive and affirming stories from the school visits shared by our CEC guests and our accompanying members of our CSO Leadership Team. I am not surprised − but I am very thankful to all who make our schools such special places in which our students flourish.
To all involved in the CEC visit, I extend my sincere gratitude for all that was done to ensure that our system of education was showcased in such a way as to demonstrate the quality of education provided in our diocese.