Special Celebrations

As Director of Schools I am privileged to participate in a number of very special diocesan celebrations throughout the year. Many of these are highlighted in this column each week.

Two celebrations which I attended during last week were closely connected to some extraordinary work being undertaken by our diocesan schools on a daily basis, though this would not have been immediately obvious to those who attended either occasion.

On Saturday 31 October I participated in the Deaf Pride Mass, celebrated by Bishop Bill in Sacred Heart Cathedral. This annual Mass celebrates the special work of the St Dominic’s Centre in educating students with hearing impairment and language delay. It also forms part of the celebrations within the deaf community.

A special feature of the Mass this year was the reception of the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Communion by a number of the St Dominic’s Centre students. It was a celebration of great joy.

The students and their families were joined by students and teachers from St Joseph’s, Merewether and Holy Family, Merewether Beach, with the students from St Joseph’s forming the choir and the students from Holy Family offering a liturgical movement. The involvement of other diocesan schools and the Cathedral community created a sense of solidarity, support and belonging and raised the celebration to another level.  

I extend my very sincere congratulations to Heidi Wilkinson, the Acting Principal of St Dominic’s, and the staff of St Dominic’s and Helene O’Neill, Family Parish Liaison Officer, who assisted the students in their preparation for the sacraments.

The importance of the work carried out by the staff of St Dominic’s was reinforced when I attended the Graduation Formal for St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton, last Friday night.  

Amongst the students graduating was a former student of St Dominic’s who had overcome significant medical and developmental hurdles in her early life, which resulted in her receiving two cochlear implants and consequently significant language development therapy, an integral part of the focus of St Dominic’s.  

Her educational journey took her through St Dominic’s to San Clemente High School, Mayfield, and finally to St Francis Xavier’s College. I was delighted to see that this student has, through her education, evolved into a mature, confident young woman , ready to embark on the next stage of her life with a positive attitude about her future, having confronted and overcome a good deal of the challenges faced by the hearing impaired.

St Dominic’s has a long and proud history, being one of the oldest special schools in Australia and many of its students have trodden paths that enable them to make a notable contribution to their communities.  

To all those who have worked to enable our students with hearing impairment to gain an education, whether it be through St Dominic’s, San Clemente, St Francis Xavier’s College or any other school, I offer my sincere thanks for your dedication and service. The graduation of all these young people who have faced such hurdles in their lives is a testament to all who have worked with them and to the students themselves for all that they have achieved.

Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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