The purpose of the Mass is for the staff of the schools, Catholic Schools Office and the Members of the Catholic Schools Council to respond “to serve the mission of God in the ministry of Catholic school education.”
In the commissioning rite, Bishop Bill Wright stated, “Together, you are the living stones which shape the ministry of Catholic school education. You each use your particular set of gifts and qualities to make a difference in the lives of your colleagues, your students and their families”.
The ritual of each school community bringing the names of all members of staff in baskets to the altar was a significant gesture, demonstrating the commitment of all staff to this commissioning ceremony.
This was preceded by the Dominican Sisters, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of St Joseph and Marist Brothers presenting the names of those Religious who have served in Catholic schools, providing education to the young people in the diocese for over 150 years. A photo story of the various religious orders set the scene for the celebration as the stunning choir sang a beautiful rendition of 'Standing on the Shoulders'.
This was followed by the recognition of those members of staff who have served Catholic education for 25 years or more.
The presentation of the annual Monsignor Coolahan Awards for Excellence in Education highlighted the quality service given by those staff members nominated by their peers for special recognition.
The recipients were:
- Excellence in Leadership: Helen Whale, Principal of St Joseph’s Primary School, Merriwa
- Excellence in Teaching Primary: Jan Bailey, St James Primary School, Muswellbrook
- Excellence in Teaching Secondary: Callam Howard, St Clare’s High School, Taree
- Support Staff: Sally Jackson, St James Primary School, Muswellbrook
- Support Staff: Dot Seamer, Holy Spirit Infants School, Abermain
- Excellence in Innovation: Elizabeth Stokes, All Saints College, St Joseph’s Campus, Lochinvar
- Excellence in First Five Years of Teaching: Laura Wells, St Aloysius Primary School, Chisholm
- Excellence in Community: Holy Spirit Infant School, Abermain and Holy Spirit Primary School Kurri Kurri.
A feature of the nominations for the awards this year was the nomination of the Holy Spirit Schools by the Parishioners of the Kurri Kurri Parish.
My very sincere thanks go out to all involved in the preparations for this year’s Mass, and to the many staff members who attended.
The Called to Serve Mass commences our school year and requires all involved in Catholic school education to model the words of the Prophet Micah in the First Reading in what the Lord requires of us “…to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”.