Aunty Mary's incredible gift

Lucia Minto, 12, has been announced as the winner of the 2021 Australian Catholics ‘Young Voices’ competition for her powerful digital story, The cover is not the book.

The St Joseph’s Primary School, Merewether student compiled the video as part of a school project. Although she beat hundreds of students from across the country to take out the top gong, it’s not the prestige that has her overjoyed.

“I’m excited to have won the award because hopefully, it will help to get the message out and make an impact in people’s lives,” Lucia said.

That message, she hopes to share, is about the importance of not discriminating against others based on their appearance.

“We just don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life.”

The video incorporates a personal perspective and places Lucia’s relationship with her great aunty, Mary, in the spotlight.

Mary, 64, lives in Lake Macquarie and enjoys dancing and Australian soap dramas. But more than anything, the doting aunty, who has Down syndrome, loves her family.

“Aunty Mary makes us all feel very special,” Lucia said. “It doesn’t matter to us what she looks like; she’s still the same to the rest of us on the inside. I am proud of her.”

Lucia’s mother, Bernadette, is delighted with her daughter’s achievements and grateful for the profound impact Aunty Mary’s gift of unconditional love has had on generations of children in the family.

“To have an aunty who was so engaged in my life and that of my cousins growing up, and now our children as well, is special,” Bernadette said.

“Love is what binds us all, and when you’re with Aunty Mary, she helps bring that out in everyone.”

Lucia and Bernadette feel blessed that St Joseph’s, particularly Lucia’s teacher Mr Watt, encouraged students to complete a project on someone they admire, as the video is now a gift that the entire family treasures.

“At our school, we feel like we’re part of a community; it’s not just a place where you go to learn,” Lucia said.

The Cover is not the book 

By Lucia Minto

Everyone has a story. The cover is not the book.

But do we take the time to question?
To discover what lies beneath the cover?

Or do you judge the book by its cover?

Everyone has judged someone by how they look. I have seen children and adults staring at people with disabilities, the homeless or those who are behaving differently.

Sometimes they laugh at them, sometimes they whisper about them, sometimes they walk in the other direction because they have made a judgement about that person.

I have heard people calling homeless people horrible names. But they don’t know their story, and they don’t take the time to ask.

I want to change the way we see other people.

I want us to stop judging people by what is on the cover and to take the time to open the book and ask a question....what is your story?

Aunty Mary is my great aunt who has down syndrome. Many people will judge her based on how she looks and how she talks.

But I know her, and I know there is so much more to her than what people judge her to be.

Aunty Mary was the youngest of eight children. My Nanna is her big sister.

Her dad died when she was only 18.

Then, her mum when she was 27. Aunty Mary knows what it feels like to lose people she loves, and she still grieves for them.

After her parents died, she lived with one of her sisters and her brother-in-law for about 35 years.

Sadly, in the past 18 months both her sister Rosalie and brother-in-law Jim have passed away.

For the last four years she has lived with my Nanna and has become an important part of my life.

When Aunty Mary came to live with my Nanna it changed everything for her and our extended family. She goes everywhere with Nanna, which has included to my school for Book Week, school masses and open classrooms.

When I was younger, I felt nervous when people stared at Aunt Mary because of how she looked. I was worried that people would make fun of her and me because she looks and sounds different from most people.

Now that I have spent more time with Aunty Mary, I know that there is more to her than how she looks and sounds. Beneath the cover, she’s a really normal person with a quirky personality, feelings, memories, and a deep love for all of us.

Because of Aunty Mary, I wonder about people’s stories.

Everyone has a story. Take the time to see others through different eyes.

Eyes of curiosity, compassion and love.

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Lizzie Snedden Image
Lizzie Snedden

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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