Mercy Works walkathon for refugees

On Monday 19 September, St James’ Primary School, Kotara South, hosted the third annual Mercy Works.

In what has become an annual tradition, Year 4 students from Mercy schools in the Central region gather together on the last Monday of Term 3 to further their knowledge and understanding of the Mercy charism.

This program started three years ago and the regional schools (St John’s Lambton, St Columba’s Adamstown, St Therese’s New Lambton, St Patrick’s Wallsend and St James’ Kotara South) have raised thousands of dollars for worthwhile Mercy Works projects both within Australia and abroad.

Events began with a liturgy in St Philip’s Church and representatives from the five schools played a role, five Sisters of Mercy were in attendance and they too participated in the liturgy.

The project the schools are supporting this year is a refugee community, Mercy House of Welcome in Adelaide. This is a place for asylum seekers to come together and receive support from trained workers and volunteers, providing them with the support they need to build new lives here.

Therefore it was fitting that Sr Diana Santleben OP and local refugee Ellen shared their stories with the students. Ellen told of the struggle of resettling in a foreign country and relayed briefly what her life had been like in Liberia.

The students were mesmerised by her story and the barrage of questions that followed reflected the depth of understanding the students have about the realities of asylum seekers. Sr Di spoke of fairness and explained that “fairness is only fair if it is fair to everyone”, with which the students all agreed. Sr Di thanked the schools for their support of the refugees and invited them to visit Zara House in Jesmond.

This year organisers, Maureen Rak and Helene O’Neill, opted for the five schools to come together for a walkathon so the children could put themselves in the shoes of those who are forced to flee their countries and walk to freedom.

The cycleway adjacent St James’ was the perfect path for the walkers to chat with their friends, make new friends and for many, step outside their comfort zone. Parents and parishioners volunteered their time to ensure the students safety and Fr Terry also joined the walk under sunny skies.

St James' provided the perfect venue for the 300 students to share this day together. Many were already friends from sport or dance or living in the area, but the wide expanse of playing fields meant that they could expend further energy together.

Whilst the students were the winners on the day, their generosity in both spirit and donation will live on in the refugees of Mercy House in Adelaide this year.

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Helene O'Neill Image
Helene O'Neill

Helene O'Neill is the Parish-Family Liaison Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.