RAY COLLINS: A Week of Celebrations

The Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle have enjoyed a week of celebrations as they joined with over 600 schools across the other 10 dioceses in NSW to celebrate Catholic Schools Week.

In working with the Catholic Schools Week theme of "I Belong, You Belong, We belong", our schools have given great emphasis to the inclusive and supportive nature of our schools.

This has been evident in the many and varied celebrations undertaken during the week, including Open Days for parents and prospective parents, school liturgies, meetings of Parents and Friends representatives, student leaders from our secondary schools conferring with Bishop Bill Wright, Dio Theatre Sports, fundraising for Caritas and other charities, picnic lunches with parents and grandparents, art competitions and a ceremony celebrating the many years of service of a significant number of our staff from across our diocese.

A special part of the week is the celebration by Bishop Bill of our annual Catholic Schools Week Mass where he is joined by a number of our diocesan clergy in a cathedral packed with students and staff of our schools. It was a beautiful liturgy highlighted by the singing of the choir made up of students from our ASPIRE Performing Arts Program and St Pius X High School, Adamstown under the  control of conductor, Craig Wattam, Assistant Director of Schools. The importance of music and singing in liturgies is reinforced on occasions such as this and to the various soloists, choir members and Craig I offer special thanks for making this annual celebration of Catholic Education so special.

Another special aspect of the Mass was the presentation by Bishop Bill of the Bishop’s Awards to secondary school students who participate in the life of their parish. Initiated and sponsored by the Federation of Parents and Friends’ Associations of the diocese these awards recognise the contribution these students make to the liturgical and faith life not only of their parish but also their school. The citations read out were simply outstanding.

The recipients were:

  • Rebekah Leslie (St Paul’s High School, Booragul)                               
  • Elijah Doherty (St Clare’s High School, Taree)
  • Johanna Soo (San Clemente High School Mayfield)         
  • Clare Melville St Pius X High School Adamstown)                              
  • Lachlan Byrne (St Pius X High School, Adamstown)

This year, for the first time, we included in Catholic Schools Week a special celebration of recognition of those who have served in Catholic Schools for 35+ years and 40+ years, either totally within our diocese or across Australia. On Friday afternoon a large number of teachers and principals gathered for this ceremony with one support staff member also present.

The most years served by an individual was awarded to Sr Bridgette Davoren from All Saints College, St Peter’s Campus, Maitland who has served for 55 years in Catholic education. She was closely followed by Sr Marie Jones from St Columban’s Primary School, Mayfield who has served for 53 years and Miss Kath Russell from St Joseph’s Primary School, Charlestown who has completed 50 years.

In total the number of years served by all those being recognised is 3476 with an average service of 37.7 years. This means that tens of thousands of students have come under the care of these teachers and support staff and, as Bishop Bill pointed out in his comments to those gathered, they will have impacted on the lives of these young people many of whom have their children and in some cases their grandchildren, in our schools now. Both Bishop Bill and I recalled the names of teachers who had huge impacts on our respective school lives.

I offer my very special thanks and congratulations to all those who have served Catholic Education with energy and commitment over so many years.

To all of our schools who embraced Catholic Schools Week with pride and the sense of belonging I also offer my thanks for all you do to provide our students with a quality faith filled education.

The Catholic Schools Mass gallery can be viewed here

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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