Bishop's Staff Week 2022: A time of reflection, connection, and learning

Last week staff across the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle were lucky enough to see our communities in action during Bishop’s Staff Week.

Eleven different groups visited a number of locations across the Hunter-Manning region to get involved and understand what the Diocese and its different agencies do.

Some of the activities included tending to community gardens, volunteering at a Community Kitchen, visiting schools, meeting parish communities and so much more.

I was lucky enough to go to two events – one at Taree and another in Mayfield – and found that both days gave me a real insight into the impactful work we do supporting students at schools, or those in need at CatholicCare, and how important the church is to the lives of people in our community.

So, what did other staff think of the week? I asked a few attendees, see what they thought below.

Kiara Southwell – Talent Partner Human Resources – Mayfield

The day has been amazing. It’s really good to interact with the other agencies, put faces to names and get amongst the places we work with every day such as St Dom’s, CatholicCare and the Refugee Hub. To learn about all the different programs they offer has just been incredible.

One of my highlights has been going to St Dominic’s Centre, one of the schools I work closely with, and seeing the programs they have for these kids and giving them so many opportunities in the community.

Alex Foster – Marketing and Communications Coordinator – Chisholm

Bishop’s Staff Day has always been one of my favourite work moments of the year. It provides an opportunity for me to step away from the busyness of everyday work and experience what our Diocese does first-hand. As a marketing and communications professional, it’s vital that I understand our agencies and their services so that I’m able to properly support them, so I find it extremely valuable to get that immersive experience.

It’s not often we get to experience the work of the Diocese outside of our immediate scope of work, but Bishop’s Staff Week provides that opportunity. To be able to engage with a community in a holistic way – from the parish to the early education centre, to the primary school, and the secondary school – helped me to see the bigger picture; to understand why we do what we do.

Gina O’Brien – Business Partner Risk and Resolution – Blackbutt North

My experience on Bishop’s Staff Day was one of joy. I absolutely loved seeing the students in action. It was wonderful to have them show off their talents.

The day gave me a broader understanding of our schools and just how much the children are learning and doing every day.

Kate Crncevic – Pastoral Ministries Admin Assistant, Leadership and Structure – Taree and Forster

It was lovely to get out in the areas I have not been and meet the locals.

Meeting the Parishioners from Taree was the highlight of the day for me – they were so warm and inviting and were a wealth of knowledge about the Parish Cathedral construction and its symbolism. I especially loved hearing about the ladies and the Prayer Group they started in the late 70s / early 80s and how it became a support network for them all, back in a time when these things were not so readily available, and people didn’t talk openly about their troubles with one another. 

Kate popped together this video to summarise her day in Forster. 

Gemma Hunter – Marketing and Communications Coordinator – Chisholm

I think Bishop’s staff week is a great idea! Everyone was so welcoming. It was really impressive to see our agencies in action and it’s also a fantastic opportunity to meet colleagues from Shared Services.

The highlight of my day was the student tour at St Aloysius, Chisholm. The students were so friendly and passionate about their school – it was lovely to see. Of course, the rest of the day was also wonderful.

It was interestingseeing how each community is so unique, but also that no matter where you go, our Diocese can support people in their community during any stage of life.

Adam Frost – Education Officer, Formation Religious Education and Spirituality Services – Mayfield

I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the Diocese does, you see the names of people and the different places we have but unless you go there and see them in action, it’s difficult to really get a grasp of what the Diocese actually does as a whole.

A highlight for me was seeing the wonderful work that’s happening at St Dom’s and the teachers and how much passion they have for their role and the way that they are looking after those kids with varying different needs – the creativity and the energy that the teachers have is wonderful to see in action.  

Rose McAllister - Manager Formation and Education - Eco Spirituality Day

It was great spending time with people across the different agencies. There was a commonality in the day as all who attended had a love of the environment and were willing to share this.

A highlight of the day was visiting the Botanical Gardens and spending time befriending a tree. Wandering through the gardens just after it had rained was magical. Visiting Our Lady of Lourdes Tarro was another highlight. Listening to Karen Tucker and Cheryl Henderson and their passion for the environment made the participants come to an understanding of how Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si is a living reality within the school community. We loved hearing about their journey, from the rainbow serpent path to the planting of the watermelon ritual each year so it is ready for when the kindergartens start the following year.

This was a great opportunity to develop relationships and learn about what is happening in its many spaces and places.

Sharon Murphy - Pastoral Ministries Admin Assistant, Leadership and Structure – Singleton

Our small group of five were invited into the essence of Singleton hospitality, history and Mercy charism. The weekday Mass, celebrated by Fr Thomas Chirackal, was relocated from Greta to Singleton especially for us which was a great gesture of welcome. Cynthia Mulholland of Mercy Services stimulated our imagination in her retelling of the Sisters of Mercy history in Singleton as she led us around the Mercy complex.

St Catherine’s College Principal, Niamh welcomed us warmly and hosted a generous lunch where Fr Thomas linked us to Tanzania to chat with beneficiaries of the parish Hope Tree aid project. Niamh confidently handed us over to 2023 school leaders, Olivia, Billy, Annie, Liam and Aoife who treated us to a personalised tour of the diocese’s only K-12 school. These young leaders’ knowledge of, and love for their school was evident. The Mercy spirit has clearly not diminished over the decades.

We also had the unscheduled pleasure of meeting a long-past student and author, Elizabeth, on her nostalgic visit to her beloved school. Our day concluded in thoughtful reflection with Fr Thomas and parish super-secretary, Erica. The wonderful connections and insights gained throughout the day will stay with each member of our small group.

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