In inspiring and uplifting celebrations, over 1,500 students from Year 6 classrooms around the Diocese have gathered together as communities of faith with Bishop Brian Mascord to mark their final year of primary school.
The series of Year 6 Masses with the Bishop saw students, staff, clergy and guests from 30 school communities congregate in three regional clusters across the Diocese of Wollongong - the first at Holy Cross, Helensburgh; the second at St Paul's, Albion Park; and the third at Holy Family, Ingleburn.
The Masses - each collaboratively planned and led by students - were celebrated with Bishop Brian and concelebrated with priests from the schools represented. Each church was packed to the rafters with at least nine schools, their banners and school colours lining the pews and perimeter of the congregation.
The Mass commenced with a child from each school carrying forth their school candle and proceeding to place it in a beautifully crafted sacred space filled with colour, light and meaningful symbols aligned with the Acknowledgement of Country - water poured into a coolamon, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candles, an Aboriginal cross and clap sticks to pay our respects to Elders past and present and their wisdom, culture, and role in the life of our country and Diocese.
Many nominated their favourite part of the Mass to be when Bishop Brian used his homily to walk around to all the students and address them directly, engaging them in ideas around the significant sacrament of Confirmation that Year 6 undertake this year, their final months in Year 6 and preparing for the unknowns of the future, such as high school.
The Bishop asked them what they considered to be the hardest things about being at the end of their primary school years. Students offered thoughtful and honest answers: losing friends; saying goodbye to the teachers and school they’ve known for the past 7 years; leaving the place where they’ve made a lot of memories; going from being the eldest and leaders of the school to the youngest again, where everything is new and uncertain; fears of getting lost, navigating unfamiliar places and routines... and more homework!
Bishop Brian empathised, assuring the children that it was not uncommon to be afraid or apprehensive about a sense of ‘newness’ approaching, and that God was with them.
“Yes, you’re leaving primary school and moving into high school; yes, you do have to say goodbye to the familiar environment that you know. But you’re not doing it alone,” he said.
“Just as the apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and they weren’t afraid, so too have you been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit at your Confirmation. Don’t be afraid to move onto a new experience like high school - that’s part of our growing. Just be yourselves, and remember you are incredibly loved by God and supported by His gifts." - Bishop brian mascord
“Each of us is a child of God. Even at almost 60 years old and as a bishop, I’m still a child of God. Like you, I’m still learning, because none of us has all the answers. You have to be open to all the things you can continue to learn; be open to what God has in store for you and the experience of God being present in you.”
In this national Year of Youth, Bishop Brian asked students to think about how they can be the light of Christ to others in their school, their parish, their home, and in their community.
Organisers of the Masses, CEDoW Education Officers, Cath Hailstone and Tim Hart, said the Masses were a very special occasion for everyone involved.
“Each Mass was a wonderful celebration and opportunity for school communities to engage with our new Bishop, Brian Mascord, and reflect on their time at primary school and the exciting opportunities and challenges ahead,” Mrs Hailstone said.
“A real highlight was the involvement of the students in the Masses and the inclusivity of all students in the days. Students formed the choirs, sang soloist parts, read, presented candles, organised the seating, set the sacred spaces, led liturgical movements and engaged in the masses reverently.”
She and many of the students present paid particular tribute to the rich live music accompanying each Mass. With students and teachers singing, and pianos, guitars and other instruments playing, the music prompted wholehearted participation from the congregation and gave a considerable energy and vibrancy to the celebrations.
“It was fantastic to have such talented musicians at each gathering, with Kathy Uroda and jen charadia leading the music at Helensburgh; Andrew Chinn and Rich Gilmore at Albion Park; and Tim Hart at Ingleburn.” - Cath Hailstone
Following each Mass, the students had the chance to have lunch together and mix with students from other schools - including meeting and talking to those who will be attending high school with them next year.
They also thoroughly enjoyed the Catholic Youth Ministry Wollongong (CYMW) team’s outdoor lunchtime concert together. Hundreds of children at each venue had an afternoon of fun singing along, jumping and dancing to a popular array of the band’s upbeat music - music that’s liveliness and joy stayed with the students long after all the instruments were packed up and the day had concluded.
Thank you to CEDoW Education Officers, Cath Hailstone and Tim Hart, and the Catholic Life, Education and Mission (CLEM) team for their vision and hard work to bring these Masses to fruition.
CEDoW extends our thanks to Bishop Brian Mascord, all the musicians, singers, dancers and readers for their contributions to the liturgies; to the principal, teachers, and students of the host schools (Holy Cross, Helensburgh; St Paul’s, Albion Park and Holy Family, Ingleburn) for their involvement in the liturgy, their hospitality in their welcome and providing refreshments; to the RECs, Year 6 teachers and other supporting staff for their organisation and preparation; and to all of the Year 6 students and their teachers for their organisation and efforts in preparing and attending the days.