It is evident that Colleen Easton is a woman of deep faith. In a career spanning over forty years in Catholic education in the Diocese of Wollongong, Colleen has consistently displayed a deep commitment, loyalty and devotion to honouring her call as a spiritual, faith and educational leader. So it was only fitting that the St Paul's Albion Park Principal receive the most prestigious award of CEDoW's Lighting the Way Faith & Learning Awards Evening - the Lighting the Way Award.
Mrs Easton was awarded the Professional Practice Award for "Leading Catholic Life, Education and Mission" earlier in the evening - then selected as the most meritorious of the award recipients across all Professional Practice categories.
Colleen demonstrates a lived, authentic faith, which is evident to students, staff and parents alike as she openly weaves the gospel values into both her personal and professional life. She reflects on her faith through a devotion to prayer and she constantly models the importance of an active prayer life. Her life is inspired by the Mary MacKillop quote: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it”.
At the event, Colleen's outstanding leadership in Catholic Life, Education and Mission was highlighted by a number of very practical and humble ways she engages in her life as a leader, including:
- Introducing and leading the "Conversations About Catholics" program for Parents of Kindergarten students in her current school community. This ten-week program allows adults to be re-connected with their own faith and assists them to become more informed and able to support their children's faith journey.
- Supporting the Parish Priest in the implementation of the "Alpha" adult faith formation program at St Paul's this year.
- Being a support person in the parish Right of Catholic Initiation of Aults program.
- Constantly developing her own spirituality through reflective reading and involvement in retreats in order to support the staff in their development of this crucial area of Catholic education.
- Organising and leading Staff Spirituality Days, which provides the opportunity for Colleen to share her own deep commitment to her faith as well as her well-developed understanding of Catholic doctrine and traditions.
- Supporting and assisting with Parish Preparation days for the sacraments.
- Sponsoring many adults and children for the sacrament of Confirmation.
- Being involved in a variety of ministries over the last twenty-five years in her own parish of Saints Peter and Paul Kiama, including being a Parish Pastoral Council member, an Ordinary Minister of the Eucharist, a member of the Sacramental Preparation Team and leading children’s liturgy.
- Working proactively over the years with the clergy of St Paul’s Albion Park to involve and include school families in the life of the parish. This has been achieved through the organisation of school and parish Masses, sacramental preparation and ensuring that students have the opportunity to be actively involved in significant days on the liturgical calendar such as Palm Sunday.
- Supporting the Parish in the implementation and running of ‘Messy Church’.
- Regularly promoting the charism of the school by educating the community regarding the history of the Sisters of St Joseph in the parish and the prominent role St Mary of the Cross Mackillop played in establishing the school in the 1880s.
- Ensuring that a high priority is given to the teaching of Religious Education by supporting the staff in professional learning opportunities and the allocation of appropriate resources.
- Paying particular attention to signage, symbols, contemporary religious art and sacred spaces which all blend tastefully to create an unmistakable Catholic environment.
- Modelling Christian values in her daily life and encouraging members of the school community to develop their own faith.
It was shared with the hundreds of teachers and staff from across Catholic education in the Diocese of Wollongong gathered for the Awards Evening that Colleen has also shown outstanding pastoral care qualities with all members of the school community on a daily basis, including through organising a school support group to respond to families experiencing difficult circumstances, regularly cooking for staff and clergy involved in parish and school events, volunteering for regular shifts on the Vinnies Van and her high level of commitment to promoting the work of Caritas and World Mission through planning liturgies and fundraising opportunities for the school community.
Colleen’s nominator has had a long association with her over a period of nearly twenty years and has no doubt that she is the epitome of someone who lives out in word and action the advice of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved You.” Her nomination was also supported by glowing testimonials: "The pastoral care that Colleen provides is a wonderful example to our Parish and school community. She genuinely cares about faith development and is never too busy to take the time to provide people with the assistance they require," one said.
"When I mentioned that I was considering becoming a Catholic, her immediate reply was to offer to sponsor me for my reception into the church. Throughout this journey she provided a wonderful example to me and my fellow candidates on how to justly practice the Catholic faith," another praised.
"I was asked to participate in the ‘Conversations About Catholics’ program a few years ago. Colleen was the host of this program and I could tell straight away that she was very passionate in regards to teaching us about the catholic way of life. It was this passion and love for what Colleen cares about that made us feel not only welcome, but helped us to learn," a parent of St Paul's added.
Colleen is a truly worthy recipient of the prestigious award of Most Meritorious Professional Practice nominee of the year, and the Lighting the Way Award for 2017. Congratulations Colleen!
For more information on the Lighting the Way Award and the Professional Practices Awards, click here.