“We live in enormously complex and challenging times. They are times of great threat and great opportunity. Pope Francis says, ‘things are no longer in their place. Our previous way of explaining the world and its relationship, the good and the bad, no longer seem to work….That which appeared normal to us - will probably no longer seem that way’” — Peter Hill, CEDoW Director of Schools
As part of Catholic Schools Week, 500 CEDoW staff gathered for a moving celebration at the annual Diocesan Education Mass. The Mass saw Catholic educators from all four regions of the Wollongong Diocese come together in a strong statement of unity and spirit at St John Vianney Co-Cathedral, Fairy Meadow, to celebrate who we are and we believe in.
Amongst the challenging and complex times we have entered, the Education Mass was a symbol of hope and new beginnings for the diocese, with the formal commissioning of the new Director of Schools, Peter Hill.
In Mr Hill’s address, he described Catholic education as “a precious thing to be treasured.” He went on to say, “young people in our care need us and our Catholic schools more than ever. They are looking for teachers who are interested in them as a person and learner. They are looking to build authentic relationships with significant adults in their lives who are prepared to listen to them. They place their fragile trust in us to help them with their problems. They have high expectations of us and so they should.”
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop of Wollongong, Most Rev Brian Mascord, and commenced with a memorable Welcome to Country. The stirring sound of the didgeridoo, beautifully played by Mark Mongta, filled the church as Aboriginal dancers from St John’s Catholic Primary School, Dapto performed a cultural dance.
In his homily, Bishop Brian reminded those present to be the face of Christ to those whom they teach and encounter. “Our students are people who are seeking, asking and knocking, and we as educators and supporters, are called to be there to answer them and help them in their seeking,” he said. “If we don't respond to their seeking and asking then maybe no one will, and then we have failed in our duty as disciples of Jesus and as bearers of Christ’s love.”
Bishop Brian’s sentiments were echoed by Mr Hill who reminded the congregation of their responsibility to ensure that Catholic education meets the needs of students. “We are all authors of our collective story,” shared Mr Hill. “Every day we define what it means to be a Catholic school. Our story is written not in ink, but in our actions. It’s up to us to create the narrative and write the story well.”
The Mass was a particularly memorable occasion for the diocese’s four new principals – Jane Webb from Our Lady Help of Christians, Rosemeadow; Michelle Rodwell from St Paul’s, Albion Park, Peter Michael from Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama and Robert Muscat from Corpus Christi, Oak Flats, who along with Mr Hill, were formally commissioned into their new roles.
New principal Michelle Rodwell was delighted to be able to share this significant occasion with family and friends. “I was honoured and felt privileged to be commissioned as a new Principal. To have my family, St Paul's school captains, St Paul's staff and the wider Catholic community bear witness to this ceremony was a very proud moment that I will long cherish.”
The theme of Catholic Schools Week 'embracing our future together' was demonstrated by the many talented musicians and singers, led by CEDoW Education Officer, Tim Hart, who joined together to provide a beautiful array of music. The joy-filled spirit of the evening was heightened with the angelic singing of Clarese McCabe from Nazareth Catholic Primary School, Shellharbour City.
Members of the congregation were invited to support the work of CatholicCare Wollongong and the many services it provides and offers to those most in need throughout the diocese. All funds generously donated during the evening will go towards supporting families and individuals that have been most affected by the recent devastating bushfires.
Mr Hill thanked all who attended the Mass and those responsible for the organisation of the evening.
“It was a great privilege to share this special moment with our newly appointed principals, new teachers and other staff, and the hundreds of others in attendance,” Mr Hill told staff. “It was truly a beautiful celebration of what and who we are.”