From Kiama to Eagle Vale, Fairy Meadow to Moss Vale, Year 6 leaders across our diocese congregated as faith-filled communities, when Bishop Brian Mascord led a series of regional Masses to mark the students' transition to secondary school – an important milestone in each child’s educational journey.
The yearly Masses, which are a coming-of-age tradition for students graduating from their primary school education, are an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist and they also remind students how they can foster their relationships with Jesus through compassionate actions and loving words as they grow.
“It was inspiring to see the church full of Year 6 students celebrating Mass with the Bishop and other priests,” said Ss Peter and Paul Kiama Principal, Peter Michael. “The students' reverence, respect and participation was an authentic example of our connectedness through the ritual and celebration of Mass."
During the four regional gatherings, which were planned collectively by teachers and students, Bishop Brian presided with concelebrating priests from the represented systemic primary schools. The scriptural focus for each Mass was the transfiguration of Jesus. During his homilies, Bishop Brian encouraged students to explore this event through the Gospel reading Luke, 9:28-36: A voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him”.
Bishop Brian also asked the congregation to consider the relationship between Jesus and his disciples – and every one of us. “When we begin to know Jesus, we too, like the disciples or the apostles – Peter, James and John – we too are changed," he said. “We’re different, we become different – that’s the real challenge for us as we listen to the Scriptures, and that is the purpose about why you are in a Catholic school. Getting to know Jesus is much more than knowing about him.”
The Bishop also spoke about the challenges that can arise from a committed relationship with faith. “It’s tough being a follower of Jesus,” he said. “The beauty is that we are given the strength to do this through the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
At the Moss Vale Mass, Bishop Brian made a connection between the love of parents and Jesus’ love for all his children. He posed a question to the young audience: “Think about how you know that your parents love you, and how this correlates to the community of the Church and devotion to your faith”.
FINDING YOUR VOICE
During the celebrations, Catherine du Bois, Religious Education Coordinator (REC) at St Paul's Moss Vale commended the Year 6 students.
“The Mass was truly a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and deepen our connections with our wider faith community,” she said. “I was inspired by the way that students provided honest, insightful answers and listened so attentively [to Bishop Brian]. I was also incredibly proud of the way that all the students participated so reverently and enthusiastically throughout all parts of the Mass.”
"Witnessing each of the schools process in with their school candle to the words of their school's motto, demonstrated that our schools are living out God's mission as being places of love, learning, compassion and inclusion,” Good Samaritan Fairy Meadow REC, Kate Jennett, said. “To join together as one community, to be nourished by the Eucharist in song and praise, was completely uplifting."
Following each Mass, the students were able to enjoy entertainment facilitated by members of the Catholic Youth Ministry Wollongong (CYMW) team - the Youth Office of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong - where the children got to mingle, sing and dance together. They were also able to broaden their network of friends across the diocese during this time.
The student participation in the planning of these Masses is pivotal, as they voiced after the events. “I enjoyed all the student participation within the songs and with the prayers,” said Abby, a School Captain from St Michael’s Nowra. “The Bishop made us feel comfortable, especially when he said that Jesus is the proclaimed one and that he sacrificed himself for us - it made us feel really special.”
Memorable moments included the symbolic lighting of school candles during the procession, then their presentation by students, placed in beautifully prepared sacred spaces at the front of the congregations. The communal singing was also a highlight for students. “I enjoyed the most how we all sang and how we all got together,” said Mia, a student from Nazareth Shellharbour City. “The Bishop’s words also made me feel important to God and protected by Jesus.”
A highlight was the Recessional Hymn, ‘10,000 Reasons’ – a worship song that is popular with young students. This set the tone for a lunchtime outdoor concert which followed each Mass, coordinated by the CYMW team. “I liked all the music and how Bishop involved us in the Mass,” said Clare, a student from St Clare’s Narellan Vale. “The Bishop really encouraged us to get to know Jesus and to be a follower of his.”
The four-part series was a reminder of the sense of belonging that students from the diocese share, even as they move into a new educational chapter.
“The Year 6 children from each host school were gracious hosts and fine representatives of their schools,” said CEDoW Catholic Life, Education and Mission (CLEM) Education Officer, Amy Sammut, who was the driving force behind the organisation of each event.
“To witness the students and staff from all schools come together as a faith community and really enter into each celebration wholeheartedly was certainly an inspiring experience. I feel blessed to be a part of a diocese that supports such an important event that marks the transition from primary school to secondary school for our students.”
Thanks are extended to Bishop Brian Mascord, concelebrating priests, all the musicians, singers and readers for their contributions to the liturgy. The principals, religious education coordinators, Year 6 teachers and other supporting staff and students of all our primary schools for their involvement in the liturgy. Further to the host schools - Ss Peter and Paul Kiama, Mary Immaculate Eagle Vale, Good Samaritan Fairy Meadow and St Paul’s Moss Vale - for the hospitality in their welcome and for providing refreshments. A special thank you to all of the Year 6 students and their teachers for the effort that went into preparing and participating, with sincere gratitude.
Photographs by Wise Photography and Jeff McGill.