Thousands of Year 12 students from Catholic schools across the Diocese have gathered together in this Year of Youth to share their thoughts and ideas, and get to know our newly-ordained Bishop Brian Mascord.
Students from 14 of our systemic and congregational secondary schools participated in the Gatherings spread across the Diocese of Wollongong - from Wollongong to Varroville, Campbelltown to Nowra.
These young men and women - the student leaders of our Catholic schools - enjoyed the quality opportunity to join together in prayer, song, conversation and a meal with the Diocese’s leadership.
CEDoW Education Officer and organiser of the Year 12 Gatherings, Cathy Brown, introduced the students to Bishop Brian, who was seated among them: “As you approach the second half of your HSC journey, draw nearer to your HSC exams and contemplate life post-HSC, Bishop Brian invites you to celebrate your growth in faith and learning throughout the journey that has been your school lives - full of hard work, hope and unforgettable moments,” she said.
Official proceedings began with students from each school bringing forward a candle and symbol that both represent their school and Year 12 group. They processed in and placed their candle and symbol amongst the decorative sacred spaces laid out at the front of each gathering - spaces beautifully symbolic of the Catholicity of our schools and the unique, vibrant places of learning and faith that they are within the Diocese.
Listen to the representatives from each school speak about what their symbols mean to their year group and to the day:
Or go directly to your school:
00:09 - St Joseph’s - Tessa and Lleyton
00:42 - Corpus Christi - Renee and Thomas
01:04 - St Mary Star of the Sea - Cian and Gabriella
01:36 - Edmund Rice - Kyle and Nicolas
01:57 - St Gregory’s - Mitchell and Aidan
02:28 - John Therry - Caitlin and Joshua
02:41 - Chevalier - Hannah and Andrew
03:11 - Mt Carmel - Dion and Ryanna
03:41 - St Benedict’s - Maddy and Anthony
04:00 - Magdalene - Luke and Nina
04:19 - St Patrick’s - Lilly and Maddison
04:34 - St John’s - Zac and Emma
05:06 - Holy Spirit - Bernadette and Declan
05:29 - St Paul’s - Mia and Jay
The liturgical component of the day also included an Acknowledgement to Country, Prayers of the Community and powerful hymns led by the Catholic Youth Ministry Wollongong (CYMW) team.
Pertinent readings from the Bible were followed by student reflections that demonstrated a great depth of understanding and spirituality amongst the Year 12 cohort. A stand out was St Benedict’s, Oran Park student, Maddison Crawford’s reflection on St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 2:12-27.
“As students we often forget to look at the true meaning of the Scripture. In most cases we only ever use the Scripture when we need a good quote for our Studies of Religion exam. However, passages like the one we heard here today speak volumes to us as we undertake our final year of schooling,” Maddison said.
“I know that at my school, a great level of emphasis is placed on the way in which we must work together as a cohort, just as the parts of the body work together. Our results in the HSC, whilst based on how we work individually as our own ‘part’, are also dependent on the greater performance of our grade as a whole, as a body.
“This is what Paul means, that working together as one is complex. We know this, there are ups and there are downs, friendship struggles and bad marks, yet we are unable to do this alone. Just as Paul creates the image of a body needing all of its parts to work, we are not made to live the Christian life alone, or to undertake our HSC individually - we need each other.”
With the end of a chapter coming and a new beginning about to occur for these students, they all took part in a meaningful communal prayer, where with each new line, a new school would stand and add their voices to the chorus of prayer - culminating in the entire hall finishing the last lines, standing strong, together as one with Christ.
Read the Year 12 Gathering Communal Prayer here...
Read the Year 12 Gathering Communal Prayer here...
YEAR 12 GATHERING COMMUNAL PRAYER
As we pursue our dreams, we need to remember to take time to help and serve others, even if doing so slows us down a little.
As we explore and develop our unique talents, we need to remain humble, realising that our special abilities are gifts from God.
As life hands us challenges, we need to welcome them as ways to become smarter and stronger.
Pope Francis calls us to leave the comfort and inertia of our sofas and to go and make a difference in the world. Let us take up this message and have a positive impact on others.
As we acquire material things, we need to know that our most important possessions are honesty, integrity and the desire to make a difference.
And as we embark on the second half of our HSC journey, we pray that we are brave and courageous as we endeavour to reach our potential and let our line shine so brightly.
We make this prayer together as the 2018 HSC class of this Diocesan Gathering with Bishop Brian.
THIS IS YOUR LIFE, BISHOP BRIAN
In a ‘This is Your Life’ segment, Bishop Brian canvassed the pivotal points of his life to date, including his early life, becoming a teacher, becoming a priest, his parish life and varied ministries, and finally, his life since being appointed the fifth Bishop of Wollongong in late 2017.
Those gathered appreciated the effort and thought that the bishop put into his presentation to the students, complete with powerpoint and imagery to supplement his engaging stories. His openness allowed us all to gain a deeper understanding of him, his experiences and ideas, and the nature of his life. We are very blessed to have Bishop Brian leading our Diocese.
Students were also invited to engage with the new Catholic leader of our community in discussion around issues that were important to them. Questions ranged from how the church can continue be a viable source of moral and ethical guidance for young people in the twenty-first century, to Bishop Brian’s reflections on same-sex marriage, to his best experience of the Catholic Church to date. The bishop answered all questions with considered reasoning, openness, grace and authenticity.
He particularly encouraged students to get involved with the Church and “be a part of it” to make change from the inside - not as future members and leaders of the Church, but as present ones.
“It’s very easy to stand on the outside of something and throw stones at it. We can criticise from the outside but all we’re going to do is probably break some windows, so to speak...if we’re inside ‘the building’ [the Church], our voice can be heard. It’s from within that we can actually bring about change,” the bishop said.
THE LIFE CHANGING OPPORTUNITY OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION
The bishop listened attentively across the Gatherings as several students spoke eloquently about the life-changing opportunity of Catholic education in the Diocese of Wollongong. Their offerings were insightful and heartfelt and spoke of the many special moments, gifts and great benefits that a Catholic education has given them and their peers - in learning, faith and beyond.
“Being a part of a Catholic school has given me a platform to explore my faith and be of service to others. Embracing all opportunities my school has provided for me, I’ve learned the importance our two core school values - peaceful, just relationships and excellence in learning,” St John the Evangelist, Nowra student, Eleanor Petricevic said.
“Being a Catholic in this Diocese doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. Being a Catholic is what motivates me - to get up every morning, to keep going, to say ‘how?’ and not ‘why?’, and to reach that ultimate goal we are all trying to achieve, in spreading God’s call of goodwill,” Mt Carmel Catholic College, Varoville’s Rhys Evans said.
Bishop Brian engaged with the students’ contributions and responded with gratitude, addressing the group about his own thoughts on Catholic education.
“Why do we do the things we do in Catholic schools? What makes us stand out? Yes, we provide throughout our church, a system of education - but why? We do it because we are Catholic. We do it as a response to the relationship we have with God. Not because this is what God would want us to do, no. But because we reach out and become that face of God to other people - through education, and the simple activities that happen throughout our schools, like fundraising cupcake days [mentioned in St Mary’s student, Mia’s speech]. We do it because of who we are in Christ,” he said.
His message for students to take away was the importance of our relationships with each other and especially with God: “We can learn all we can about Jesus, but do we actually know him? There’s a big difference between ‘knowledge of’ and ‘a relationship with’ Jesus,” the bishop said, “That’s one of the challenges for each and every one of us...to ask 'what is our relationship with Jesus?'. My hope is you’ll be open to that possibility.”
“You are leaders in your schools and in your communities, and you are called to give example….I hope you can look back on your time here in Catholic education and recognise you’ve been called to something more. In this Year of Youth - of discernment and vocation - remember your prime vocation is as a baptised member of the body of Christ. What you do with that becomes your witness to that. To be a good human being, to be a good person, is the starting point.”
Bishop Brian rounded up formal proceedings by reminding the students of Pope Francis’ challenging and inspiring address in 2016 as part of that year’s World Youth Day celebrations, where he invited young people to be active and to make a difference in today’s world:
The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes”, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced….People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centred or small-minded. Don’t be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!
The bishop finished with a final blessing in song, his voice filling each school hall and moving all those who heard it.
Director of Schools, Peter Turner, took time to specially acknowledge CEDoW Education Officer, Cathy Brown for her many hours hard work and dedication to bring the four Gatherings together. We thank her, the CEDoW CLEM team and the Office of the Bishop for their creativity, generosity and vision in creating these occasions and giving them the greatest sense of significance and reverence.
Mr Turner then addressed the students: “You are shortly about to bring to a close a 13-year chapter in this part of your life story. Today is just one page in that chapter, but it’s an important one because hopefully it has given you an opportunity to think about the things that really matter,” he said.
Mt Turner echoed the bishop’s encouragement of students continuing to develop their relationships with Jesus Christ: “Throughout your lives, you have had - and will continue to have - a whole range of relationships...but the one relationship that will always be a constant, that will always be a safe relationship, and the one you can always trust is the one that you have, nurture and develop with Jesus Christ.”
The day concluded with the students enjoying a relaxed lunch with Bishop Brian, Peter Turner, CEDoW staff and the students from other schools in attendance. Seth Harsh and the Catholic Youth Ministry Wollongong team held an outdoor LIVE music session that students flocked to, joining in the musical fun with singing, dancing and a few talented students taking over the musical instruments up on stage. The LIVE sessions were emceed by CEDoW Youth Ministry Officer, Joel Duval, who led the students in a mix of upbeats and ballads played by the CYMW team, including some well-known pop songs.
The occasion was a special opportunity for our Year 12 students and staff - normally spread over all corners of the Diocese - to gather and share, talk and listen, together with Bishop Brian. The conversations and exchanges between the bishop and students were genuine and meaningful, and the schools were grateful for this unique chance to grow their relationships with the bishop, each other and God.