The theme for Reconciliation Week is Grounded in Truth We Walk Together with Courage. National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.
Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Yesterday at the Youth Ministry conference, fifty students took part in a smoking ceremony with a member of the Gunai Kurnai tribe. This moving ritual is meant to cleanse and protect those who are present. Ronald was very grateful to share this with our students. At every gathering we acknowledge our First Nation Peoples, and we hear of the stories of those indigenous who have made an impact on our life – people like William Cooper, who marched against the Nazi regime in WW2, even though he was not even an Australian citizen.
The theme for Catholic Education Week is Listen to What the Spirit is Saying. In our year of reflection and discernment about the future of the Australian Catholic Church, and as we journey towards the Diocesan Assembly in September, it is important to celebrate the place of Catholic Education in our community. In the Diocese of Sale, we have 37 primary schools and seven secondary schools, with 9981 primary students and 8681 secondary students. There are 27 parishes and 24% of the population is Catholic. The Sale Diocese covers 44,441 square kilometres from Berwick to the border. We have 47 clergies, five religious and five seminarians. Yesterday, Bishop Patrick invited us to be thankful for all the blessings we have received from our God who loves us.
Our students have shone in the last two weeks and the dedication and participation of our students is worth celebrating in this special week.
On Thursday 16 May over 100 students were involved in faith activities. 26 students were staying in the city to understand the plight of the homeless. They had input from The Intersection, a group who work out of the Baptist Church in Collins Street. They helped us to understand the idea of empathy, and then the students put the word into practice. The activity finished with Mass on St Francis Church in Elizabeth Street. It was great to hear students report that they loved the experience. On the same night, 64 students were at Cantabile camp in Safety Beach. The students brought enthusiasm, faith expression and empathy for their peers to this two-night event, which concluded with the leading of the music at Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians, Narre Warren at Saturday night Mass. On Cantabile camp students connected liturgical music to their life of music, and shared stories and meaning in a positive, accepting and life-giving atmosphere. Finally, on that same night, five students attended the Berwick Soup Van, offering service to over 60 people in our area.
All these examples of faith in action we do for God, who calls us to live in community for one another and to make the world a better place. These three activities would not occur without dedicated staff who spend much time planning and leading such wonderful opportunities for our students. Carlos Escobar, Simon Cuckson and Joe Marsiglio are three staff whose leadership forges new and exciting paths for our students.
We have celebrated Masses at each Campus in the presence of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine painting. With Fr John Prest as celebrant and the participation of many students leading the Mass, the community was able to connect with the themes, images and stories of significant women in our lives, including Our Lady. Each Campus was reverent and present to these moments that included processions and beautiful music form Cantabile, and the Campus Music Ministry groups. As a Catholic community we do not worship Mary, but our faith tells us that she is close to God, so praying through her means that our prayers and needs can be placed in God’s hands.
Yesterday, almost 50 students attended the annual Youth Ministry celebration. Students from Year 7 to 11 were able to share an Acknowledgement of Country with Gunai Kurnai elder Ronald. They lead and took part in workshops that included input of human dignity, empathy and liturgical music. They celebrated Mass with Bishop Patrick, and their leadership, participation and energy inspired us. Students appreciated meeting and making friends with students from our Sale diocese secondary schools.
There is much to celebrate about the faith of our students and staff in this special week!