Catholic Education Week

Catholic Education WeekAcross the Diocese of Ballarat, sixty-four schools educating 18,500 students celebrated Catholic Education Week, May 21-25.  Celebrations were launched on Friday, May 18 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St Patrick’s Cathedral Ballarat, followed by the annual 30 Years of Service Award Dinner.  Bishop Paul Bird celebrated the Mass and his homily can be read below. Following Mass, guests gathered for the Dinner in St Patrick’s Hall to celebrate and acknowledge staff who have contributed thirty years of service to Catholic Education.

Preempting the Year of Youth in 2018 and the Synod on Vocational Discernment, Pope Francis draws on Jesus’ call to his disciples in an open letter to the young people of the world: I would remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: "Teacher […] where are you staying? He replied, "Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him … have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. In light of the Pope’s words, the theme for Catholic Education Week 2018 was Come and See. This theme draws on John 1: 38-39, which invites all to a journey of faith with the promise of joy in its fullness.

A feature of this week was having Professor Thomas Groome in the diocese. Tom presented an all day workshop for Catholic school staff on Monday, May 21 to over six hundred educators who gathered in Ballarat to learn from him. After so many years of reading and reflecting on his books and exploring the movements of his Shared Christian Praxis with students and colleagues, it was a joy to be in the presence of such a leader and teacher… and to be learning alongside colleagues who share in our diocesan commitment to bring “fullness of life to all”. In addition to this workshop, Tom also held a session on Friday, May 25 for school leaders and clergy, as well as a session on Saturday, May 26 for parishes and clergy.   

For me, Catholic Education Week provides a great sense of belonging to a community where our faith is, as Tom Groome said during this week, “alive, lived and life-giving”.  Catholic Education Week offers a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate the contribution that our schools make to their local communities across our diocese. As communities of faith, hope and love, as education providers, as community hubs, as employers, as active community partners and in the service of parents who all want the best choice for their children, Catholic schools make a measurable contribution to our society.

As a Catholic education community, we celebrated with many staff who have opened their hearts to joy in its fullness in their school communities.  Twenty-six Catholic education staff from across our diocese were recognised for providing thirty years of service to Catholic education.  Imagine how many lives they have each touched with their work in Catholic schools! I was delighted to be part of the Catholic Education Week celebration on Friday night where I was in the privileged position of reflecting on my thirty years of privileged service in Catholic Education.

I was also honoured to be in the company of our three BDSAC Catholic Education Week Awards recipients.  The three Diocesan Leadership Awards seek to recognise leadership that reflects one or more aspects of the Diocesan Education Vision: As partners in Catholic education and open to God’s presence, we pursue fullness of life for all.

The Partnership Award was presented to Breeana Wade, Assistant Principal, St Joseph’s PS, Red Cliffs.  Breanna is the creator and developer of a digital version of the Professional Learning Communities Health Check (the CFAT Data Collection tool).  This provides an online platform within which schools can collaborate and track the health of their PLC.  It significantly enhances the process of the PLC Health check and provided opportunities for school leaders to collaborate.

The Catholic Leadership Award was presented to Jean Christie, Director of Marketing, Emmanuel College, Warrnambool for leadership that provides active witness to God’s presence in the education, parish and/or diocesan community and that enhances the education community’s Catholic identity.  Jean's work as Director of Marketing has been vital to Emmanuel College since 2008, allowing the establishment of a strong College brand and shaping and influencing the public perception and identity of the College within the local and broader communities.  Jean is a strong advocate for minority groups, an active supporter of the Performing Arts, a talented visual designer, a contributor to the social capital of the College and a great connector for colleagues, students, alumni and the broader community.

The Fullness of Life Award was presented to Tania Bruckner, Director of Professional Practice, Mercy Regional College, Camperdown. Tania has played a major role in articulating where the teaching and learning priorities of Mercy Regional College need to go. In collaboration with colleagues, Tania developed and implemented a comprehensive model of teacher appraisal and feedback for Mercy – Supporting Excellence in Learning and Teaching (SELT). This has brought about a tightened focus with respect to learning and teaching, increased collaboration amongst peers, greater capacity across the whole staff and improved engagement with parents around student learning.

As schools invited communities to “Come and See” what Catholic school had to offer this week, may you continue to experience a joy in your ministry and a sense of satisfaction that you have answered the call to serve in Catholic education. What else could be more important?

Audrey Brown – Director of Catholic Education

Catholic Education Week







30 Years Service to Catholic Education – 2018 Recipients

Chris Brouwers                St Paul’s PS, Mildura

Audrey Brown                  Catholic Education Office, Ballarat

Michael Busscher            St Patrick’s College, Ballarat

Leanne Carpenter            Mercy Regional College, Camperdown

Mandy Carroll                   Loreto College, Ballarat

Jean Christie                     Emmanuel College, Warrnambool

Nicola Crawford               Monivae College, Hamilton

Barbara Croft                    St Mary’s PS, Swan Hill

Leonie Darken                  St Patrick’s College, Ballarat

Janice Divola                    St Joseph’s PS, Red Cliffs

Peter Fotheringham         Monivae College, Hamilton

Clare Fuller                        St Columba’s PS, Ballarat North

Judith Gustus                    St Patrick’s PS, Ballarat

Sandra Harvey                  Catholic Education Office, Ballarat

Bernadette Luckman        St Francis Xavier PS, Ballarat East

Linda McDonald                Loreto College, Ballarat

John McGlashan               St Joseph’s College, Mildura

Peter Mullane                    St Francis Xavier PS, Ballarat East

Ian Stowe                           Loreto College, Ballarat

Joanne Wheelahan          St Thomas More PS, Alfredton

Leslie Butler                       St Brigid’s College, Horsham

Maureen Gstrein               St Thomas’ PS, Terang

John Healy                        St Mary’s PS, Hamilton

Gerard Nicholls                 St Brigid’s College, Horsham

Michael Owen                   Emmanuel College, Warrnambool

Lesa Thornton                   Mercy Regional College, Camperdown

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Homily by Bishop Paul Bird at Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral Ballarat,
Friday, May 18, 2018 to celebrate the
commencement of Catholic Education week

When I was visiting one of our primary schools, I noticed some sketches around the walls. They were drawings of a detective figure, like the classic image of Sherlock Holmes, holding a magnifying glass and looking carefully to find any clues that would help solve the crime. I asked the students about the sketches and they told me that the detective image was to encourage them to be like detectives themselves in their studies. Whatever subject is was, whether it was maths or science or religion, they would ask questions and then they would conduct an investigation to find the answers. Their teachers would help them as necessary but as far as possible they would find the answers for themselves.

When we have a question, sometimes another person will tell us the answer, and this can be very useful. However, as far as our personal learning goes, it often has more impact if we do some research ourselves and find the answer through our own investigation. In this case, we see for ourselves. We see with our own eyes, rather than relying just on what someone else tells us.

On the front of the leaflet for this evening’s Mass, we have the theme for this Catholic Education Week: “Come and see”. It’s a phrase we find in this evening’s reading from the gospel according to St John. The setting is near the town of Bethany, at a spot where John the Baptist was baptising people. One day, Jesus came to the place and John the Baptist pointed him out and said, “Look! Here is the Lamb of God! "  Two of John’s disciples decided to find out more and they asked Jesus, “Where are you staying?” Jesus said to them, “Come and see.” Jesus didn’t just say something like, “I’m staying at number 12 River Road”. No, he said, “Come and see”. He invited them to come with him and see for themselves. The gospel then says, “They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.” That little detail, “it was about four o’clock in the afternoon”, suggests that it was a very significant experience. They remembered it vividly. It happened about four o’clock in the afternoon.

In the following lines, we learn why it would have been so significant for them. It was the day they found the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Saviour. The gospel tells us, “One of the two who followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’, and he brought Simon to Jesus.” Jesus invited those first disciples to “Come and see”. They went and spent time with him. They saw for themselves what kind of person Jesus was and they realised that Jesus was the Messiah.

Jesus invites us to do the same. He invites us to come and see for ourselves. Come and spend some time with him. Of course, we don’t see Jesus in the same way as those first disciples saw him. But we can see him still. They saw him directly, as we can see one another here in the church this evening. They followed him to his house and found where he was staying. We find him in other ways. We find him in the Scriptures. We come to know him as we read of him in the gospels. We find him when we spend time in prayer. We find him under the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist. We find him in people in need. We meet him when we give food to the hungry or drink to the thirsty, when we visit the sick. As he said, “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers or sisters, you do for me.” Jesus invites us to come to him and see for ourselves. When we do, we have the opportunity to grow in our personal faith. We can come to know him as our Saviour.

As educators, we also have the opportunity to share this invitation with others. We can invite our students to “come and see”. We can encourage them to come to know Jesus for themselves. We can encourage them to spend time with him in reading the Scriptures and in prayer. We can encourage them to meet him in serving those in need. We can encourage them to spend time with Jesus, as those first disciples did. Then, by spending time with him, they will have the chance to come to know him for themselves. They will have the chance to discover Jesus as their personal Saviour. 

Bishop Paul Bird CSsR