Dear colleagues, parents, caregivers and families, and friends,
At the end of the school term we have once again been reminded of the need to stay vigilant, with the COVID-19 situation in WA and Australia remaining unpredictable. During the last week of school, we have been taking all appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our schools and the wider community, and through this week and the holidays, we can all play our part to limit the spread of the virus by following the latest advice from health authorities and government. I hope that the school holidays still offer you opportunities to rest and relax, to be re-energised and blessed through time spent with family, friends and loved ones.
We started 2021 celebrating two significant milestones – 200 Years of Catholic education in Australia, and 50 Years Together as a state-wide system in Western Australia. These anniversaries have been an invitation to reflect on the deep roots and strong culture underpinning our faith-based education and to celebrate the contribution that Catholic schools have made to society. The 200 and 50–year milestones have inspired activities in our schools and communities, and continue to shape some of the professional development and learning taking place as we consider the uncertainty of our present time and plan for the future needs of students.
The celebration of the history of Catholic education in Australia reminds us of the role our schools have played in shaping the individuals, families and leaders that have enriched our society. At the same time, our work in education, by its very nature, requires that focus on the future. We focus on how we are supporting our children and young people to reach their God-given potential, recognising that it is their courage, love and generosity that is already changing the world in many ways, and most importantly, that it is our students that are the future of our communities, and of the Church.
The work of the Plenary Council continues to consider what is being asked of the Catholic church in Australia, with Council assemblies set to take place later this year and next year. The agenda for the first Assembly has been announced. I encourage you to visit the Plenary Council website and engage with the agenda and subsequent questions that will be discerned, prayed over and discussed. I also encourage you to view the Fan the Flame webpage. These resources are designed to help parishes, groups and individuals to engage in the prayer and celebration life of the Plenary Council. Become ‘prayer partners’ as part of the Plenary journey.
At the end of last term, I reported that there would be something of a return to ‘normality’ for our Catholic Arts program of events this year, after this wonderfully rich celebration of student talent and creativity was somewhat disrupted in 2020. Catholic Arts is not only back with a full schedule of events this year, but is being invigorated in 2021 with the introduction of the Spirit of the Arts festival. The Spirit of the Arts festival will create a stronger connection between the Angelico Exhibition, the Catholic Education Carnevale and the Performing Arts Festival, while creating more opportunities for students to participate in the Performing Arts Festival concert, which is this year being held at the RAC Arena. It is certain to be a spectacular showcase of the arts in Catholic schools and I encourage all in our school communities to consider how your school can be involved.
With 163 Catholic schools and colleges across WA, there are countless stories of learning, achievement, and faith formation to celebrate every day. Catholic schools are committed to providing outstanding learning opportunities for students, and it is important that we celebrate and showcase examples of excellence across our system. The Quality Catholic Education, or QCE Awards will do this once again in 2021, and I am excited to see what projects and initiatives will be nominated. This year there are five categories that nominated initiatives can align to:
- Catholic Identity
- Faith in the Future
Nominations are open until Friday, 20 August. More information, including the winning initiatives for 2020, is available on our Awards website.
In the second half of last year CEWA launched the Every Child Counts campaign in partnership with Catholic School Parents Western Australia. The aim of the campaign is to secure fairer funding for students whose families choose a Catholic education. I congratulate school leadership teams and parents who worked together to engage members of parliament, electoral candidates and key stakeholders in the lead up to March’s WA State election. This was an important step for Catholic schools to be acknowledged for the significant social and economic contribution they make to WA. The campaign has drawn attention to our need for increased support for mental health services, for capital funding and for COVID-19 recovery support. While there was a concerted effort ahead of the state election, the need for fairer funding remains a priority for CEWA and we will continue to advocate for families who make a significant contribution to their children’s education.
During Term Two, primary and secondary school students in the Archdiocese of Perth came together for LifeLink Days. Hosted by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe and Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton, primary school students attended an event at Newman College, while secondary students participated in a rich day of conversation and discernment at Aranmore Catholic College. LifeLink, and other efforts to support the work of Catholic agencies and charities in the Archdiocese, are essential activities for us as faith-based schools that lead through service and are committed to the values of Catholic Social Teaching.
During Communio Week, students from all schools within the Diocese of Geraldton were invited by Bishop Michael Morrissey to reflect on the 2021 Communio theme of ‘Offer hope to others’, and on the caring services that operate within the Diocese, and how these agencies reach out to those in need. Throughout the week Religious Education teachers also led students in a variety of activities helping them to focus on those in need within their local community, and each school within the Diocese celebrated a Communio Mass. Prayer liturgies also took place around the selected theme for the year, praying not only for those in need, but also for those people and groups who work tirelessly in these agencies to care for those less fortunate.
CEWA’s Term 2 Webinar Week garnered a huge increase in engagement from our schools this term, recording participation from 35 schools in Term 1 to 49 schools in Term 2. Next term, Webinar Week is moving from Week 5 to Week 7 (30 August to 2 September), and I encourage you all to get involved in the collaborative spirit of the virtual conferences.
Stay safe, enjoy the break, and I look forward to working with you to serve the learning, development and faith formation of our students in Term Three.
In this, the Year of St Joseph, I conclude with this quote from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde:
“…every poor, needy, suffering or dying person, every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person is “the child” whom Joseph continues to protect. For this reason, Saint Joseph is invoked as protector of the unfortunate, the needy, exiles, the afflicted, the poor and the dying. Consequently, the Church cannot fail to show a special love for the least of our brothers and sisters, for Jesus showed a particular concern for them and personally identified with them. From Saint Joseph, we must learn that same care and responsibility. We must learn to love the child and his mother, to love the sacraments and charity, to love the Church and the poor. Each of these realities is always the child and his mother.”
Dr Debra Sayce
Catholic Education Western Australia