Students and educators join National Mass celebrating 200 years of Catholic education

Throughout 2021 Catholic schools in WA are joining with others around the country to honour the faith tradition that has united so many children, young people and communities around Australia over the past 200 years. 

As part of 200-year celebrations for Catholic education in Australia, students, educators and guests attended a national Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth on Monday, 24 May.

Celebrated on the feast day of Our Lady Help of Christians, the Mass at St Mary’s took place simultaneously with others at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral, Broome, St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Geraldton, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Bunbury, and many more in dioceses in other states and territories.

Staff and students from St John Bosco College, Piara Waters, attend the 200-years National Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth, on Monday, 24 May 2021.

Catholic Education Western Australia Executive Director, Dr Debra Sayce, said that the Mass enabled students and staff to reflect on their place in a broader, connected community of faith. 

Catholic schools have been learning communities where families from all places and cultures have found an education that they value for their children,” Dr Sayce said.

“Catholic schools have always recognised that we work alongside parents and families, with the support of parishes, in the shared work of educating the children and young people of Australia,

“We have a shared vision for an education that nurtures the unique gifts and talents of each individual, that promotes Gospel values and Catholic Social Teachings, and that empowers children and young people to develop care for others, and for the environment; our common home,” she said.

Dr Debra Sayce, CEWA Executive Director, speaks at the 200-years National Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth, on Monday, 24 May 2021.

Today, Catholic schools are as important as ever, and more than 777,000 students across Australia fill them with vibrancy, joy in learning and a vision of our bright future,

Nagle Catholic College students stand with the Most Reverend Michael Morrissey, Bishop of Geraldton, outside St Francis Xavier Cathedral on Monday, 24 May 2021, before a Mass celebrating 200 years of Catholic education in Australia.

The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, prepared written and video messages of congratulations for the national Catholic education community for the occasion, with the video played at the Mass in Perth and at others around the country.

The bicentenary commemorates the anniversary of the first official Catholic school in Australia, founded in October 1820 by Irish Catholic priest Fr John Therry.   

The school, which Catholic historians believe was located on Hunter Street in Parramatta, taught 31 students.

This school was transferred to the site of the present St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1837 and was entrusted to the care of the Marist Brothers in 1875.

Parramatta Marist High School, now located in Westmead and St Patrick’s Primary, Parramatta trace their origins back to this first school.

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