Strong young voices fuel faith in future

Xavier College Llandilo School Captain Paige Manning.

As night gathered over Parramatta Park on a cool May night, Xavier College Llandilo School Captains Paige Manning and Huntley Jones stood together to greet guests at a civic reception to celebrate 200 Years of Catholic education in Australia. Sharing a traditional Darug greeting, “Warimi Mitigar,” the strong presence of the young leaders made for a very moving celebration.

Huntley, a proud Murray descendant of the Yuwaalaraay people referenced the Uluru Statement from the Heart in reflecting on the significance of Catholic education. “I am proud to say here tonight, that Catholic education within the Diocese of Parramatta has given me the opportunity to ‘walk in two worlds,’ Paige, a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman stated, drawing on the powerful language of the Uluru Statement.

Xavier College Llandilo School Captain Huntley Jones.

Held at historic Old Government House, the event marked 200 years since a small Catholic school was established in Hunter Street Parramatta in 1820. Diocese of Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long and Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director Greg Whitby both shared their reflections on the milestone for Australian Catholic schools, with a focus on the Mission of Catholic education.

The program for the evening featured a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony from Darug Elder Aunty Julie Webb. Students including Darug Traditional Owners Shanaya Donovan (Catherine McAuley Westmead) and Jumikah Donovan (CathWest Innovation College) shared culture as members of the Jannawi Dance Clan. Guests also enjoyed entertainment provided by student-led string and Jazz Ensembles.

Diocese of Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long addressed the gathering.

Guests included members of the Diocese of Parramatta Curia, Aboriginal Elders, community representatives, members of Religious congregations, Diocesan, State and National Catholic Education Leaders as well as those from universities, Business representatives, the Parent Representative Council and school and system staff. Elected representatives in attendance included The Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP, State Member for Parramatta; The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Federal Member for Sydney; City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Councillor Bob Dwyer and Lady Mayoress Mrs Jenny Dwyer; Kevin Connolly MP, State Member for Riverstone; Julia Finn MP, State Member for Granville and Dr Hugh McDermott, State Member for Prospect.

The memorable evening provided an opportunity to share story, culture and particularly, student leadership. As Executive Director Greg Whitby told the crowd, “The leadership of young people gives us so much faith in the future.”

State Member for Parramatta The Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP, Executive Director Greg Whitby and City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Councillor Bob Dwyer.

Sr Patty Andrew OSU, The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP and Sr Venera Nicolosi OSU.

Our Bicentennial Narrative

Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta will continue to celebrate the bicentenary of Australia’s first Catholic school through a continued commitment to growing opportunities of Catholic education for all.

This milestone will provide the opportunity to learn from one another, inviting the voices, curiosity, and creativity of our students, teachers and parents to celebrate the gifts of faith and learning.

In owning the history of Catholic schools in Australia, we recognise the hurts of the past. We acknowledge the victims of abuse and injustice and continue to support them in healing together.

We acknowledge the history, stories, and Dreaming of the Darug people. We learn from the wrongs of the past, and these challenges guide us to a future that is accepting, welcoming and proudly diverse.

The history of Catholic education in Australia is far from staid, beginning with Irish insurgency in the early colony. We continue to grow from our beginnings in 1820, acknowledging the spirit, determination, and initiative shown by our earliest lay teachers.

Ours is a story of courage and determination with heroes like St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, a woman whose extraordinary faith effectively extended the opportunities of education to ordinary Australian children. We continue to grow from the foundations laid by the religious orders and the legacy of the clergy who dedicated their lives to building Catholic schools and their communities.

The contribution of the earliest Catholic schools transformed access to education for disadvantaged Australians. Today, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta builds on this legacy through leading, transforming learning and teaching and through outreach.

Above all, we celebrate all that unites us, and we commit to a hope that defines us, in living out God’s love for one another.