From the quiet and largely unseen activities to the biggest youth Catholic gathering in the world, the 50 or so Catholic school recipients of this year’s Archbishop’s Awards for Excellence have all excelled in extra-curricular activities of one kind or another which go to their faith and values.
The activities which led to their being acknowledged by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on Friday 6 September vary from forming prayer groups with other students to giving out food on the streets of Sydney’s CBS and lending an ear to the down and out.
Among many other things, Tina Martic from St Ursula’s College in Kingsgrove participated in a course of the Theology of the Body in December 2018.
Theology of the Body ‘opened my eyes’
What’s a young Australian student doing absorbing the massive body of work produced over several decades by a Polish philosopher pope?
“I thought it was fantastic,” she told The Catholic Weekly
“It really opened my eyes to different things about the Church and its teaching. Some things I wasn’t educated about and I didn’t know much about. It taught me about the Church and sexuality, its views on marriage and chastity. It opened my eyes to all these different perspectives that we’re not really taught about in school or we don’t really hear about in the media or anything like that.”
A member of the choir at St Anthony’s Croatian Church at Summer Hill, she’s serious about knowing her faith and has attended numerous lectures and seminars conducted by religious leaders – contributing also to the liturgical life of St Ursula’s College by proclaiming the Word at Mass and serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
Students show they can share the Gospel
In part, Archbishop Anthony Fisher told an audience of several hundred made up of students, families, friends and school staff, he is always excited to present the annual awards for excellence begun in 1999 by Cardinal Clancy and now marking their 20th anniversary.
“It is a great occasion for recognising and congratulating the leadership and example that you and other young people have given in our schools, as part of the Church’s broader mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to twenty-first century Sydney,” he told an audience of hundreds which included family, friends and teachers.
Down among the homeless
Tom Goddard from Marist College, North Shore, volunteers at the Matt Talbot Hostel for homeless men run by the St Vincent de Paul Society.
He goes on Night Patrol every fortnight. He and fellow volunteers prepare sandwiches and refreshments for the homeless and distribute them from a van on the streets.
From the St Vincent De Paul depot the van visits Martin Place, Ward Park and Central Station in the CBD to distribute food and hot drinks and talk with those who too often have no-one else in their lives to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Michael Nguyen from St Mary’s Cathedral College is also a volunteer at Matt Talbot, an experience which has taught him some important lessons.
But going to World Youth Day in January this year in Panama was life-changing, he said.
“It allowed you to see that there are so many people who love the same God, especially from so many different nationalities. Just for me personally, seeing other people there and seeing how joyful they are, even though some of them might not have so much, they have the same love of Christ, the same love of God,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“Sharing that love and joy with us, it was just really beautiful.”
However one of the highlights of volunteering at Matt Talbot Hostel is the conversations, he said.
“It’s really good to have conversation with the people that go there as well, to learn how they think, how they may have been, because they don’t really have people to talk to. So just having someone to talk to can be really great for them,” he said.
Sharing the Mercy around
Rebecca Apap, the College Liturgy Prefect at Domremy College in Five Dock, actively contributes to not only the Catholic life of the College but also All Hallows Parish, Five Dock.
Together with a friend, the two students sought to introduce the Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet every Friday. Their group has grown to 20 or so students who meet every Friday to pray together.
She had a simple reason for co-founding the prayer group: “I have a special devotion to Jesus,” she told The Catholic Weekly.
Rebecca assists with leading morning prayer and initiated praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet throughout the year. She also participated in the Mother/Daughter Lenten Group.
She serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for Masses at the College and at her previous parish of St Joseph’s, Camperdown, she assisted with the Children’s Liturgy.
Daniel Perinich from Freeman Catholic College in Bonnyrigg Heights, however, is inspirational – pure and simple.
In October 2010 Daniel was involved in an horrific car accident which left him with a debilitating brain injury and tragically took the life of his younger brother Sam.
Daniel has never fully recovered from his injuries, but he refused to let the sorrow and the suffering conquer him.
Heroic attitude that inspires others
“He’s here with me today – I know that,” he told The Catholic Weekly of the younger brother he lost so tragically.
Instead of giving up on life, as many others might, he set out to conquer it.
“Since then I have just always tried to do my best in everything I do. My motto is ‘never give
up,’ which I see as a really important value in my life,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“So I’ve learned to never give up and always keep pushing for whatever you want in life.”
Sydney Catholic Schools Director of Religious Education, Anthony Cleary, said the awards show young people shouldn’t be written off.
“I think at a time when there is so much speculation about the faith lives of young people, about how they might contribute to Australian society, times like this fill us with great hope,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“These [young people] really reflect Pope St John Paul II’s challenge to youth: to be saints for the new millennium.”