This year, 895 Australians from all walks of life have been recognised in the Australia Day Honours List. Among them are Catholics, often unsung-heroes, who have selflessly served the Church and the wider Australian community for many years.
Eighty-eight year-old Sister Sheelah Frances Mogan says she is “astonished” to be awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia. The Brigidine Sister who lives in Randwick has been recognised for her long career as a teacher in Catholic schools, spanning almost 60 years.
For the past 15 years Sr Sheelah has helped provide lunch for the homeless every Wednesday at St Canice’s Parish in King’s Cross. She also visits a range of nursing homes around Sydney.
“I can’t believe it,” Sr Sheelah said modestly. “Because I’m very ordinary. Truly, I don’t do anything special. I don’t know why I was selected.”
She expressed hope that she was living up to the dictum of her order that “A Brigidine Sister does ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
Fr Francis Phuong Tran of Dapto NSW, who arrived in Australia as a boat person fleeing Communist Vietnam in 1987, also received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the Catholic Church and the community of Australia.
“It’s a surprise for me. I feel very humbled and honoured. Because I am a boat person, a refugee and I just do completely ordinary, normal things.”
“It’s an honour for the Catholic Church,” he said. Fr Francis has served in several parishes in the Wollongong Diocese since he was ordained in 1995.
Mr Gregory Byrne Whitby from the inner-West Sydney suburb, Five Dock, was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his “service to education in the Catholic school system as a leader, administrator, advocate and teacher.”
“I’m honoured and taken aback. It’s a recognition of all the collaborative work, all that work I didn’t do by myself,” Mr Whitby said.
Mr Whitby, currently Executive Director of Catholic Education in the Parramatta Diocese, has held several high-level positions within Catholic Education in the Sydney, Parramatta and Wollongong dioceses.
“The thing that drives me is that I want each and every child to have the best possible teacher and the best possible schooling experience.”
Mr Brian James Spencer of Hallet Cove in SA has been made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the community through the St Vincent de Paul Society in South Australia.
Mr Spencer has fulfilled numerous roles with Vinnies including State President and has served on their Home Visitation Program, Fred’s mobile food service and at the Homeless Men’s Shelter.
He said his Australia Day honour was “a bit of a surprise”.
“As much as anything it’s a recognition of what all of the Vincentian people do.”
He said Vinnies is about “treating people as real people, and each person as somebody who’s important and worth something.”
Dr Reginald Raymond Storrier, of Crace in the ACT has been named a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to agriculture specialising in soil science, to education as an academic and administrator, and to the Catholic Church in Australia.
After working as an agricultural scientist, Dr Storrier moved into Catholic education and held a series of prominent positions with the Australian Catholic University and was also Chairman of the Catholic Education Commission in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.
“I feel very honoured,” Dr Storrier said.
Fr Edward Joseph Harte of Bendigo in Victoria has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Catholic Church and to the community after many years serving in parishes and hospitals in country Victoria.
Benefactor of Notre Dame University in Sydney, Mr Victor Joe Paino, was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the seafood retailing industry, to ship supply services, and to the community through support for charitable groups.
*Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at www.gg.gov.au