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Catholics of every background feature in Australia Day awards

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Musician Paul Field, Manager of the Wiggles and former lead singer for the well-known Australian band, The Cockroaches, was among Catholics around the nation honoured in the Australia Day honours list. Mr Field was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Australian Catholics featured among those recognised for significant service and leadership in the community in this year’s  Australia Day Honours announced by Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley.

And among Catholics honoured by the nation was Australian Local Hero of the Year, Bernie Shakeshaft from Armidale in NSW, who was named by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a ceremony televised nationally on Saturday evening.

Bernie founded BackTrack Youth Works, a program for disadvantaged young Australians in the Armidale region.

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“The people recognised today are outstanding and exemplify the best of Australia,” said Governor-General Hurley.

Bernie Shakeshaft, founder of the BackTrack Youth Works program in Armidale, northern NSW, a program which helps disadvantaged youth, was among those honoured.

Among Catholic recipients were the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sr Monica Mary Cavanagh, laywoman Rossanna Baini from Our Lady of Lebanon in Thornbury, and layman Peter Walsh from Nazareth Parish in Ricketts Point who were inducted into the Order of Australia.

The Governor of New South Wales, Margaret Beazley AC QC, was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia for work in encouraging women in the legal profession.

The Catholic Weekly spoke with Her Excellency and other Catholic recipients on the role of their faith life and formation influencing their achievements.

NSW Governor Margaret Beazley, was honoured for her work in the legal profession, including the encouragement of women in legal practice.

Governor Beazley spoke of her Catholic formation from schooling by the Sisters of Saint Joseph being an inspiration for her own work in the community.

“The philosophy of the Sisters of Saint Joseph was very much ‘if you see a need, do something about’ and ‘if you want to do something, go and do it,” said Her Excellency.

Sr Monica Mary, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her outstanding work in education, diocesan leadership as well as inspiring women in religious life in the Church.

She told The Catholic Weekly of Saint Mary MacKillop and the Jesus of the Gospels as inspirations.

Sister Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader os the Sisters of St Joseph, said she had been inspired in her work by Jospehite founder St Mary MacKillop and the example of Jesus.

“I was inspired by Mary Mackillop and her contribution to the Australian community [and] I have always had an interest in being of service in the wider community. I guess it’s the Gospel that Jesus spoke of – the sense of being of service to others,” said Sr Monica.

Sr Monica also spoke of her parents encouraging a community oriented mindset stemming from Catholic social teaching.

“My mother had a deep sense of leadership and community mindedness and my father always encouraged us to think about the work of the missions.”

Catholic parishioners feature in awards

Rosanna Baini, who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for work within the Lebanese Australian community as well as work in multicultural affairs for the State of Victoria, also spoke of her parent’s Catholic devotion inspiring her to help others.

“Whenever you see someone in need, you help – that’s what it means to be Catholic. I have helped Muslims, Hindus and people from all backgrounds and the most important thing here is to help others,” said Mrs Baini.

“I have helped Muslims, Hindus and people from all backgrounds and the most important thing here is to help others.”

“I am the way I am because of my dad- he was a very strong Catholic. And my mother would go to Mass every day.”

Mrs Baini also spoke of the strength of her Catholic marriage with support of her late husband Clark, who she nursed for 13 years until his passing in 2017.

“He was the one that stood by me for everything. He was my guardian angel in life and even though he is gone I feel his presence constantly. I am very lucky to have had that relationship.”

Catenian honoured

Mr Peter Walsh, who migrated to Australia from the UK in 1975, was recognised for his work within Catholic organisations in Victoria including his role in the Catenians – especially for helping establish a Catenian community in the Holy Land. For his work Mr Walsh was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.

The Catenians are a Catholic men’s fraternity with branches in every state of Australia who meet with the goal of strengthening Catholic family life and faith; local meetings are known as ‘circles.’

“We were instrumental in starting a Catenian circle in Nazareth- the first circle in the Holy Land,” Mr Walsh told The Catholic Weekly.

“The circle is very much supported by the local clergy and visitors now come from circles around the world to Nazareth.”

Mr Walsh’s advice to young Catholics in Australia was to be strong in the faith and to be involved in lay Catholic groups to make a difference in society.

“Stick together and take your faith seriously. Get involved in Catholic action and you’ll find that rewarding and a good basis for life.”

Other Catholic recipients included Pauline Nugent AM,  Australian Catholic University Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost,  and Marea Nicholson AM, recently retired ACU Deputy Vice Chancellor, who both received a Member of the Order of Australia.


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