Drive to teach the Good News brings joy

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Brigitte Waters (left) with Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Christine Riley at St Mary’s Cathedral on 7 February, 2021. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop honours heralds of God’s Word in schools

A “cheeky” deal with God to help her pass her driver’s test led Brigitte Waters on the road to a very special vocation. And 50 years later she was honoured by the Archbishop of Sydney for that work spreading the Word of God to thousands of students in state schools.

Brigitte has been a catechist for half a century and is very thankful for her charismatic then-parish priest who encouraged her in her vocation as it’s been through teaching her faith to primary school pupils that has given her a stronger connection with Christ.

However it wasn’t an easy call to answer. She had a two-year-old and a newborn to look after at the time and no way of travelling to and from schools.

Sydney’s cathechists received awards at their annual Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 7 January, 2021, some recognising decades of service. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

So the then 21-year-old made a vow to God “if you help me get my licence I’ll become and catechist” and last weekend was among 61 volunteers honoured at St Mary’s Cathedral for those who have given 20, 25, 30, 40 or 50 years of service as Scripture teachers in their local public schools.

She said after so many years she sees her role as being more important than ever and while her health allows “doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon”. “I get so much joy teaching the little ones and it’s made me so much more aware of the Bible and my faith,” she smiled.

“In all of my years doing this I see our role as more important than ever” -Brigitte Waters

“I often get asked how did I do it with a two-year-old and a four-month-old to look after but I always say ‘God makes time’. I sent all of my five children to Catholic schools and I guess I found it very sad that the little ones who went to state schools didn’t receive instruction in the faith. In all of my years doing this I see our role more important than ever, as less people are going to Mass.

“Interestingly I am finding one of the questions I am increasing being asked is around gender and ‘If God will still love me if I was born a girl but become a boy?’. And I answer, ‘Of course he does, he made you’.

“I guess it’s a sign of the times but after all these years if I am making a difference then it’s all been very worthwhile.”

Brigitte was joined by fellow 50-year awardee Christine Riley from St Mary MacKillop’s Parish, Rockdale City. Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP took the opportunity to thank the 6,000 catechists who participate in the religious education of 200,000 children in government schools around the country.

Not an ‘extra’ but a calling

“St Paul in our epistle says proclaiming the Word of God or catechising is no hobby or optional extra, not even something he chose for himself: rather, it is a calling, something that chose him,” he said.

“Of all of you I say with pride: you have not hidden your lamps under a bushel! You have made yourselves voices for the Word of God in our government schools, offering in St Paul’s words ‘the Good News for free’.”

To see what being a catechist is like, watch the short video on the CCD’s Parish Catechist Support homepage or view the three new Dare to be a Catechist videos on the CCD Sydney YouTube channel.

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