Faith, Family and Francis

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Some of the 696 students from 63 Sydney Catholic Schools presented with the Pope Francis Award for 2019.
Some of the 696 students from 63 Sydney Catholic Schools presented with the Pope Francis Award for 2019.

While Twins Ella and Keira Dunn don’t share the same looks, they do share a deep passion for helping others.

The siblings from St Joseph’s Primary School at Como-Oyster Bay are two of the 696 students from 63 Sydney Catholic Schools presented with the Pope Francis Award for 2019.

They received the accolade not only for their time volunteering for the community but also for raising $1700 for disadvantaged students.

The twins were the highest achievers from the southern region and said the program had given them a greater awareness of the importance of helping those in need.

They clocked up a whopping 71 hours each by altar serving, gardening around the Church, helping cover books in the school library as well as establishing a stationery appeal for disadvantaged students to earn the award.

“Doing the Pope Francis program has taught us both about the importance of service for others,” Ella said.

“Pope Francis is such an inspiration and a great role model and has taught us both so much.

“We learnt how much enjoyment you can get from helping others, and how much a small act of kindness really can mean to someone.”

St Joseph's Como-Oyster Bay students Ella and Keira Dunn. Photo: Genah Karagiannis
St Joseph’s Como-Oyster Bay students Ella and Keira Dunn. Photo: Genah Karagiannis

Jeremy Bezzina from Mascot’s St Therese Primary School was the highest achiever for the eastern region, racking up an impressive 77 hours by being an active member of Mini Vinnies, leading prayer groups, altar serving and reading at Mass while St Peter Chanel Regents Park student Stephanie Nguyen from the Inner west region completed 54 hours of service.

Established in 2017, the awards aim to inspire Year 6 students to roll up their sleeves and help others while encourage them to look for the presence of God in their life.

Students are asked to complete a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer work at school and 10 hours in their local parish, which not only assists others but gives students leadership and time management skills.

Director of religious education and evangelisation for Sydney Catholic Schools Anthony Cleary said often young people are encouraged to be involved in social justice issues but there’s no real connection back to their faith so the awards are a way of connecting young people with their parish.

“We hope the students who have been presented with their awards don’t see it as the end, but use it as motivation to keep going in the future,” he said.

“Pope Francis is a strong believer in doing rather than saying and that’s what all our recipients have done.

“We hope the students continue their fabulous work even though it might not be officially recognised.

“The Pope Francis Awards are showing young people they have a role to play in their parish as well as help reignite and restore our own faith seeing young people getting involved.”