Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Festival of service and faith

Debbie Cramsie
Debbie Cramsie
Debbie Cramsie is a writer and commentator for the Catholic Weekly.
Recipients pose for the camera with their awards for Outstanding Service to Special Religious Education (SRE) and to the Community during COVID. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Recipients pose for the camera with their awards for Outstanding Service to Special Religious Education (SRE) and to the Community during COVID. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

A colourful celebration of faith and the power it has to bring people together was held at Parliament House in Sydney this week.

Fifty people, including eight Catholics, were awarded for their Outstanding Service to Special Religious Education (SRE) and Outstanding Service to the Community during COVID.

Presented by Better Balanced Futures, a group aimed at educating families, parents, communities and carers about the provision and access to SRE in public schools across NSW, it brought together more than 400 people from all faith groups.

Awards were presented by NSW Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell and Minister for Multiculturalism, Mark Coure.

NSW Catholic Bishops’ representative and Bishop of Wollongong, Brian Mascord, said it was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the importance of SRE in public education in NSW.
He said it was a time to renew and make friendships with people who share a common belief in the importance of faith in the lives of young people.

“Tonight, it is an honour on behalf of all who share their faith with the young to offer a vote of thanks,” he said.

Amanda Gahan receives her award from NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Amanda Gahan receives her award from NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“To know that those in leadership of our State appreciate the work done by faith leaders goes a long way in encouraging them to continue to do what they do.

“Recently in my own diocese I had the opportunity to celebrate with our community who have given their time, their energy and in some cases at personal cost to be a sign of something much greater than themselves.

“The presence of SRE in our state schools gives families the opportunity to take up their responsibility of achieving a complete and wholistic experience of education in both religious and non-religious format through values and ethics.”

The award recipients for Outstanding Service to Special Religious Education were:

Dorothea Lenehan has taught Catholic SRE at Perthville Public School for over 40 years and volunteered as a driver for other SRE teachers who would otherwise be unable to get to class.

Kristy Komadina developed a Catholic Advent and Christmas resource in 2021 that was made available to families via a link in school newsletters and provided a way for Catholic parishes to stay in touch with SRE students and their families.

Four of the eight Catholics recognised on the evening are, from left, Fr Greg Morgan FMVD of Ryde-Gladesville Parish, Sr Mary Leahy RSJ and Somascan fathers Mathew Velliyamkandathil CRS and Christopher De Sousa CRS. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Four of the eight Catholics recognised on the evening are, from left, Fr Greg Morgan FMVD of Ryde-Gladesville Parish, Sr Mary Leahy RSJ and Somascan fathers Mathew Velliyamkandathil CRS and Christopher De Sousa CRS. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Michael Tebbutt was responsible for the development of Catholic Learning from Home SRE lessons during both lockdowns, which were used by Catholic providers across the state.

Award recipients for Outstanding Service to the Community during COVID were:

Amanda Gahan coordinated the “Food for Friends” program, an initiative matching families in need at her Catholic Primary school with parishioners to help with food and other essentials during COVID.

Parish Priest of Ryde-Gladesville Father Greg Morgan FMVD who worked alongside other priests in his community to meet the spiritual and physical needs of his community during lockdown including streaming Masses daily, conducting online retreats, youth groups, Bible study and prayer groups.

Fr Mathew Velliyamkandathil CRS and Fr Christopher De Sousa CRS (representing the Somascan Movement Australia) supported struggling families through the Miani Meal Service which offered hot, home-cooked meals and gift cards, as well as through free legal and advocacy services and daily pastoral visits to administer sacraments, provide spiritual care and emotional support during the lockdowns.

Sister Mary Leahy RSJ ministered to the seafarers, who spent much of COVID lockdowns trapped at sea with no idea of when they might go home. She collected donations and coordinated care packages ensuring that they were not forgotten.

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