June 19, 2018

Michael helps bridge school-church gap

Michael Feraz, the only male Family Educator out of 106 in the Archdiocese of Sydney. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

After 30 years in the corporate world, Michael Feraz had it all – or so he thought!

A successful career with one of Australia’s largest retailers, he travelled the country, held the respect of his peers and was financially secure however there was one thing missing that he just couldn’t buy – time with his family. With his children, Isabelle, 14, and Oliver, 12, very quickly growing up without him, Michael decided to make some changes and from that moment he said his prayers were answered.

Michael became a Family Educator at St Patrick’s at Kogarah, a part-time role designed to help foster meaningful relationships between schools, families and the parish. And as the only male Family Educator in the Sydney Archdiocese, he said the happiness offered by his new calling has certainly outweighed the fairly sizable financial challenges.

“It has been financially difficult giving up the corporate world but you can’t put a value on the work I’m doing now,” he said. “Traditionally males are the ones who earn the money and where possible the mum’s stay at home with the kids, that’s just how it is.

“But there comes a time when you just have to stop and realise what you have, my kids were getting older right in front of me and I was missing out on so much. I wanted to re-connect with them, get to know them again, know their friends while also strengthening our faith.

“I held a special day for dad’s recently and thought I’d be lucky to get 40 of them show up as it was held during working hours and to my sheer delight I had over 200 dads turn up. “Seeing the joy on their faces spending quality time with their kids was something I’ll never forget.

The Family Educator Project was piloted in 2010 with just six people and today it has grown to 106 offering opportunities for families to come together and grow their faith in their parish. Latest figures show four out of five young families don’t attend Mass, yet send their children to Catholic schools so the program was designed to bridge the gap between the church and the home. Activities such as prayer meetings, morning teas, parent craft sessions, times of reflection and meetings for parents with toddlers are regular events aimed  at parents who can then share their faith with their children.

For Michael, his role as not only a way for families to connect with their faith – but also with each other.

“We ask the parents why they select a Catholic school and the majority say to develop their children’s faith but it seems it’s something they are happy to leave to the schools,” he said. “However, faith is something you should have wherever you are. We are hoping to encourage parents to not only grow their own faith but encourage their children’s as well.”

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