Mary Jane Baz says she got “goosebumps” when she received Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s blessing for new teachers at Sydney Catholic Schools Southern Region Mass marking the beginning of the 2019 school year.
“All those years of study and it just came down to that one moment when we finally got recognised as new teachers in the Catholic system. It was a special moment,” the 24-year-old said.
Ms Baz will be teaching PDHPE and Junior Science to Years 7 and 8 at Good Samaritan Catholic College in Hinchinbrook, the school where she herself was educated.
“I loved the school as a teenager. I pretty much never had a day off. When I was sick I always wanted to be there. It’s the environment, the atmosphere, it’s just a good place to be.”
Ms Baz said she hopes to be an “encouraging” teacher “who’s always there” for her students.
Andreas Fotokopoulas is just as excited to be starting his teaching career at St Paul of the Cross Catholic Primary School in Dulwich Hill where he teaches Year 4.
He said the SCS Inner West Region Mass motivated him to “inspire and empower” his students.
“I felt like we were family,” the 23-year-old said of the atmosphere among the SCS community at the Mass.
“Before moving into content and learning, it’s just having that motivation and respect for their own learning.
“Even for myself, it was never just about learning. It’s honing the basic life skills first and the content and learning will follow. That’s my biggest goal, just to motivate.”
Mr Fotokopoulos will also be welcomed into the Catholic Church at Easter this year, when he will receive the Sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation, and says this will enrich his teaching.
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“It was quite an obvious choice. I think if I’m going to be working at a Catholic school it is the best thing for me to have a full understanding of Catholicism, to be able to better my teaching and excel in my own education to provide the best opportunities for our students.”
Archbishop Fisher welcomed and blessed new teachers at the three regional SCS Masses during February—the Inner West Region Mass at St Brigid’s Catholic Church in Marrickville, the Southern Region Mass at St Joseph’s in Milperra and the Eastern Region Mass at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral.
More than 660 graduate teachers have been appointed to teach at Sydney Catholic schools in 2019.
In his homily, Archbishop Fisher said the “yes” of a Catholic school teacher must be “a whole-person commitment”.
“The passion for teaching and transmitting the faith must be lived with fidelity not just when it’s fashionable, but even when unpopular,” he said.
“As the Holy Father said at the WYD Stations of the Cross, we must make ourselves like Mary, that ‘woman of strength’, who stood at the cross with determination and courage, without evasions or illusions.
“Beginning teachers, and those who’ve been at it a little longer: embrace your vocation now. Be prepared, open, trusting and formed.
“Say a Marian ‘yes’ to God as our new teachers.”
Archbishop Fisher also inducted the incoming Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, Tony Farley, at each of the Regional Masses.
Mr Farley, who will take up his new role as head of SCS at Easter, brought “a deep knowledge and understanding of the Church and our school systems” gained through his current role as Executive Director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, Archbishop Fisher said.
Following his induction, Mr Farley encouraged the new teachers, telling them, “You’re joining 9,000 incredible colleagues, all made in the image and likeness of God, who are succeeding and struggling, sometimes failing and then getting up to learn and grow anew”.
He said the impact teachers can have on their students was both “life-long and life-giving”.
“On your journey, there may be days when you feel overwhelmed by a world that is so constantly changing and unpredictable,” he said.
“Our 152 schools thrive and grow to fulfil the needs of new generations.
“We meet children and families where they are and prepare them for a world of constant change and challenge.”
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He urged the new teachers to “focus on Jesus Christ” and “genuinely engage with him”.
“Turn your mind to him in good times and bad and you’ll be amazed at what happens.”
He also encouraged them to pray often, be optimistic and to “have fun” along the way.
The Archbishop also expressed his gratitude for the 10 years of service given by outgoing Executive Director, Dr Dan White, who will retire at Easter.
During his time as head of SCS, Dr White had a “considerable impact” and played a “pivotal role” in implementing new initiatives, Archbishop Fisher said.
Dr White’s achievements include establishing the Family Educators, Youth Ministry initiatives, staff faith formation, Eileen O’Connor Catholic College for special needs students, the Newman Gifted Program, the Catholic Education Foundation and many other projects.
Director of SCS Eastern Region, Mrs Elizabeth O’Carrigan, thanked Dr White for his “loyal service to our Church” and told the new teachers, “You cannot look any further for a wonderful exemplar than to Dan White”.
“Dan, you have championed the on-going commitment promoting the highest standards in this comprehensive system of schools,” she told him.
Dr White responded saying that serving the SCS community had been “one of the great privileges” of his life and that he had served it with “joy”.