Commitment and care recognised in a variety of fields
Catholics across Sydney and the country were recognised for their outstanding service to Australians in the annual Queen’s Birthday honours list in fields including health, welfare, education, politics, justice and sport.
St Patrick’s church in Mortlake saw two of its parishioners honoured, the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Mike Bailey and former Liberal MP Paul Zammit, both with a Medal in the General Division (OAM).
Mr Bailey is the executive officer to the vicar general and the chancellor of the archdiocese as well as serving as chair of the Wests Ashfield Leagues Club and on the boards of several charities. The former journalist and weather presenter was awarded for services to rugby league and the community.
“I am very much a ‘man in the stand’ who has not played the game but worked to keep the history of Wests Magpies and Balmain Tigers alive during a very tough period for the NRL side, Wests Tigers,” said Mr Bailey.
Educated by the De La Salle Brothers in Bankstown and Ashfield, he said they “helped develop my sense of social justice and community involvement which has guided my spirit of service and has been enhanced through supporting the assistance offered by the Club to charities and other worthy causes.”
Mr Zammit was honoured for his service to the parliaments of Australia and New South Wales, and to the community. He runs a regular Catholic breakfast group at NSW Parliament House and said he and his wife Rita Zammit who received an OAM six years ago, have always taken to heart the apostle St Luke’s emphasis on taking care of the poor, the sick and disabled.
“Isn’t this what we should always try to do as practising Catholics?”
“After all, isn’t this what we should always try to do as practising Catholics?” he said. Although pleased, Mr Zammit told The Catholic Weekly he was also deeply humbled to receive his honour, “knowing others who are devoted to helping the poor and underprivileged who should get these awards”.
Following are some of the other Catholics awarded for their service:
Principal of Holy Spirit Primary School in Carnes Hill Patrician Brother Nicholas Harsas received an OAM for service to education and the Church. Br Nicholas said he was proud to receive the honour on behalf of all the religious brothers and sisters, including Patrician Brothers, who have ministered in Catholic education over the years.
“This year we are celebrating 200 years of Catholic education in Australia and so this award also serves as thanksgiving to God for Catholic education in our country and all those who have been instrumental in its success – students, staff both lay and religious, clergy and parents,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“Any success I have had in Catholic education is directly related to the cooperation I have received from the students, staff, priests and parents of the communities where I have served and ministered.
“I could not have achieved or been as satisfied in my ministry without the support of the school communities where I have been privileged to serve.”
“Any success I have had… is directly related to the co-operation I have received.”
A Sister of Mercy and a Josephite Sister were each awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division (OAM).
Sr Margaret Mary Cleary RSJ was recognised for her service to the Church, while Sr Kate Conley RSM received an OAM for her service to the Church and to women.
“I am honoured and humbled to receive the Order of Australia Medal,” said Sr Margaret, who said St Mary Mary MacKillop had been a “wonderful inspiration of living life to the full” and fostering regard for every person regardless of creed, culture or background.
“I acknowledge and am inspired by the many women including our Founders, St Mary MacKillop, with Fr Julian Tenison Woods, our Josephite Sisters, those of all Religious Congregations and our indigenous sisters and brothers who have and are walking with and serving the people of the Church and broader community through education and pastoral care,” she said.
“I have always wanted to be of service to the wider community and enjoy being able to contribute to the many ministries that the Sisters of Saint Joseph are involved in.”
Sr Kate Conley RSM is a former teacher and primary school principal at South Australian Catholic primary schools, was a women’s prison chaplain for 15 years and is a former Chair of Catherine House in Adelaide, an emergency support and accommodation centre for women experiencing homelessness, among other ministries.
“I receive this award on behalf of my family, my Mercy community and the many people who have been on the journey with me such as the women in prison and many others,” said Sr Kate who said she was “very honoured”.
“You can achieve so much more as part of a community and for me I would not have been able to do the work that I have without the strong support of others.”
Jay Bonnington, who has been the Catholic Health Australia representative on a number of boards, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “significant service to the community through support for charitable organisations and to business”.
Julien O’Connell, the Pro-Chancellor for the Australian Catholic University, was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in recognition for his contribution to community health through aged care in executive roles and higher education.
“All of my working life I seemed to have been blessed by having the right people around me, you cannot do it without having the best of people,” Mr O’Connell told media.
“And sometimes those people are more skilled than you are, but if they are doing what you need to be done then that’s a great one. I’m not frightened of having people who’ve got greater skills than I have.”
Queensland military chaplain Deacon Gary Stone received his OAM for service to veterans and their families.
Francis Sullivan, executive chair of Mater Group Ltd and the former chief executive of the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, was also made an Officer in Order of Australia in the General Division (AO). He was recognised “for distinguished service to the community, particularly through social justice and legislative reform initiatives, and to health and aged care”.
Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in the General Division (AC) for ’eminent service to the people and Parliament of Australia’.