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School chaplains’ advice for school leavers

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Archbishop Anthony FIsher OP presented this year’s Archbishop of Sydney Awards for Student Excellence to 49 outstanding Year 12 students from Catholic secondary schools across the Archdiocese of Sydney. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Archbishop Anthony FIsher OP presented this year’s Archbishop of Sydney Awards for Student Excellence to 49 outstanding Year 12 students from Catholic secondary schools across the Archdiocese of Sydney. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

More than 77,000 young people sat the HSC this year, 12,772 of them from the state’s systemic Catholic schools.

As they celebrate their achievements and look forward to a summer of freedom, working or travelling, four chaplains who have been accompanying them along the final stretch offer their last words of advice.


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Fr Benjamin Saliba, chaplain at Freeman Catholic College, Bonnyrigg Heights

“More Jesus, more Mary!” Based on my experience with students and teachers as a chaplain at Freeman College I have learned that the pursuit of truth cannot be understated.

Students have always appreciated honesty and transparency in a world that doesn’t offer them much of that. It allows them to properly discern and adequately respond to the situation they face.

My advice to school leavers would be to not be afraid of going against popular opinion, especially when it is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only one that will reveal your true self to yourself amidst confusion, so don’t ever leave Jesus.

If times are tough, ask his mother for some help to stay close to him.

That involves engaging in prayer each day and taking time out of a busy schedule to meditate—read the Scriptures to be inspired by the word of God and don’t stop!

If university is on the horizon, seek out the Catholic chaplaincy and stay close to like-minded, fun and interesting people. They will be able to help you along the journey.


Fr Roberto Keryakos, chaplain with Fr Ben Gandy at Mary MacKillop Catholic College, Wakeley

Keep the faith. Leaving the relatively-safe school bubble means you’ll be out in the “real world.”

The temptation will be to blend in with the secular and anti-religious culture. Don’t! We need to be brave, take in the good from the culture, but reject the bad.

Keep light-hearted—too many people take themselves too seriously.

Now, taking life seriously and taking pride in your gifts and skills is a very good thing as long as you’re able to still have a laugh, let your hair down, take constructive criticism, and realise that in the end God is in charge.

Keep going heavenward—there’s a battle raging for all our souls.

The devil tries to take us away from God, towards him, to eternal death. Never forget this spiritual battle, and never give the devil an opening into

your life.

Love God, keep his commandments, and be a saint!


Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP kisses the newly anointed priestly hands of Fr Anderson Rodas. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Fr Anderson Rodas, chaplain at De La Salle Catholic College, Caringbah

You are not the sum of your weaknesses and your mistakes, on the contrary, you are the sum of the love and support of a father and a mother, always remember that.

Today we live in a world destroyed by hatred and violence, by terrorism and fanaticism, but also by the belligerent arrogance of those who believe they are the masters of the world, in a world that seems increasingly subject to the evil one.

As you go out into the world go out carry with your own lives dreams and hopes.

My invitation and desire to you all is that you may bring hope and joy first to your families and then those around you.

At times we don’t need to do much, only a little act of kindness at home or in the street can change someone’s life and bring a little hope for their day, and this will also have its reward in Heaven.

The people are deprived many times of their smiles for the struggles they go through lets us be instruments to bring smiles to so many you will encounter.


William Chow. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
William Chow. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Fr William Chow, chaplain at La Salle Catholic College, Bankstown

To the class of 2023, congratulations! You have all made it! All of you have received a first-class education, by world standards.

Your religious education is just as important as your academic education. Why? Because at the end of the day God is more important than any job or any material wealth than you could ever amass.

Things will rapidly change for you in the coming decade. You must continue to have a solid spiritual foundation in order to meet the challenges that change inevitably brings.

Remember, when moving forward to make your decisions and relationships based on the love of Jesus.

Having the love of Jesus as your centre will help in all the challenging and happy moments in your lives.

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