Striding with the saints

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Staff from Sydney Catholic Schools prepare for their two-week pilgrimage, led by Bishop Tony Randazzo, to France and Italy. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Staff from Sydney Catholic Schools prepare for their two-week pilgrimage, led by Bishop Tony Randazzo, to France and Italy. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

For many teachers the school holidays are a chance to unwind and relax but for James Robinson it is a time to embark on a trip that will see him walk in the footsteps of some of the Church’s greatest saints.

The Year 4 teacher from Gymea’s St Catherine Laboure Primary School is one of 30 teachers, principals, REC’s, administration and learning support staff from Sydney Catholic Schools setting off next week on a two-week pilgrimage to France and Italy.

Led by Leader of Learning Adult Faith Formation Catherine Hilder, with Auxiliary Bishop Tony Randazzo who is invited as spiritual leader and Father Josh Miechels from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Fairfield, assisting on the trip.

It will include visits to both sites of historical and biblical significance including Sacre-Coeur, Cathedral of Notre Dame, Lourdes, Pozieres and Villers Bretonneux.

For James, the opportunity to walk in the steps of some of the Saints will be an invaluable experience not only for him personally but for the young students he teaches.

He said the highlight will be a visit to the Daughters of Charity in the Rue du Bac, the site where Our Lady appeared to St Catherine Laboure, the patron of his school.

“As a former student of the school and now as a teacher, the opportunity to visit the place where Mary appeared to Saint Catherine Laboure and where the miraculous medal came about really is very exciting,” he said.

“Being able to not only experience this but to then share it with my students really is something very special.

“I have led a number of pilgrimages before but never been able to sit back and actually experience the pilgrimage and have the opportunity to really deepen my faith.

“I have put a fair bit of time into preparing for the pilgrimage, I have researched the places we are going and the history of the areas so I don’t feel I will be a tourist but a true pilgrim.

James Robinson from Gymea’s St Catherine Laboure Primary School is one of 40 staff from Sydney Catholic Schools setting off to France and Italy on pilgrimage. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
James Robinson from Gymea’s St Catherine Laboure Primary School is one of 40 staff from Sydney Catholic Schools setting off to France and Italy on pilgrimage. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“For me, attending the trip has a faith focus, it will give me the opportunity to stop, pray, reflect and retreat from the busyness of life.

“It’s a great opportunity to re-charge my faith batteries which I will share with the young people not only in my school but Parish.”

Pilgrimage leader Bishop Tony said the trip was offering all educators the experience to truly experience the lives of some of the greatest saints of the Church today.

“To encounter the saints, is an opportunity to reflect on our lives and come to know our own calling,” he said.

“Sainthood is not a call for a select few, but for each and every one of us, through our baptismal vocation.

“Pilgrimage is an ancient tradition in the Church, which is still relevant for us today.

“For us educators, tangible experiences of places and fellow pilgrims, can open us up to God’s transforming grace. When we return home, the graces of the pilgrimage can continue on in our schools and communities of faith.”

Now in its eighth year, Sydney Catholic Schools says its pilgrimages are an investment in the faith formation of its staff and aims to immerse them in a life-changing experience.

Established in 2012 and occurring three to four times annually, they are open to anyone who works in the SCS system whether or not they work full-time or in a teaching capacity.

The 40 teachers and staff from Sydney Catholic Schools who will be setting off next week on a two-week pilgrimage to France and Italy. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
The 30 teachers and staff from Sydney Catholic Schools who will be setting off next week on a two-week pilgrimage to France and Italy. Photo: Alphonsus Fok