Students awarded for putting faith into action

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Throughout the year 36 students from St Michael's Catholic Primary School, Meadowbank, completed service activities like organising snack packs for St Vincent de Paul, decorating the school hall for the parish Pentecost party, organising flowers for Mothers on Mothers Day and cooking food for our "Meals for Mates" freezer which is available for parishioners who are in need. Photo: St Michael's Catholic Primary School
Throughout the year 36 students from St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Meadowbank, completed service activities like organising snack packs for St Vincent de Paul, decorating the school hall for the parish Pentecost party, organising flowers for Mothers on Mothers Day and cooking food for our “Meals for Mates” freezer which is available for parishioners who are in need. Photo: St Michael’s Catholic Primary School

More than 1100 primary students have been awarded the Pope Francis Medal for putting their faith in action and making important contributions to their school and parish communities.

Established in 2017, the awards aim to inspire Year 6 students to roll up their sleeves and help others, while encouraging them to look for the presence of God in their life.

“The awards are aimed at supporting students to develop mindsets of ‘giving back’ while contributing to their own success …”

Initially trialled in just a handful of schools four years ago, today the program is offered in more than 90 across the Sydney Archdiocese and due to its success will be expanded to include Year 7 students from four Sydney Catholic Schools in 2022.

Each of this year’s 1142 recipients will receive specially-designed certificates and medals after completing 20 or more hours of self-driven community service before and after school, including during lunch and recess, throughout 2021.

St Michael's Catholic Primary School Students decorate the school hall for the parish Pentecost party. Photo: St Michael's Catholic Primary School
St Michael’s Catholic Primary School Students decorate the school hall for the parish Pentecost party. Photo: St Michael’s Catholic Primary School

In parishes, students could help with altar serving, children’s liturgies, music ministries and nursing home visits while school-based activities could include helping Mini Vinnies or fundraising for initiatives such as Project Compassion.

The awards are aimed at supporting students to develop mindsets of ‘giving back’ while contributing to their own success by developing new experiences that will aid them in the long run.

“I volunteer once a month at Eileen O’Connor, the convent of Our Lady’s Nurses of the Poor, Coogee, where saint-in-waiting Eileen O’Connor’s tomb is located.”

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Education Officer: Church Engagement, Cheryl Fernandez, said the year-long program helps students recognise the importance of respect and caring for others, while encouraging them to be compassionate open-hearted service leaders who ‘never see a need without doing something about it’.

The Sydney Catholic Schools’ alumni has overseen the Pope Francis Award program since its inception four year ago and credits her participation with broadening her own horizons.

Pope Francis Award students from Christ the King Bass Hill. Photo: Christ the King Bass Hill
Pope Francis Award students from Christ the King Bass Hill. Photo: Christ the King Bass Hill

“The best thing you can give people is your time and that’s what we encourage: for young people to make an impact,” Ms Fernandez said.

“I volunteer once a month at Eileen O’Connor, the convent of Our Lady’s Nurses of the Poor, Coogee, where saint-in-waiting Eileen O’Connor’s tomb is located.

“For anyone thinking about getting involved, but still unsure, I would say do it because you never know the difference you can make in another person’s life.”

“I also give tours of the convent’s museum and chapel, and also serves tea and coffee.

“I believe the Pope Francis Award is a beautiful way for students to be involved in giving back to the community.

Pope Francis Award students from Christ the King Bass Hill complete one of their service activities earlier in the year. Photo: Christ the King Bass Hill
Pope Francis Award students from Christ the King Bass Hill complete one of their service activities earlier in the year. Photo: Christ the King Bass Hill

“It’s a way that students can develop organisational and leadership skills.

“For anyone thinking about getting involved, but still unsure, I would say do it because you never know the difference you can make in another person’s life.”

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