November was a big month for Sydney Catholic Schools with primary school students from across the city honoured for participation in annual The Christmas Story Art Exhibition and Competition and Pope Francis Service Awards.
Year 6 student at St Therese Primary School Mascot, Claudia Garufi volunteered more than 80 hours in her parish and school community as part of the annual service award program.
Helping out with school fundraisers or running the children’s liturgy at church “took a lot of time and sacrifices like missing out on a dance rehearsal or my brother’s soccer game, but not to get the recognition”, she said.
Claudia was one of 476 students in 46 Sydney Catholic Schools to take up the challenge to serve their school and parish communities in the annual awards process.
Now in its second year, the Pope Francis Service Award gives senior primary students the chance to give back to their school and strengthen ties with their parish.
“It just gave me so much energy and joy, and it’s not about the recognition or getting an award, there’s a reason for doing all this. It’s to follow God and be more like Jesus and to follow his way,” said Claudia.
“We were put on earth to be loving, kind and to grow our faith. Whether it’s Buddhism, Islam, Christianity or Catholicism it doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that we’re all united in believing in something that is good.”
Claudia shares a birthday with St Therese and is inspired by her ‘little way’ of making small sacrifices with great love and also by Pope Francis’ commitment to the poor.
“I would love to go to Rome, to Vatican City and meet him one day,” she said.
Proud mum Rose says Claudia is a “very outgoing girl, interested in other people and always wanting to help”, while dad Joseph said she is “dedicated to her faith and puts her heart into what she does”.
To qualify for the award, each child completed 10 hours of volunteer work at school and 10 hours at their local parish, and reflected on their experience by completing a faith formation booklet.
Students’ efforts were celebrated at three Masses followed by award celebrations held across the three Sydney deaneries during November.
At the final Pope Francis Service Awards ceremony at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School in Earlwood, Glen Thompson, the Archdiocesan Youth Ministry Co-ordinator for Sydney Catholic Schools, thanked everyone involved in the program, particularly the students’ parents.
“You are so influential in the lives of your son or daughter and their growth in Catholic faith,” he told them.
“I sincerely pray that you continue in your support of them and their growth in what is good, true and beautiful.
He commended the students on their commitment to serve others just as Christ did.
Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White honoured the students for making many little sacrifices to serve others, and shared the example of Pope Francis’ commitment to the poor and suffering in the world.
Sydney Catholic School’s Cheryl Fernandez said it was “a privilege” to be involved as co-ordinator of the program which grew from 220 students in 17 schools last year to 476 students in 46 schools in 2018.
St Therese Mascot teacher mentor Natalie Pieratos said it had been a pleasure to work with the school’s 13 “passionate and dedicated students” who volunteered through the Pope Francis Award Program.
“The students have certainly lived out St Therese our schools patron saint’s ‘little way’ of doing small things with great love,” she said.
Annette Robertson, Religious Education Co-ordinator at St Joseph’s Primary School Oatley, said she loved the whole Pope Francis Awards process.
“I was able to discover students and families who were already doing great things in the community that I didn’t know about,” she said.
The Christmas Story Art Exhibition and Competition 2018
Kayla Puse, Year 6 student at Holy Family Primary School, Menai took out the Archbishop’s Choice Trophy with her artwork depicting the Annunciation, the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce that she had been chosen to bear the Saviour.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White, and Director of Religious Education and Evangelisation Anthony Cleary invited students in Years 5 and 6 and Catholic students in state schools from the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Dioceses of Wollongong and Bathurst to enter the annual visual arts competition and exhibition.
Students were invited to submit artwork that includes authentic imagery in any style from the time of Jesus, to express their understanding of the Christmas story.
The competition is designed to help children can develop a deeper appreciation of their talents and recognise the value of the arts in expressing understanding of the Catholic faith.
Thousands of students entered and judges selected 81 entries for a short exhibition and awards ceremony at the The University of Notre Dame, Sydney, on 2 December.
The beautiful exhibition of student artworks and written reflections were curated by artists Joshua Charadia and Amanda McPaul-Browne assisted by Sydney art teacher Carni Brown.
First prize for Year 5 went to Serena Azzi from Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Menai for her watercolour portrait of the wise men’s visit to the Madonna and Child.
Second prizewinner Maro Giannakopoulos from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, Earlwood, was inspired by Byzantine iconography to create his image, Journey to Bethlehem.
Year 5 student at Sts Peter and Paul Primary School, Kiama, Leo Wallace-Pannell took out the third prize with his Van Gogh-inspired oil pastel depiction of the night sky at the first Christmas.
For Year 6 the prizewinners were Oliver Bennie of St Joseph’s Primary, Manildra, Emily Middleton of St Joseph’s Primary, Molong, and Ebony Payne of St Paul’s Primary, Camden.