Each year the Bishop of Wollongong gathers with Year 12 students from across his diocese. On Tuesday 27 August, St Patrick's College hosted the third Gathering with Bishop Brian Mascord, together with Year 12 students from Mt Carmel and St Benedict's High Schools. Two Year 12 students were invited to speak about their life changing experiences of having been educated in the Catholic Education system in the Wollongong diocese. Below is the speech delivered by Reagan B on that occasion.
THE LIFE CHANGING OPPORTUNITY OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION IN THE DIOCESE OF WOLLONGONG
My name is Reagan and I have been a part of the Catholic school education system for 13 years. I have transitioned from Mary Immaculate Parish Primary School to John Therry Catholic High School to St Patrick’s College for Girls.
My journey within Catholic education over the past few years has been fulfilling, influential and empowering as I have been provided with the opportunities to express both my individuality and faith.
I have loved being a part of St Patrick’s College as we acknowledge various talents through providing many opportunities for students to express their individuality such as K-Pop, CAPA, sports, environment and many more. This school has also allowed students to become leaders in their own way whilst challenging the negative depictions of females.
The life lessons I have experienced in school that I will take into account for the remaining 30 days of Year 12 and beyond is the importance of perseverance and diversity.
Our minds are gardens and our thoughts are seeds, with which we may grow both weeds and flowers. It’s up to us to decide which one to water to provide nourishment towards. School has taught me that no matter what situation or circumstance that occurs in life we have the power to persevere. As St Catherine of Sienna said, “Nothing great is ever achieved without enduring much.”
In life there are always going to be people who do not approve of us or our decisions but being a part of the Catholic community has taught me that exploring diversity is the key to inner peace and a stronger community as we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we should support and accept each other rather than exclude people for being different.
School in this diocese has been life changing as it has provided me with the opportunity to find my passion and become an advocate for social justice. I have been an active member of the St Pat’s Social Justice Council, attended many social justice forums, participated in peace days, performed as both Thandolwayo (to promote Project Compassion) and as a homeless person (to promote the annual Winter Sleepout Appeal). I have also assisted in social justice initiatives and was selected to attend an immersion week known as Ministry Outreach to help those who are in need within our community at both Foodbank and Allowah Children’s Hospital. From this I have gained a purpose to life to live out Mary Mackillop’s message “Never see a need without doing something about it.”
The sand in our hour glass is almost empty as we only have a short period of time until graduation. I will miss being a part of a community surrounded by such empowering people who inspire me each day to be the best version of myself and live out the Word of God. Our College motto is “The Lord is My Light” and as I mentioned previously, we are all created in the image and likeness of God, therefore as I look around the room, I can see we each have the light of Christ within us. I also notice many familiar faces as the unity within Catholic faith has brought people from my primary school back together after so many years as we have continued to remember our primary school motto “Christ our way and life.”
I would like to thank all of the staff members of St Patrick’s College and at the other schools I attended for helping me further develop an understanding of myself and my faith, especially Mr Gattone for helping me pursue my passion of being an advocate for social justice and our Year Coordinator, Mr Ashkar, who has been one of my biggest supporters and helping hand over the past year. I would also like to thank the priests and Bishops I have encountered for continuing to spread Christianity and making our community stronger through faith. In particular, I’d like to thank Fr Michael Healy for the gentle and authentic way in which he exercises his priestly ministry.
It has been a privilege, Bishop Brian, sharing my journey with you as to how being in my school in this diocese has been life changing. And it has been a privilege sharing it with my fellow Year 12 students of St Patrick’s College and all the Year 12 students at this Gathering today.
Reagan B - Year 12 Student