Dear colleagues, parents and friends of Catholic education
The end of the school year is a time to reflect as well as to celebrate. For each of us, 2021 has had different challenges and different highlights, but all of us involved in Catholic education can be grateful for the learning, achievement and community that have been fostered in our schools throughout the year.
I extend my gratitude to all who work in Catholic schools and offices across Western Australia for your dedication and commitment to this ever-important mission of education. It is in our safe, progressive classrooms and learning environments that more than 78,000 students are inspired to engage in their learning and strive towards their potential. It is in our welcoming and inclusive schools where healthy and respectful relationships are modelled and nurtured. And it is in our Christ-centred communities where Gospel values shape our understanding of the dignity and value of each individual and the importance of service and community.
2021 marked ‘50 Years Together’ for CEWA as one state-wide system, and 200 years since the first Catholic school opened in Australia. Throughout the year we celebrated the unique histories, charisms and stories of individual school communities, as well as the shared identity and values that unite us. The bicentenary theme of ‘Faith in the Future’ helped us to reflect on how Catholic education has grown and developed, as well as demonstrating the importance of the enriched, Christ-centred education that has contributed to the rich tapestry of communities across Australia. This theme tied in with what will possibly be remembered as the most significant event for the Catholic church in Australia this year – the first assembly of the Plenary Council. While Catholic school communities considered their role in nurturing Faith in the Future, the whole of the Church in Australia was invited to ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’ to us collectively at this time.
At the beginning of Term Four the Quality Catholic Education Awards recognised outstanding and innovative projects and initiatives developed by our schools in the categories of Catholic Identity, Education, Community, Stewardship and Faith in the Future. The latest CEWA STEM Showcase (and the second regional showcase this year) was held at St Patrick’s School in Katanning with students from schools across the Great Southern and Wheatbelt participating. This Term two Perth schools collaborated on a project to create a bilingual ebook, telling the Nativity story in English and Noongar, which will be available as a resource to other schools across the Archdiocese of Perth. These are just a few noteworthy collaborative initiatives from the past term, in a year that has been full of wonderful stories of learning, growth and faith formation across the system.
Of course, one important collective milestone of the year is the completion of Year 12 by thousands of CEWA students. Amidst the disruption and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it, these students have demonstrated outstanding resilience, as have their teachers, families and support networks. I congratulate and bid farewell to our graduating students and wish them every blessing as they embark on new beginnings, equipped with the gifts of their Christ-centred education and confident in knowing that they will continue to be part of the Catholic education community well beyond their school days.
While we can be thankful that our schools and students in WA have not been challenged by the same level of lockdowns, remote learning, or risks of transmission that others around the country and world have navigated, we are all too aware that our lives will continue to be affected by COVID-19 into 2022 and beyond.
In this season of Advent and Christmas, that would traditionally be a time of gathering and celebration with family and loved ones from far and wide, let us keep in our prayers all in our communities who may have been affected personally by the pandemic. Let us remember that as communities of faith, we are called to offer kindness and love to those in need; and those who are affected by illness, poverty, injustice or violence.
In his prayer intention for December, Pope Francis invites us to pray for those whose mission it is to share the faith and help others grow in their own faith journey. Pope Francis, speaking about catechists, extends a challenge that all of us can take up, saying that the Church needs “creative people who proclaim the Gospel, but who proclaim it neither with a mute nor with a loudspeaker, but rather with their life, with gentleness, with a new language, and opening new ways”.
During this season of Advent, let us consider how we can creatively proclaim the Gospel in our deeds, not words, in our Catholic school communities and beyond. This might include offering solidarity to those in need, personally and through supporting Catholic charities and agencies; it could include sharing hope with family, friends and loved ones over the holidays; and, for all of us in some capacity, it will include looking forward with hope to the impact we can have on the learning and growth of our students in 2022.
I wish you a blessed Christmas, and I look forward to working with you in the new year to strengthen our Christ-centred, child-focused Catholic education system.
Dr Debra Sayce
Catholic Education Western Australia