Above: Students attended a National Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney, NSW. Photo by Giovanni Portelli.
A National Mass was celebrated simultaneously across Australia on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians on Monday 24 May 2021 to mark the bicentenary of Catholic education in Australia.
National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said the National Mass was a highlight of the bicentenary year.
“As a faith community, our National Mass to celebrate 200 years of Catholic education holds significant meaning, particularly on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians – the Patroness of Australia,” Jacinta said in a media release.
“The scale of Catholic education in Australia is unique in the world, serving over 777,000 students and employing over 100,000 staff.
“We are blessed to have the support of governments and our families that ensures we can make a Catholic education accessible to families in every major town and city, and in many regional, rural and remote parts of Australia,” she said.
Masses were held with school representation in most Cathedrals across Australia, as well as a number of individual parishes and schools, with many Masses also livestreamed.
The Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney was attended by the Governor of New South Wales Her Excellency Hon. Margaret Beazley AC QC, NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell MLC, and Courtney Houssos MLC representing the state opposition leader, Catholic education leaders, representatives of Religious Institutes and PJPs, Catholic tertiary education, Catholic School principals and parents associations, and staff and students from the 170 Sydney Catholic Schools.
Chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP said the bicentenary of Catholic education in Australia invites us to remember the past with gratitude, be inspired by that story in the present, and look forward with faith in the future.
“But there must be no complacency: we must focus more than ever on ‘the Catholic difference’ including transmission of faith, on access and enrolments, and on educational opportunity and excellence,” he shared in his homily.
“After two centuries of service, we in Catholic education are determined to make an even greater contribution to the lives of our young people, families, church and society, happy 200th birthday Catholic education,” he said.
Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli led a celebration of Mass with more than 600 Catholic school students and teachers at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools executive director Jim Miles said the first Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Melbourne commenced in 1839, growing to 333 Catholic schools educating more than 155,000 of all students today.
“Students and staff representing the oldest continuing school in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, St Mary’s School, Williamstown (established 1842), and the newest, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Werribee (established 2021), participated in the Mass,” he said in a statement.
The Mass featured a performance of the national bicentennial song ‘Faith in the future’ by the Loyola College, Watsonia, choir.
Townsville Catholic Education executive director Jacqui Francis said all schools were invited to send representatives from their school communities to attend the Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“The anniversary of Catholic education in Australia will bring our school communities and families together in joyous liturgical celebrations in our Townsville community as well as our Southern and Western school communities,” said Jacqui in a statement.
Student representatives from Catholic schools and colleges across Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Gracemere, Gladstone and Biloela gathered at St Joseph’s Cathedral to celebrate Mass with Bishop Michael McCarthy, with many staff, students and families from Catholic schools and parishes in regional and rural centres across the diocese tuning into the livestream to celebrate the significant milestone.
Students from across the diocese also took part in a video performing ‘Mary Help of Christians’ with song composer John Burland to celebrate the bicentenary. Catholic Education diocesan director Leesa Jeffcoat said the National Mass was a great opportunity to celebrate the gift that Catholic Education has been to Australia for the past 200 years and to honour and recognise all who have been a part of the Catholic Education story.
In Tasmania, a National Mass was held at St Mary’s Cathedral Hobart with school representatives in attendance.
Western Australian Catholic students, school staff, and guests attended a national Mass in all four dioceses, celebrated at St Mary’s Cathedral Perth, Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral Broome, St Francis Xavier Cathedral Geraldton, and St Patrick’s Cathedral Bunbury.
Catholic Education Western Australia executive director, Dr Debra Sayce, said that the Mass enabled students and staff to reflect on their place in a broader, connected community of faith.
“Catholic schools have been learning communities where families from all places and cultures have found an education that they value for their children,” Dr Sayce said. “And Catholic schools have always recognised that we work alongside parents and families, with the support of parishes, in the shared work of educating the children and young people of Australia.”
In South Australia a National Mass was held at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, many school communities across regional areas joined the celebration via livestream.
Watch below the Prime Minister’s message.
Watch below the National Mass held at St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney