Aurora December 2019

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Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle December 2019 | No.197

a meaningful celebration





A fund you can trust

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First Word


On the cover

Fond Christmas memories

Isabelle getting ready for Christmas at St Nicholas Early Education Centre, Lochinvar.

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle December 2019 | No.197

a meaningful celebration


Photo by Peter Stoop.




Featured f Fires can’t destroy the heart of the people 5 f Take the opportunity to learn


f Make this Christmas a meaningful celebration


f St Nicholas is coming to town


f Give the gift of learning


f In our time of dying


f Amazon synod questions celibacy


f History on a hilltop


f Happy days


f When words are enough


f Synod question makes strong statement 14 f Let the brain play


f The right stuff


f One perfect day


f Climate of anxiety


In recent days my inbox has been flooded with emails from retail outlets promoting Black Friday sales. A simple click of a link led to hours of online browsing. I began lusting for products I did not need, or previously want. Yet there I was, caught in the bubble of consumerism. I pondered all the things I could get a special deal on for my family and friends this Christmas. It didn’t take too long before I was able to rack up a handsome sum of items into the virtual shopping cart. As I proceeded to the online checkout, my son came bounding into the lounge room requesting a cuddle. He laid in my arms for the next hour, while we chatted about our upcoming weeks. The things Archie expressed that he most longs for these holidays is to spend time with family and friends. At no time did he make mention of playing with toys or buying new gadgets. After I tucked him into bed that night, I returned to my computer only to close the browsers, without making a single purchase. That simple moment in time caused me to reflect on my years celebrating Christmas

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as a child. In doing so, not one of my memories featured the goods I received. Instead, I smiled with happiness as I recounted the love and closeness I felt being surrounded by my extended family. Each year they would make the trip to my hometown of Young, and we would attend Mass together, which was followed by sharing a festive meal. It was their presence, not their presents that meant the most to me. It is this spirit of love that I should hope we can all embrace each day, not just on 25 December.

To all Aurora readers, Merry Christmas.

Lizzie Snedden is acting editor for Aurora

In this edition of Aurora in his article ‘Make this Christmas a meaningful celebration,’ Fr Joseph Figurado also reflects on Christmas, and calls for God to be with us, particularly during times of adversity. It is a particularly poignant message for those affected by the recent fires in the Manning. As such, it is heartening to read in Fr Greg Barker’s article ‘Fires can’t destroy the heart of the people,’ how the community is rallying together to support each other and rebuild after the devastation.

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In a world that tests our faith, the meaning of Christmas can elude us. However, even in trying times, we must try and listen to that divine spark within ourselves that desires peace and goodwill as it will enable us to embrace the love, light, hope and peace that makes this such a special time.

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f First Word


f My Word


f CareTalk 17 f Faces and places in our diocese


f What’s on


Subscribe E Editor: Lizzie Snedden Sub Editor: Brooke Robinson Graphic Design: David Stedman Aurora appears in The Newcastle Herald on the first Saturday of the month, in The Maitland Mercury, The Singleton Argus, The Manning River Times and The Scone Advocate on the following Wednesday and in The Muswellbrook Chronicle on the following Thursday. The magazine can also be read at




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My Word


A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

A pilgrim’s progress As the bus pulled away from the last border checkpoint, I felt some lightening of my spirits. A couple of hundred metres on, when we passed through a cut in a low ridgeline, I said to my friend in the next seat, “we’re out of machine gun range”. There’s more rubbish along the roadside in Jordan, the villages are scruffier, but it has the feeling of a free country. Much of the Israel we had just left behind is neat and tidy, bustling and modern, of course. But we’d just had eight days in Jerusalem, in the Old City. To be there was a privilege, I know, and it is an amazing place. Still, there were too many well-armed police, too many off-duty young soldiers in full rig and with machine guns casually slung or carried. Too many for my comfort, I mean. Besides that, the West Bank territories run right up to Jerusalem so that, whenever we left by bus, we’d enter Palestinian territory. The problem with that is the contrast you see on all sides between the places Israelis live and the homes of the Palestinians. The so-called “settlements” are shiny and new, like gated communities nearby the Gold Coast or somewhere similar, green and gardened, spick and span. The Palestinian towns are crowded and run down. Our guide told us we can tell the difference by the water tanks on the Palestinian roofs. They have running water only once or twice a week, or less. Hence the tanks. The Jewish settlements have water 24/7. It’s one of those things. There are more of those things. The wall, of course. The checkpoints the

Palestinian workers have to pass through each day to enter Jerusalem for work. The years a Jerusalem Palestinian may have to wait for his non-Israeli bride to be permitted to come and live with him. Not being able to drive your Palestinian registered vehicle into Israel. In and around the West Bank the heavy hand of the Jewish state is fairly obvious. Hence my psychic relief on re-entering the Kingdom of Jordan. “But,” you say to me, “you were on pilgrimage. What about the Holy Places?” Ah, yes, fair enough. I would say that it was good and helpful to get a sense of the places Jesus knew and we read about. The “hill country” is steeper and craggier than I’d realised, and especially dramatic around the Sea of Galilee. The only way to get to Nazareth is “up”, and up steeply. The Judean wilderness is impossibly barren. I got a sense of place. The actual Holy Places, I found, didn’t affect me profoundly. Partly this is a historian’s customary scepticism. For most of the identified sites, we rely on what the lady Egeria was shown during her pilgrimage in 380AD, rather a long while after the event. Second, the most important sites have later churches on top of them, so the scene owes more to the Byzantine Empire or the Crusaders than to the first century. There tends to be the “it was here, or somewhere around here …” factor. In the case of saying Mass in the cave of the Holy Sepulchre, Jesus’s burial and resurrection site, I did suspend disbelief and have the “it’s incredible to be here” feeling. That was special, but in general

I preferred the archaeological sites. The excavations at places like Capernaum, Magdala and Caesarea Philippi uncover for you something of what the place was like back then. It’s not a religious sentiment, admittedly, but there’s a satisfying reality about ruins.

but carried on with the greatest good humour, just a little hard to utterly shake off. And the shopkeepers of Jerusalem were only a little behind the Bedouin in their ingenuity. Invariably I got the “best deal in the whole city”. “For your wife …” “I don’t have a wife.” “You have a sister?” “Yes.” “I do you a special price since Finally, there’s some of the fun of being it is for your sister.” And then we sat in the Arab world. Not all my fellow outside his shop and watched the sunset pilgrims would agree, but I rather enjoyed together. most of the exchanges with the souvenir sellers. The Bedouin hawkers at the roadside stops were, I found, particularly engaging. “No, I don’t want a headscarf.” “But I have six children.” “I bought one yesterday.” “My children must eat.” “Well, how much?” "Only US $10.” “I’ll give you Bishop Bill Wright $3.” “Five, special for you.” “Four.” “OK.” Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle It’s all lies and manipulation, of course,

Frankly Spoken The lights of the Christmas tree remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of our souls that drives away the darkness of hatred and makes room for forgiveness. Vatican - 7 Dec 2018

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Fires can’t destroy the heart of the people BY FR GREG BARKER

Catastrophic fires burnt across NSW and Queensland throughout November and many readers will have firsthand experience of what it looked and felt like. It will remain raw for many of us for some time to come. Some fires burnt to the very edges of houses, taking out sheds and cars but leaving homes intact — a testament to the fighting spirit of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the communities that were able to stand their ground and defend. Not all were so lucky. Four lives were lost, and more than 200 homes destroyed in the bushfires affecting NSW alone. It will take many communities and families here years to recover. I am confident the tenacity and resilience displayed across the region, as communities stood side by side to defend their homes, will see those affected rebuild and carry on. Schools across the region, including Catholic schools, remained closed during the critical fire days. Smoke reduced visibility. The RFS advised residents to stay off roads and to remain indoors as much as possible. Smoke hazards together with the fires themselves made many of our roads unsafe during the height of the crisis. Forster Tuncurry like many towns in the region has been blanketed for weeks in thick, acrid smoke, heightening the anxiety of many members of the community. The more elderly and those with respiratory problems suffer more during these times but it affects everyone. There is a sense of foreboding as the smoke thickens and remains. Driving around the Parish of Forster Tuncurry and to the edge of the Taree Parish in the aftermath of the fires that began here on 7 November, I’m shocked by the level of devastation to the natural landscape. However, I’m also amazed by how many homes were miraculously saved. Incredible stories are emerging of neighbours and strangers pulling together and of genuine community spirit in the face of adversity. At times like this we really witness

Photos: Callam Howard

Incredible stories are emerging of homes saved, neighbours and strangers pulling together, of community spirit in the face of adversity. the heart of the Australian people and the determination of our communities to do more than simply survive these disasters. Evacuation centres have been places of support and safety for many during the crisis. Within minutes of the fires deteriorating to “catastrophic”, centres were open in community halls, church halls and local clubs. They have provided shelter and security in collaboration with organisations such as CatholicCare, St Vincent de Paul. Other government and non-government organisations have provided information and counselling to those directly affected. Supported by the generosity of many volunteers they have fed and housed thousands. Our communities here remain on alert but continue to be upbeat. This is the beginning of a very long, dry summer. Communities will become fatigued, fire fighters and first responders in particular. It will be important to monitor the mental and physical wellbeing of all and ensure people are rested and supported. When I asked CatholicCare director Gary Christensen for advice recently, he responded: “It is important for everyone to support each other at this time and to seek counselling should you need to. We can only get through this by working together.” CatholicCare offers a free counselling service for those directly affected by the fires. St Vincent de Paul, through its bushfire appeal, can also be approached for support. Talking with families during the crisis I was impressed with the calmness of everyone as they prepared. Good decisions were made as some chose to evacuate and others decided to fight. Afterwards all spoke of the sound of the fire and the speed in which it approached. There was no time to second guess, only time to get on with it.

Mark Mowbray, principal of St Joseph’s Primary School, Taree was directly affected. On 8 November the Rainbow Flat fire burnt to the back of his home destroying sheds and pastures. The fire moved quickly he said, which prevented his family from evacuating. “The wind got fiercer and fiercer, the fire louder and louder, raining embers everywhere,” he said. “It was like a war zone. Thank God for the RFS. The back of the house was scorched but its quick action saved us.” The RFS members came from Forbes and Condobolin with one member missing his daughter’s engagement party to help in the crisis. Mark and his wife Marina are thankful for their tireless efforts to save them and their home. I am saddened that wildlife and their habitats have been lost to the fires. There will be much needed and quickly to assist in the replanting of vegetation and the resettlement of the displaced native animals. Heartening are the green shoots already starting to appear in some places. Signs of hope. “Hero”, like the word “love” is often misused. However, it is certainly appropriate when speaking of the brave souls who have stood firm in the face of terrifying bushfires over the past two months. The men and women of the RFS are true heroes and together with members of the SES, Police and Fire and Rescue in towns and hamlets across the region they have saved lives, property and communities without counting the cost to themselves. A member of the community in Forster said recently that the Australian of the Year should go to the RFS members this year, all of them. Amen I say to that. Amen to that.

Fr Greg Barker is parish priest of Forster Tuncurry in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.


Take the opportunity to learn BY SEAN SCANLON

A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Protected in my air-conditioned office I can see the sky outside filled with smoke and a blood red sun. The past few weeks have been confronting as horrendous bushfires have devastated the Manning region in the north of the Diocese. It challenges us to focus on the meaningful and substantial things. These difficult times have seen responses from our parishes and diocesan services that demonstrate the significance of what we do as a church in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Our people in CatholicCare immediately went into action, offering free counselling and support services. Our schools focused on ensuring students and staff remained with their families and could defend their properties from fire. Phone calls were made to check on our colleagues. Parishioners offered their homes to those with no place left to go. These are examples of the way the church operates in the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle, not just during crisis, but every day. At the end of the year that was 2019, it is good to reflect on that daily mission. The Many Parts. One Body. One Mission initiative continued throughout the past year, consolidating work commenced in 2018 and making some further changes to improve efficiencies and promote greater collaboration between agencies. As Gary Christensen reports, CatholicCare has made a real difference in our local communities with services to young people through permanency support and young adult services, as well as the wider community through the delivery of mental health support in the form of counselling and clinical services. CatholicCare continues to deliver services in larger regional centres including Newcastle and Maitland, but has also increased its service delivery in more isolated locations such as Gloucester and Muswellbrook. DARA has also been an important part of ensuring social justice for marginalised people who rely on the community kitchens and van for outreach and support services. Its refugee programs continue to expand, offering support for newcomers to our country. A real highlight was the “Welcome to the Beach� program, offered in conjunction with Cooks Hill Surf Saving Club. More than 200 people attended the two-day event aimed at introducing migrants to Newcastle’s beach culture and providing them with essential safety advice. Catholic schools are a beacon of ongoing relevance to our communities. As Gerard Mowbray reports, more families are opting for Catholic education and the positive outcomes that result. The opening of the St Lawrence Flexible Learning Centre was a particular highlight, with students going on to achieve great outcomes throughout the year, in partnership with their educators. As you will see in the

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Report, existing schools including St Mary’s Catholic College, Gateshead and St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar continue to extend their offerings and have supported their first cohort of students to complete the HSC (or in the case of St Joseph’s, the first time in 20 years). Across all our schools the learning environment is rich with engaging opportunities for students and staff. The development of the gifted and talented program is stretching students, with some having their projects published in mainstream media, being offered the opportunity to present interstate or even going on to win national awards. A particular focus has been indigenous education with the Diocese undertaking a review in this area, as well as hosting the 2019 NSW Aboriginal Catholic Education Conference that inspired the 500 delegates in attendance. Guest speaker Kurt Fearnley talked about dignity through expectation, a message that resonated with the attendees as we work diligently towards closing the learning gap between indigenous and nonindigenous students. St Nicholas Early Education expanded its

services again this year. We will shortly see the opening of the seventh and eighth early education centres and there are now 12 before and after-school (OOSH) services operating across the Diocese with further transitions planned for 2020. However, it is not simply about numbers. These services are focused on quality care for children, and the response from the community is overwhelmingly positive. We have also seen the development of the exciting St Nicholas Pathways program, which is working closely with high school students to prepare them for a fulfilling career in the early education sector. This has been a tremendous example of collaboration, with real employment outcomes expected for students. In the Catholic Development Fund report, fund manager Graham Heath tells us about ongoing support of the Diocese’s expansion of St Nicholas Early Education with the development of the new centres. The fund also assisted the development of the Diocese’s new office facilities in Newcastle West and assisted with the delivery of the important work associated with the Many Parts. One Body. One Mission initiative. The fund remains integral to ensuring school building can occur, as

Australian Catholic University partnership agreement

Opening of St Lawrence Flexible Learning Centre



well as improving facilities to maximise the contributions of parents to the Diocesan School Building Fund. While it may be easier to avoid the discussion, a detailed examination of the Report spells out the response to people affected by abuse perpetrated in the Diocese. This challenge is not receding. To date more than 170 people have received financial assistance, apologies and counselling. There is no doubt this has been an emotional process, but it must continue in a genuine manner. To ensure that children and vulnerable people are safe in our services, the Diocese has officially launched the Office of Safeguarding, which builds on the work of Zimmerman Services. Sean Tynan’s report details the extensive work that has occurred during the year but perhaps the most poignant moment for many was the dedication of the memorial for those abused at Marist Brothers’ High School, Hamilton. The first step has now been taken on the journey of a Diocesan Synod. This will roll out over the next two years, culminating in 2021. This important time for the Diocese will be a rare opportunity to consider the future of the church in the Hunter and

DARA's Welcome to the Beach

Lana SynodTurvey-Collins at the Synod

Manning regions. The important stages of listening have been highlighted in Teresa Brierley’s report on Pastoral Ministries. As the report highlights, we all have something to learn from each other and that will be the opportunity for the coming year. All the diocesan agencies’ achievements are the result of the hard work and dedication of our staff working in collaboration with our community. Attending staff inductions during the year it was apparent our people do more than a job. It was a sound reminder of the sense of mission and community that the Diocese provides in its daily work. This article is an excerpt of the Year in Review publication which is available to view in full on The Year in Review features reflections from each of the Diocesan Leadership Group members, stories and photos from throughout the year, as well as full list of the Diocese’s financial statements. To receive a printed copy of the Year in Review please contact Aurora’s editorial team. Sean Scanlon, CEO Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

Memorial at St Francis Xavier's College

2019 NSW Aboriginal Catholic Education Conference



A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Make this Christmas a meaningful celebration BY FR JOSEPH FIGURADO

Students at St Columban’s Primary School Mayfield re-enact the nativity scene

Photo: Peter Stoop

Dearly Beloved in Infant Jesus, As I speak to you, members of the Body of Christ throughout our Diocese, I am mindful that, together, we carry the news of God’s saving love to all. We carry this message to all our drought-stricken farmers, bushfire victims, the sick, all those in hospital, and all the beautiful and brave women and men who stood with these people as “pillars of hope” in these recent tragedies. Now I look at this Christmas, which offers us the challenge of joy. Why do I say it is a challenge? Joy is a child of sacrifices. If someone wants to be happy, secure, protected or saved, we need someone’s sacrifice. At times, that may be an unfamiliar, far-distant soul who would sacrifice their time, energy, happiness, celebrations, and holidays. Think about the army, navy, and border control officers, maintenance workers, cleaners, fire brigade workers, police and all public servants, all those who are assigned duties on Christmas day who work on

the long holidays and at Christmas time. These men and women too have their own families and children. The joyful images of Christmas may lead some to forget those the world has forgotten. Millions of refugees are trying to find a place at the inn. This is often how we hear the story of Mary giving birth in a stable rather than in a hospital or hotel. Let us think of our fellow Australians living in temporary accommodation, tents and sleeping on the floor. As in the time of Jesus, they don’t have a place to live, their own territory, towns or villages. Mary gave birth not in a little wooden building but in a cave. Even today, some people in Palestine live in caves. The story of the innkeeper, then, is not one of exclusion and neglect, but one of Palestinian radical hospitality and generosity. You see, the innkeeper, not having any space, offered Mary and Joseph a place in his own home, safe in the back of the cave. This is the grotto over which the Church of the Nativity

is built. Christmas, then, calls our world to re-evaluate: have we forgotten those Christians in Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and now all our fellow Australians in our country? These people—persecuted refugees or displaced or poor—are not asking favours from us or from the world’s leaders. They are asking for the message of Christmas: peace based on justice, relief based on true love. The following is the true scenario of this present world and in our societies in Australia where we experience horrifying bushfires. My message is that, for each of you, Christ is Emmanuel, with you wherever you are: in distress, in difficulty, in poverty, in sickness, in calamities, in drought, in hunger, in fire zones, God has not forgotten you; neither will our Australian communities. Let us show them that we are one nation, one diocese, one humanity, one in Jesus and we are the living expressions of Jesus’s love. Let us assure our constant prayers for them

St Nicholas is coming to town We know Santa Claus traverses the globe in a reindeer-powered sleigh on Christmas Eve but more fascinating are the historical travels and travails of his progenitor St Nicholas. Born in 280AD in the Asia Minor port city of Patara to a wealthy family of Greek Christians, Nicholas went on to become the bishop of Myra, a small Roman town

on the Mediterranean in what is now Turkey. He was a defiant defender of the church and jailed during the Roman Empire’s Great Persecution that began in 303. He also developed a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people in need.

his death. Eventually this led to his sainthood and he remains the protector or patron of many groups including children, orphans, sailors and prisoners. In 1087, Italian merchant sailors stole his bones from Turkey and they are now kept in the Basilica di San Nicola in the port of Bari.

Nicholas died on 6 December, probably 343AD, but his fame lived on long after

With the Protestant Reformation, the popularity of celebrations centring on

and come forward to help them in their immediate needs. I wish to call all of you who are reading this to come forward to feel with our people and spend moderately. Celebrate in a mild manner and help the poor and needy in our society. When the world tells you there is no place, there is always a place for you in God’s love. Very often Christmas becomes a time of wastage. Let us use our food and water sensitively and sparingly. When we do this with true human sentiments, I feel we are united with our suffering brothers, sisters and children. Then this Christmas 2019 will become a meaningful celebration. With love, prayers and blessings in Jesus.

Fr Joseph Figurado is a priest in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

St Nicholas’s 6 December feast day declined across much of northern Europe. The bearing of gifts fell to Jesus, the date was moved to 25 December, and St Nicholas morphed into Father Christmas. The Netherlands refused to discard the legend and importance of St Nicholas and it was the Dutch who brought Sinterklaas to the New World. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas ("The Night Before Christmas”), for his six children, with no

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Give the gift of learning


Preparations for Christmas are well under way - advent candles have been lit, carols can be heard far and wide, Christmas trees have taken over lounge rooms and festive gatherings are in full swing. Many will spend time pondering what makes for a perfect gift, only to resort to fast fashion, plastic toys or a store voucher. But in writing up shopping lists, what if we were to draw inspiration from Greek philosopher Aristotle, who declared “education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” It seems the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle might have done just that. St Nicholas, patron saint of children and namesake of the Diocese’s early education provider, will deliver the gift of increased access to education to youngsters across the region from early in the New Year. St Nicholas Early Education currently operates six services across the Hunter with centres located in Chisholm, Singleton, Cardiff and Lochinvar, as well as Newcastle West and Raymond Terrace,

which are both undergoing expansion projects to increase enrolment capacity. In early 2020, new centres will open in Maitland and Branxton, and by mid-year, Gillieston Heights and Muswellbrook will come on board. Once all centres are operational, the total enrolment capacity of St Nicholas will increase by 404 places, five days per week — almost double the current offerings. Reflecting on this season of peace, love and joy, Diocesan chief executive officer Sean Scanlon sees commitment to supporting family life as the hallmark of a civilized society and the church's motivation for opening new centres. “One aspect of this is providing highquality education services in communities where they are needed most,” Mr Scanlon said. “St Nicholas Early Education is a not-forprofit organisation. We strive to create inclusive communities that welcome families from all walks and join with them in

intention of adding to the fledgling Santa Claus phenomenon. It was published anonymously the next year and, in modern parlance, went viral. The plump, jolly Santa described as riding a sleigh driven by eight familiar reindeer survives to this day.

Sadly, Santa now represents “commercial Christmas”, encouraging consumption, whereas St Nicholas encourages compassion. Fortunately, many faithful still celebrate St Nicholas Day on 6 December, predominantly in Europe. Maybe it’s time for a wider St Nicholas cultural restoration. Even for Christmas.

The image we associate with Santa is the work of Thomas Nast, the great American political cartoonist of the late-19th century. The first was published in January 1863 on the cover of Harper's Weekly.

Who better represents the story of Christ and peace, and goodwill to all? Santa is fun, but St Nicholas has more poignant gifts to deliver, especially an authentic hope-filled message.


Photo: Jessica Ward

partnership to facilitate their child’s social, intellectual and physical development.” The move to develop additional centres will bolster employment opportunities across the region both during construction and eventually, once operational, with the creation of up to 100 new jobs. St Nicholas general operations manager Kerri Armstrong says the organisations’ current services are well sought after with high occupancy rates. “Influenced by a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum, our educators encourage children to be curious learners, and empower them to be active members of the community,” Ms Armstrong said. “This high-quality approach to education has been well received by families at our existing centres, as they see their children developing a passion for learning. For us, this is the greatest gift we can share with children, as it places them in good stead for life.”

This festive season, students from St Nicholas Early Education centres will continue to take part in excursions to local schools and nursing homes. Ms Armstrong says that the benefit of these visits is shown through the deeper relationships between the pre-schoolers and the aged as well as with older school pupils. “As we look to 2020, our team is very excited that we will have the opportunity to work together in new communities to build a stronger and kinder society that values children, families and intergenerational relationships,” Ms Armstrong said.

Lizzie Snedden is the team leader content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.



In our time of dying BY DARRELL CROKER

A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have joined to reaffirm each religion’s clear opposition to euthanasia and physicianassisted suicide. Representatives from the Catholic and Orthodox churches and the Muslim and Jewish faiths signed a joint declaration at a ceremony at the Vatican on 28 October. Bishop Bill Wright notes it has been 33 years since Pope John Paul II gathered leaders of the world religions in Assisi. “They issued a statement rejecting war or violence on religious grounds, because all the great faiths recognise that every human being is a child of God the Creator,” said Bishop Bill. “It is no surprise, then, that representatives of leading faiths would come together to uphold the value of every human life by opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Those who acknowledge a Creator don’t sanction deliberate killing of God’s sons and daughters.” Maitland-Newcastle Diocese parishioner John Cavenagh, formerly a senior staff specialist in palliative medicine at Calvary Mater Newcastle, says it is good to see the joint statement promoting the reciprocal understanding and synergies of the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths on “end-of-life” care. “Society attributes enormous power to the medical profession in its perceived ability to prolong life, whereas in my own experience this is just not a reality,” said Dr Cavenagh. “Medicine has its limits. Usually a point is reached where although various procedures or treatments could be done, it doesn’t mean they should be. “In the majority of cases, it becomes clear to the patient, their family and the medical team, that curative options should not be pursued any longer, that death is approaching, and the main focus of care must be palliative care.” Pain and symptom control, family/carer support, and psychological and spiritual care are the central focus of palliative care. Calvary is a significant provider of health and aged care in the Hunter region, with a focus on tending to those at the end of their lives. National Manager for Palliative and End of Life Care, Naomi McGowan, says it is important to provide holistic care in these situations. “Care that addresses the individual’s physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs and the needs of their support networks can significantly reduce

suffering,” Ms McGowan said. “Whether a person is receiving palliative or endof-life care in a specialist service, acute, residential aged or community service, it is paramount that we listen to them with respect and ensure anyone in need of care is not abandoned.” Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Chief Minister of The Great Synagogue, Sydney, says he warmly welcomes the statement by Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders opposing euthanasia and physicianassisted suicide. “Human life is sacred and should never be taken away,” said Rabbi Elton. “At the same time there comes a point at which active medical intervention is no longer appropriate and the dying person should be kept comfortable and peaceful and nature allowed to take its course.” Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, president of the Australian National Imams Council, says the joint declaration represents an important position taken by the three monotheistic faiths. “In all of these religions, preeminent value is placed on life and not taking such life as a discretionary matter,” he said. Dr Cavenagh says patients usually get to a point where they feel they have tried their very best to overcome an illness and feel deeply satisfied with the effort they have made. Quality of life then becomes their central concern. “Every human being has the moral right to refuse medical treatment they perceive to be overly burdensome, and this joint position statement highlights this,” he said. “Some patients have the erroneous understanding that they are morally bound to accept all medical treatments meaning refusal to do so could be akin to suicide or euthanasia. Nothing could be further from the truth. “The statement emphasises the need for society to ensure that ‘being a financial burden’ should never be a reason for someone feeling that it would be better for everyone if they were ‘out of the way’. “A dying patient has inherent dignity not only from their own inherent dignity but also from the attitude of those who care for them.”

Darrell Croker is a contributor to Aurora.

Medicine has its limits. Usually a point is reached where although various procedures or treatments could be done, it doesn’t mean they should be.

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Synod question makes strong statement BY TERESA BRIERLEY

Bishop Bill Wright put the following question to the 400 people who gathered in prayer, community and hope on Saturday 23 November for the first session of the diocesan Synod. As disciples of Christ, what needs to happen in our hearts and in our minds and in our community for us to be a Christcentred church that is: f missionary and evangelising f inclusive, participative and synodal f prayerful and eucharistic f humble, healing and merciful f joyful, hope-filled and a servant of the community f open to conversion, renewal and reform? Fr Richard Lennan travelled from Boston specifically to be with the people of his Diocese to break open the “missionary and evangelising” theme. He noted being missionary is not so much what a person does, as what a person is. "We need to be self-critical and humble so that we are open to the life-giving qualities that enable us to be agents of good news in the world", he said. Sr Lauretta Baker RSJ facilitated the “inclusive, participatory and synodal” workshop and engaged with those who attended in exploring their perception of church and the factors that impact on our perception. We were blessed to have Bishop Greg Homeming OCD, a Discalced Carmelite and bishop of the Lismore Diocese speak beautifully of being “prayerful and eucharistic” sharing with those who gathered that only in authentic prayerfulness and gratitude (Eucharist) can the joy of who we are shine out. Mary Ringstad, director of mission at Calvary Mater Hospital and a highly respected pastoral and spiritual carer in the medical profession, presented the theme of “humble, healing and merciful”. She led an exploration of why this emerged as a

key theme within the Plenary Council. The workshop was confronting and challenged our openness to conversion. Ursula Stephens, chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia, spent 12 years as a Labor Party federal senator for NSW (2002 to 2014). As a committed Catholic, Dr Stephens spoke with passion about the vulnerable and marginalised people who are served by those in our parishes and in Catholic social services across the country. She expressed the need for us to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to build a “joyful, hope-filled and servant community” of believers. Serving local communities across the Diocese demonstrates the love of Christ. A creative expressions workshop run by teacher Rose McAllister, provided opportunity for participants to capture all of the themes without using words. It was a gentle, prayerful, reflective experience using different mediums. Lana Turvey-Collins has travelled the width and breath of Australia since being invited by the Australian Catholic Bishops to facilitate the Plenary Council of Australia. It will have two sessions, one in October 2020 and the other in May of 2021. She spoke courageously, boldly and with zeal about the possibilities of listening to what the Spirit is saying. She encouraged us to be “open to conversion, renewal and reform”. We have much to ponder as we continue to contemplate and discern in our hearts, minds and community what it means to be an authentic Christ-centered church before we meet again next November for the second session of Synod. This synodal process invites us to journey with each other and the Spirit, listening deeply and prayerfully.

Teresa Brierley is director of pastoral ministries for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

Kids’ Cosmic Bowling Party



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History on a hilltop BY LIZZIE SNEDDEN

The new facilities provide our students with environments that better reflect the ‘real world’ and will assist in preparing them for future study and career pathways through promoting collaboration and flexibility.

Photos: Peter Stoop

The inner-city Newcastle suburb of Mayfield has a history of transforming itself to suit the times. It formed part of the hunting grounds for the original Aboriginal inhabitants. Then during the era of white colonisation, it transformed from an agricultural abode of the wealthy, to a blue-collar industrial area that welcomed people from all over the world to work in factories that provided steel for the nation. After BHP closed its doors in 2000, the suburb again changed its identity. This was partly fuelled by the NSW government’s investment in the city’s urban renewal. San Clemente High School is located on a Mayfield hilltop. The Dominican order of nuns established the school in 1916 and as Mayfield evolved so too did the high school. It was founded initially as both a boarding school and day school, offering secondary education for young ladies. Boarding ceased after 60 years and 10 years later young males were invited to join the student body.

Over time the school has expanded its numbers and added to its campus footprint. A walk through the grounds of San Clemente reveals why so many people love it. The school’s 720 students and staff have the best of both worlds — beautiful historic buildings as well as fantastic modern facilities, all set against well-manicured gardens. It is an idyllic setting in which to teach and learn. On 22 November, vicar-general Fr Andrew Doohan, and Senator Perin Davey, officiated the Blessing and opening of San Clemente’s Veritas Centre and its associated learning areas. The hall and classroom project was designed to provide the San Clemente community with a new place to meet, share and celebrate for students, teachers and families. Principal, Bernard Burgess, said the design of the centre promoted inquirybased learning to prepare students for life beyond school. “Education is changing, and as a school, we're looking to evolve with that change,” he said. “The new facilities provide our

students with environments that better reflect the ‘real world’ and will assist in preparing them for future study and career pathways through promoting collaboration and flexibility.” Ella Howarth, a Year 8 student at San Clemente, was very keen to get access to the new classrooms and hall after watching them being constructed. Now they have opened Ella has been able to take part in the team-building lessons, made possible by the flexible design, which she described as being “so fun”. “Our more traditional classes are great, but sometimes it’s a good idea to work with new people as it helps you to get to know pretty much everyone,” said Ella. Given each year level at San Clemente is made up of about 180 students originating from several feeder primary schools, there is a need for classes that encourage interaction. “When we open the doors it enables us to work as a bigger group, which is better as there are more people to join in the lesson,” Ella said.

“It helps us to learn, as the teachers bounce ideas off each other, and while they’ve both got similar thoughts, it also allows us to gain different perspectives.” Mr Burgess said the finished product was far beyond anyone's expectations for a multipurpose hall. “It’s set a benchmark,” he said. “We're fortunate to have received more than $3 million in government funding towards this project, as well as $5 million in support from the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle via the Catholic Development Fund and the Diocesan School Building Levy. “At a school level, we also contributed just over $700,000. The investment has enabled us to bring together architects, builders and educators to create what I think is a spectacular space for students and staff and an exciting chapter in our school’s history.”

Lizzie Snedden is the team leader content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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Happy days St Pius X High School, Adamstown students Thomas Maddison and Lucy Kelly are “happy” after experiencing a week-long work experience at Maroba Caring Communities in Waratah. The pilot program, Healthy ageing Partnerships – project Youth (HaP-pY) was organised by Training Services NSW and offered to Year 10 students to allow young people an opportunity to engage in the health sector (aged care) without direct care. Lucy joined the program because “it was so new”. “There are not many opportunities to do work experience in an aged-care facility,” she said. “The information night was so encouraging and Viv Allanson, Maroba’s chief executive, was so excited. That made me excited.” Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world. It is also facing a major problem in the future, as the population ages and not enough people are training to fill the gap in the number of carers needed. In the Hunter region, health and community services has the highest growth rate, 24%, in the past five years. The HaP-pY program aims to help bridge that gap by giving opportunities for young people to build experience in the health sector while still at school. The students can see the many pathways for employment in the aged-care sector. For young people moving into that area, employment is nearly guaranteed.




Lucy enjoyed HaP-pY because it was hands-on. She and Thomas weren’t “just sitting back and watching people work”, but were involved in hospitality, residents’ activities, gym, physiotherapy/ occupational therapy, hair and beauty day spa, customer service, housekeeping, maintenance, and administration. In afternoon sessions, they participated in workshops provided by specialist health and community services registered training organisation Smart Training & Consulting. The highlight for both Lucy and Thomas was the beauty and day spa, where they sat and chatted with residents and painted their nails. Careers adviser at St Pius X, Belinda Wallace, said the program was very good for the students, particularly for someone such as Thomas who was “feeling a bit lost in terms of finding a career, it has now opened his eyes to new possibilities”. In fact, as a result of the program Thomas has plans to go into the health sector. “We were given a form once we were finished, to do volunteering here. So I handed that in today,” Thomas said. The experience has also changed Lucy’s mind. “I didn’t consider working in aged care before, but now it's definitely something that's top of my radar,” she said.

The HaP-pY program provides opportunities for young people to build experience in the health sector while still at school

Students Thomas Maddison and Lucy Kelly with Maroba’s physiotherapist Steve Davis, and resident Elizabeth Nagy

Brooke Robinson is content officer for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Photo: Peter Stoop

Put down your pens and pick up language BY MEGAN BAIRD

Two Diocesan schools certainly talked the talk recently. Holy Cross Primary School, Glendale and St Joseph’s Primary School, Denman put down their pens in order to pick up language in their first No Pens Day Wednesday (NPDW). NPDW is a whole-school initiative where staff and students put down their pens/ pencils for an entire day and speak and listen to complete all lessons. “Our NPDW was a huge success with all children highly engaged in the fun, languagebased activities” said Sharon Sawyer, leading teacher at Holy Cross. “Instead of writing a co-constructed story, Year 6 recorded themselves using the school iPads. “Year 1 and 2 worked together to make pizzas using Barrier Games, and all children were bursting to share their mathematical reasoning with Number Talks.” Research shows that oral language alongside the explicit teaching of phonics, is an integral element of reading and

writing development. Schools that include speaking and listening in a planned and structured way see improvement in students’ classroom involvement, academic achievement and behaviour. The aim of participating in NPDW was to encourage the use of oral language activities across all key learning areas in teacher planning by engaging in lessons where the use of pens was not allowed. “This day had something for everyone as it was able to challenge every student and engage those who might find the onerous task of writing so difficult that it can prevent them from showing their true potential,” Ms Sawyer said. “Phrases like ‘this is freedom’ and ‘can we do this again’ were echoed across the classrooms.” By reducing the focus on writing, students and teachers increased their use of oral language across the day and provided teachers with new skills, confidence and ideas for including speaking and listening in their lessons.

Students in Year 1 at St Joseph’s displayed their understanding of natural water catchment areas by creating hills, rivers and dams in the playground and then observing heavy and light rain moving through the catchment area, said learning support teacher Renee Gavin. “The students at times had to remind the staff to “put the pens down and find another way of showing what you know,” Ms Gavin said. At Holy Cross, Year 4 engaged in “character hot seat” where students role-played from their text, and all classes had dedicated “NPD detectives”. Holy Cross students then evaluated the day using paddle pop sticks to construct a graph, putting their mathematical language and problem-solving skills to work. The graph was presented to school principal Debra Hawthorn with the results. It was a resounding success. Megan Baird is education officer (speech pathologist) for Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.



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Amazon synod questions celibacy “Do I favour a celibate priesthood? Yes, I do,” says Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Bishop Bill Wright. “Do I think changing the laws on celibacy will lead to the downfall of the church? No I don’t. Celibacy is a doctrine, not an immutable truth... it has always been open to change.”

“However, I’m not in the shoes of the South American bishops who can’t provide Eucharist to their people. If I were, I would have to think hard about whether the ideal (of celibacy) should be maintained in spite of what’s practical for the good of the people.”

A shortage of ordained priests in remote areas of South America has reignited a centuries-old celibacy debate within the Catholic Church. In October, a majority of the 180 bishops from nine South American countries in the Amazon basin called for the ordination of married men to address a shortage of clergy in the region.

The proposal has sparked a fierce debate between liberal and conservative factions in the church.

The proposals were contained in a final document approved on 26 October at the end of a three-week Amazon synod held at the Vatican. The document, approved by the bishops, noted that Catholics in the region had “enormous difficulties” in receiving communion and having the services of a priest. Bishop Bill says he, like Pope Francis, favours obligatory celibacy, but that ideal had to be weighed against a Catholic’s right to partake in the Eucharist - a right many South Americans were being denied. “I like what celibacy says about the priesthood and believe if it was to become optional, something positive would be lost,” Bishop Bill said. “The priesthood was set up as the job being a calling, and there’s a value there about the ministry being a way of life, and not simply an occupation that may at times have to give way to a family.

Bishop Bill said the opposition was coming from people already fearful of Pope Francis’s “liberalising tendencies”. “Opponents see this proposal as the thin edge of the wedge type thing that could set a precedent,” he said. In 2005, Australia's National Council of Priests declared that in order to adequately serve future Catholics, the number of Australian Catholic priests had to increase 20fold. The council made a submission to the World Synod of Bishops, meeting at the time in Rome, in which they asked the bishops to consider reopening the priesthood to married men. The bishops chose not to give their support or convey the council’s message to Pope Benedict and so nothing came of the request. In contrast, the current proposal, while limited only to remote areas in South America and to married men already ordained as deacons in the church, represents the first time a meeting of Catholic bishops has backed such a historic change to the tradition of celibacy among priests. The proposal was supported 128-41 by the bishops, an overwhelming majority.


Speaking at a press conference at the end of the synod, the Archbishop of Benevento, Cardinal Michael Czerny, said of the decision: "Things have to change. We cannot keep repeating old responses to urgent problems and expect to get better results than we've been getting so far." As a trained church historian, Bishop Bill is pragmatic about potential changes to celibacy laws in the Catholic Church. “People can’t say it’s impossible for priests to be married, because they have been in the past,” he said. “There was also opposition to married Anglican priests being allowed to convert to Catholicism 50 years ago. And the Indonesian bishops have been asking permission to ordain their married catechists in the villages since the 1970s. “This particular proposal would be a moderate step because the men in South America are already deacons in Holy Orders. If the Pope supports this (proposal) it certainly won’t be the end of the church.” It is not known when Pope Francis will make his final decision on the proposal.

Todd Dagwell is a contributor to Aurora.

People can’t say it’s impossible for priests to be married, because they have been in the past.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the opening of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region in St Peter's Basilica

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Let the brain play Neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis took leadership and infants teachers from Catholic schools across the MaitlandNewcastle Diocese on a tour-de-force of the developing brain last month. Students under the tutelage of those in attendance are now the beneficiaries of play-based learning. Kim Moroney, education officer at the Catholic Schools Office, says Mr Wallis’s message aligns with the philosophies of the Early Learning policy launched in March 2018. She was keen to secure him to deliver his talk “The Developing Brain — what 2-7-year-olds need to know”. In his presentation at the Wests Bowling



Holy Family students exploring play-based learning activities


Club, New Lambton, Mr Wallis guided teachers through the stages of brain development that occur through childhood. His takeaway message was that children flourish in a free-play, child-led environment, where parents and teachers are responsive to the child’s creativity. Play is a key element of the Diocese’s Early Learning policy and is having a profound impact on learning and wellbeing. Mr Wallis said advances in neuroscience in the past decade have deepened our understanding of brain development and cognitive functioning and these findings often contradict many long-held practices.

between how people ‘think’ the developing brain functions, and what neuroscience research has actually shown to be the case,” he said. Bridie Stanger, Kindergarten teacher at Holy Family Primary School, Merewether Beach said Mr Wallis’s presentation was engaging and practical. “He highlighted the early years as a critical time for a child’s social and emotional skill development, not early cognitive attainment,” Ms Stanger said.

“As educators, creating environments that develop a child’s creativity and diversity under the age of eight is important to facilitate this development. We must nurture the dispositions of each child as a learner, not focus on how clever they are, but how clever they feel they are. “I will continue to provide play provocations that are rich in opportunities for children to explore, experiment, imagine and engage with each other and the environment. Literacy and numeracy are naturally integrated within a child’s play.”

“These skills include perseverance, problem solving, confidence, risk taking, self-care and most importantly, a sense of belonging.

“The result is there is now a large gap

Some facts about ecstasy-testing kits Ecstasy-testing kits, as well as tests for a range of other drugs (cocaine, ketamine and LSD) are widely available online and are used by many to access information about what is contained in the drugs they have purchased. Over the years the tests have become more sophisticated, with users now being able to potentially identify a greater number of substances, as well as differentiate between drugs such as MDMA, MDA and MDE — something that wasn't able to be done in the past. But what are these tests actually telling the user? Do they provide us with useful information that is able to determine a certain degree of safety? It is important to be aware that an ecstasy tablet rarely contains only one substance. Often one tablet can contain many different substances, some of which are not even identifiable to the highly skilled analysts who work in the government laboratories, let alone simple tests such as these. In the past, these tests were only able to identify the presence of one substance. Even though this has now changed and there are kits available that

can provide additional information based on further testing, this does not mean the user has all the information about what may be contained in the pill, tablet or powder. Unfortunately, some people using these kits identify MDMA and then incorrectly assume this means the tablet is safe. There are two problems with this. First, MDMA is not a safe drug — there are risks associated with its use, primarily around dehydration and overheating, but it can also lead to fatal overdose in some cases. It's rare, but it can happen. Second, there may be other substances not even identified by the kit that are more harmful than MDMA. It is important to remember that ecstasytesting kits, or any other drug-testing kits for that matter, provide some information about what is in the drug you are taking, not everything... and even if you do know exactly what is in the pill or powder there is no guarantee of how you are going to react once you've taken it. Of course, having more information about the contents of an illegal drug is useful,

especially if a particularly dangerous substance such as PMA is identified, but don't be fooled — there are no guarantees and no short-cuts when it comes to drug use. No drug is 100% safe, regardless of whether you know what is in it or not. Paul Dillon has been working in the area of drug education for more than 25 years and has been contracted by many organisations across the country to provide regular updates on drug trends within the community. The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Federation of Parents & Friends Association has invited Mr Dillon to speak with the community on the topic of “Teenagers, alcohol and other drugs”. During his presentation, he will address what’s happening, what’s out there and how much influence parents really have. For information about the event, see Community Noticeboard on page 21.

Paul Dillon, Drug and Alcohol researcher

Darrell Croker is a contributor to Aurora.



The right stuff


Born and bred in our steel city, John Gralton is a proud Novocastrian with a lifelong commitment to social justice. In a decorated 32-year policing career he holds the resurgence of Newcastle City close to his heart. Held in high regard by his peers and the community, Mr Gralton was recently awarded the Australian Police Medal in the Queen’s Birthday honours. Ever humble, he said it was not a personal award, but the result of a massive team effort. What Catholic school/s did you attend? Do you know why your parents chose a Catholic education for you? I attended Holy Cross Primary, Glendale and St Pius X College, Adamstown. My grandfather was a devout Catholic as was my grandmother. My mum lived Christian values, she was a beautiful soul, but was not Catholic. But my dad used to take us to Mass as young kids — 7am Mass at Holy Cross Glendale with Father Lavery. My brother and I were both altar boys. I think going to a Catholic school was a given. You attended St Pius X Adamstown, and now your daughter attends there also. Why did you decide to send her to St Pius X and how have you seen the school change over the years? I don’t want to be controversial, however, in my days at St Pius there were some wonderful teachers – but there were others who were the cause of what was to become the school’s disgrace for that period. We all know now some priests and/or teachers were mistreating and sexually abusing students, and this was an absolute travesty. It is something that should not go unrecognised, particularly out of respect for victims of predators who “preyed on them, not prayed with them”. But St Pius has recovered, dramatically recovered, and very successfully. When I walked into the school during an orientation for my daughter, I could physically feel and see the changes — just in the attitudes of the students and the care exhibited by the teachers.

Holly, John and Elke Gralton

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What drew you to work for NSW Police? What’s been the most memorable or rewarding moment in your career? I’ve always had a pretty strong sense of social justice. I just like helping people and keeping a sense of social order. Memorable moments include picking up a twoyear-old girl out of her cot at 2am and carrying her out of her house because her mother had just committed suicide and her father was still at work awaiting the horrific news. On a more positive side, there was the pride of receiving an Australian Police Medal last year during the Queen’s Birthday Honours. But that is not a personal award in my mind. It is for all those I have worked with, and those I love and live with. Policing is a massive team effort, and no one can do it successfully without family support. Most rewarding of all though is having been a part of resurgence of Newcastle City. As a Sydney newspaper said “… Newcastle the steel city — once known as a bloodbath, now a consummate cosmopolitan city of cool”. I read it out aloud to my cops during morning briefings because I firmly believe we had a fair bit to do with assisting the council, government and community to turn the city around and change the culture for the better. What makes you proud to be a Novocastrian? There is a real “can-do” attitude in Newcastle. I recall reading once that, per head of population, Newcastle City is one of the most generous where it comes to donating for a cause where someone has fallen on tough times. I love the fact that Newcastle has everything that anyone would ever need but still has that “everyone knows everyone” feel.

Christmas is a happy time for many, however for some it is one of the hardest times of year. It can also be busy for police officers. What advice do you have? I think it’s important for people to adopt a “kindness” mentality — being more generous, tolerant and caring to those around you, not just those you know. Remember, you don’t know what might be going on in people’s lives. I try to ensure that where police are dealing with emotionally disturbed people they listen more and speak less, de-escalating the situation wherever possible, because when emotions are high critical thinking is low. I do think Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of people if their life is not going too well. We all just need to make sure we are being considerate. You have been involved in the Hunter White Ribbon Day Breakfast committee for a number of years now. Why do you believe it is important that students, including those from our Catholic schools, attend the annual event? We need, as police, but also as a community to try to work more on the prevention aspect of domestic and family violence — rather than wait and react. I encourage everyone, particularly the men and boys reading this, to challenge themselves to get engaged to tackle violence so that it does not occur in the first place. General attitudes towards women by men need to change. Not all men are violent, but most violence is committed by men. Brittany Gonzalez is a communications co-ordinator for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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I moved to Newcastle for a new job about six months ago. Despite my job keeping me busy and the enjoyment I get from working with new people, I have become increasingly lonely. Unfortunately, my family, who live interstate, will be overseas for Christmas, which makes me feel even more lonely and isolated. I love Newcastle and want to stay here but I’m not sure how to overcome my loneliness.

CatholicCare’s assistant director and registered psychologist Tanya Russell, addresses an issue each month. The advice provided is general in nature and does not replace ongoing support and advice from your health professional. To talk to someone about counselling support, call CatholicCare P 4979 1172 or Lifeline 24/7 on P 131 114.

Do you have a question for Tanya? Email your question to or write to Aurora-CareTalk PO Box 756 Newcastle 2300.

At some point in our lives, most of us will experience times when we feel lonely. As humans, we are generally social creatures and we need to connect with other humans. This is the human experience. Solitude, compared to loneliness, can be a healthy way to recharge, to enjoy our own company. Prolonged loneliness, on the other hand is linked to poorer mental health and can also have a negative impact on your immune system. Some people have many people around them, including loved ones, and they still feel lonely. Our connection to people and sense of purpose can contribute to how we feel, and these are important factors to consider when contemplating your loneliness. It can be easy to find a quick fix to “cure” our feelings of loneliness, but quick fixes are just that — and we often choose unhealthy coping strategies when we seek a quick fix to an uncomfortable feeling or situation.

the serving of meals in community kitchens. You will have the chance to spend time with people who are doing it tough, and with people who just want to help. f Ask your colleagues what their plans are for Christmas and you never know, there could be someone else who is also alone on Christmas Day with whom you could connect. f Do you have a religious faith? Do you attend church? This is another way to connect with others during this time of year.

I recommend strategies that will help you become more comfortable with your own solitude, as well as strategies to seek out new experiences and people.

f Find activities that you can do on your own. Many people are not comfortable with their own company, but Newcastle is a great place with lots to do, so take the time to explore and plan little local trips once per week. Also, the Action for Happiness website has great calendars with tips that promote happiness. The November calendar is called “New Things November” and you can find it at www.

f Is it possible to celebrate Christmas with your family another time and have this to look forward to? However, for Christmas Day, consider some of the suggestions below. There are a number of services to which you could donate your time, for example, assisting with

f Find activities where you are still alone, but you are around people. You might join a class, an online interest group, take up a new hobby, look for a volunteering opportunity. When you join a group, even if you don’t know anyone, you will be interacting with

like-minded people, which is a great starting point for a new friendship. f Find opportunities to directly connect with people. You said you enjoyed working with the people at your work. Perhaps you could ask someone if they’d like to join for a coffee, a walk, or a movie? Get to know some of your colleagues and look for common or new interests. Or, you may have someone in your personal life that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Give them a call and connect. f Do you have a pet? If you have the time and the love to give, a pet can open new doors for you. A pet means you must focus on someone else apart from you, which is a great distraction if you’re not feeling great. They offer unconditional love, and if you have a dog, they require walking — which means you get to leave your home — and this could help you form new human connections at a dog park for example. Your feeling of loneliness is an opportunity for you to figure out what makes you happy. Take the time to contemplate and then take some, or all, of the above steps. If it becomes overwhelming, reach out to a counsellor.

Come home to Calvary. As your aged care needs change, Calvary is there.

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Do you know what Nan? I think I’m going to like it here, these people are so nice. Mackenzie Paterson with his teacher Andrew Drinkwater and grandmother Janet Paterson

One perfect day It is surprising how dramatically someone’s life can change when they suddenly fit in. Mackenzie Paterson, a 14-year-old Year 8 student at St Dominic’s Centre, Mayfield, experienced that change when he transitioned from a mainstream school into the caring and supportive environment of St Dominic’s this year. Mackenzie has been diagnosed with moderate cognitive disability, and autism spectrum disorder level 2. He used to hate school and would often avoid it, which was becoming a case of school refusal. “He never went to school,” his grandmother Janet Paterson said. “He had panic attacks on the way to school and just flat out refused to go. He used to get agitated and this was coming out in some violent and aggressive behaviours. That happened for two years and resulted in ongoing absences from school, which

became an issue with the Department of Education.” Everything changed when Ms Paterson found St Dominic’s website.

grown in leadership, confidence and self-esteem,” Ms McLoughlin said. “We saw great potential and he’s been given the environment where he feels safe to contribute and try new activities.”

“The first day we visited the school, Mackenzie was anxious and reluctant to go inside. But when he came in and was introduced to the staff and the principal he said, ‘Do you know what Nan? I think I’m going to like it here, these people are so nice.’ They made him feel comfortable. He just needed to have support.”

Ms Paterson has also noticed how the supportive environment has changed Mackenzie. “He's come along leaps and bounds socially. In his demeanour, his confidence, he has even lost weight. Everything about the school has been good for him. Absolutely everything. They are fantastic.”

Since that day, Mackenzie has had a perfect school attendance record.

School photos show the change. “I’ve never seen him smile so much,” Ms Paterson said.

Principal of St Dominic’s, Veronica McLoughlin, says she noticed Mackenzie’s level of anxiety has decreased as he has built friendships at school. “Mackenzie has formed lovely social relationships with his peers and has

Ms Paterson says she could not find a greater group of people at St Dominic’s. “I would recommend it to anyone. The staff and the principal are beautiful. They will do anything they can for the kids, anything at all. Also for the parents. If you've got

a problem that you're not dealing with, they'll help you, and they're just so good.” St Dominic's caters for Kindergarten to Year 10 students with a range of disabilities including hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorder and moderate cognitive disability. The school’s purpose-built design minimises noise, distraction and sensory overload. Each student has a personalised plan that promotes the development of listening, language and academic skills and positive social outcomes. There are places now available for students with moderate cognitive disability entering Year 7. Contact St Dominic’s Centre today. Brooke Robinson is content officer for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Intimate. Immersive. Transformative. Walk the Camino Portugués or the Camino Frances Trips in May and Sept-Oct 2020 Find out more today:

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depression and anxiety,” APS president Ros Knight said. “Adults should be aware that children are feeling these emotions about climate change as keenly as we are.”

Although he’s only 16, Ben Hewitt has been “keeping tabs” on climate change for years and he’s “particularly concerned” about the type of planet future generations will inherit. “The climate situation is getting worse but we’re not doing much about it,” the Year 11 student at All Saints’ College Maitland said. “So much money is still going into fossil fuels – just look at the Adani proposal.” As one of two environmental leaders at All Saints, Ben says he’s more annoyed about climate change inaction than he is anxious about a future catastrophe but understands why “eco-anxiety” is increasing. In September, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) threw its support behind the School Strike for Climate rally after identifying “climate distress” as a growing mental health concern in Australia. “Psychologists are seeing an increasing number of clients who say their concerns about climate change and the future of the planet are having a negative impact on their mental health, including increased

Mackenzie Smith, also in Year 11 at All Saints’, believes the perceived danger of climate change has made young people more susceptible to mental health issues. She attributes certain media coverage of global warming to the increased angst among youth. “There is a perception that drastic change needs to be made within the next 10 years before our environmental problems become irreversible,” Mackenzie said. “This pressure is contributing to mental health issues in the youth of today.” Recent survey figures from ReachOut, an online youth mental health organisation, and Student Edge, the largest member-based organisation of high school and tertiary students in Australia, say up to 80 per cent of students report being somewhat or very anxious about climate change. The survey data, which is not nationally representative, was collected from 1595 high school and university students aged 14-23. Up to 82 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement "climate change is going to diminish my quality of life in the future"; while 77 per cent said they did not believe their generation's concerns about climate change were being suitably addressed.

All Saints College, Maitland students discuss their position on climate change

The supposed lack of acknowledgement, or action, by politicians is a view with which Ben strongly identifies. “I’m annoyed because we have all seen the facts but we still aren’t seeing enough investment in renewables,” Ben said. “If I had the opportunity I’d ask Prime Minister Morrison to consider how future generations will look back on him if he doesn’t do more to address climate change while he still can.” CatholicCare psychologist Chloe Marshall said it was important to validate how young people feel and help them cope with distress while encouraging them to focus on what they can do to make a difference. “I think one of the problems with the climate change debate is that people can tend to underestimate their own capacity to create change and take steps to alleviate the problem themselves,” Ms Marshall said. “While world leaders have a significant role to play in creating significant change, it is not up to one person but all of us to make a difference. We can each be responsible for how we care for the planet.” For Ben, who attended the Newcastle School Strike 4 Climate earlier this

year, concentrating on what he can do to protect the environment helps him maintain a positive attitude about the future. “Our school environmental team did a lot of tree planting earlier this year and we’re planning fundraisers for outside organisations that plant trees as well,” Ben said. “I’m also working on increasing the number of recycling bins we have and I’m very passionate about animals and helping prevent loss of species.” As for students who may be experiencing “eco-anxiety”, Ben says joining the environmental team, which is open to everyone, is a great way to alleviate concerns. “We discuss climate change at our fortnightly meetings — the group is very supportive when people are feeling anxious,” he said. “Climate change now plays a big part in school life and I think it’s best to always try and maintain an optimistic outlook.” Todd Dagwell is a contributor to Aurora

Photo: Peter Stoop

Climate of anxiety





A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Faces and places in our Diocese Diocesan Synod On 23 November 400 people gathered for the first session of the Diocesan Synod. The theme was ‘Building the Kingdom of God Together’. Read about the day on page 14.

Rhonda Quinn and Carmel Spiteri

Majella and Tony Bonaventura

Shane and Joshua Hyland

Lachlan James and Audrey Waugh

Sr Pauline Berg and Patricia Spradbrow

Stephanie Colvin and Renata Powell

Fr Christogonus Okoro and Fr Collins Nwokeocha

Anne and Mark Wilson

Sr Jan Tranter and Maureen Alsleben

Term investments with the CDF offer a way to invest while also supporting the Catholic community. Earn a competitive rate of interest, while choosing the timeframes that are right for you. Choose from 3, 6 or 12 month options. For more information about our services, including our Terms and Conditions. Freecall 1800 810 330 or visit Investments with Catholic Development Fund (CDF) are guaranteed by Bishop William Wright, Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle Diocese and CDPF Limited, a company established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for this purpose. We welcome your investment with the CDF rather than with a profit oriented commercial organisation as a conscious commitment by you to support the Charitable, Religious and Educational works of the Catholic Church. The CDF is not subject to the provisions of the Corporation Act 2001 nor has it been examined or approved by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The CDF is also exempt from the normal requirements to have a disclosure statement or Product Disclosure Statement under the Corporations Act 2001(Cth). Neither CDF nor the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are prudentially supervised by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Contributions to CDF do not obtain the benefit of the depositor protection provisions of the Banking Act 1959. CDF is designed for investors who wish to promote the charitable purposes of the Diocese.

W W W. M N N E W S . T O D AY / A U R O R A - M A G A Z I N E

Community Noticeboard Annual Dutch Day in the park with the arrival of St Nicholas This Dutch Christmas celebration will be held Saturday 7 December at Marmong Park — 31b George Street — Marmong Point. Look for the Dutch flags. Commencing about midday. Rain hail or shine St Nicholas will, for the 62nd time, arrive during the afternoon. For further information contact the secretary of Dutch Society “Concordia”, Joop de Wit on 02 4954 5227. The Toymaker, the Boy and Christmas St Columba’s Adamstown Drama Group, Bright Sparks, present The Toymaker, the Boy and Christmas at 2pm on Sunday 15 December at St Columba’s Hall, Lockyer Street, Adamstown.

Couples are advised to attend a course about four months before their wedding. Book early, as some courses are very popular. Before We Say I Do is a group program held on Friday evenings and Saturdays, as advertised, and the FOCCUS group program is three Monday-evening sessions. Before We Say I Do, 14 and 15 February, Toohey Room, Newcastle. Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 9am-5pm. Marriage and Relationship Education Course — FOCCUS, Murray Room, Newcastle, 3 and 10 March. 5.157.30pm, (session three to be confirmed). Before We Say I Do, 15 and 16 May, Toohey Room, Newcastle. Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 9am-5pm.

Cost $10 adults, Children 5-14 years $5. Enquiries call Christine Williams 4943 3824 or Lyndall Ford 4957 8527 or M 0415 745 623.

We also have a wait list for our Bringing Baby Home workshop, which assists couples transition to parenthood. FOCCUS Individual sessions by appointment only.

Simbang Gabi

For further information on all our courses, including costs, please contact Robyn Donnelly, 4979 1370, or

In preparation for the Solemnity of the Lord's birth, novena Masses will be celebrated at 7.15pm from 15 December to 23 December at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 841 Hunter St, Newcastle West. The Christmas novena Masses, also known as Simbang Gabi to Filipinos, is a long tradition brought by the Spanish Friars in The Philippines in 1669. They are in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Expectant Mother of God, and serve as a preparation for the commemoration of the Birth of Our Lord and Saviour. All are welcome. Supper follows each Mass. Marriage and relationship education courses 2020 Marriage education is a vital part of planning for a life partnership. CatholicCare offers a selection of courses for married and soon-to-be married couples.

Our community needs you St Vincent de Paul Society invites you to join us in service to the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our community by giving just a few hours of your time per week as a volunteer/or conference member. Vinnies Maitland/Newcastle region is looking for people of all ages — 16 and over to assist one to two days per week. This is a great opportunity if you are looking for volunteering work to meet Centrelink requirements, or looking to connect with like-minded people wanting to have a positive impact on the lives of others.

What’s on


For more events please visit

Volunteer work provides renewed energy, motivation and a real sense of purpose by giving something back to others and the community. Put volunteering on your New Year’s resolution list. To find out more and register your interest contact Rachel 4967 6277 or email Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament Adoration takes place 6pm-7pm at St Philip’s, 31 Vista Parade, Kotara every Sunday. For more information contact Wayne Caruana 0466 631 394. Youth Mass On the first Sunday of each month, the 5.30pm Mass at St Patrick’s Church, Macquarie Street, Wallsend, has music and readings led by the youth of the parish. Everyone is welcome. Wild and Wonderful Wednesdays Wild and Wonderful Wednesdays 10am at Mums’ Cottage, 29 St Helen Street, Holmesville, is an opportunity for women to gather for fun and company. Each Wednesday is different, with possibilities including games of Scrabble, sharing stories, singing karaoke, or watching a movie together. For more information: Mums’ Cottage 4953 4105, Visit Garage sales A garage sale is held in the Mums’ Cottage grounds every second Monday at 10am. For more information: Mums’ Cottage 4953 4105, Visit

Teenagers, alcohol and other drugs The Federation of Parents and Friends Associations invites you to a talk by Paul Dillon on Thursday 12 December, at 6pm at St Mary’s All Saints College, Maitland. RSVP at Paul Dillon has been working in the area of drug education for more than 25 years and has been contracted by many organisations across the country to provide regular updates on drug trends within the community. He is well regarded as a social commentator and regularly features in Australian media. Mr Dillon will speak with the community on the topic of “Teenagers, alcohol and other drugs” (he published a best-selling book by the same title in 2009, which has since been released internationally). During his presentation he will address what’s happening, what’s out there and how much influence parents really have.

For your diary December 7

Dutch Christmas celebration with St Nicholas (see opposite)

8-10 Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Perth 12

Teenagers, alcohol and other drugs (see above)


The Toymaker, the Boy and Christmas (see opposite)


Simbang Gabi begins (see opposite)


Birthday of Pope Francis


International Migrants Day


Christmas Eve


Christmas Day

For the latest news & events in our Diocese You can download the Diocese phone, iPad or tablet app here


Last Word

A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Film Review: Summer in the Forest When Jean Vanier died earlier this year, it reminded us a significant 90-year life had made quite an impact on the world, including the Catholic Church, Christians and compassionate people, and 147 l’Arche communities in 35 countries.

One of the great advantages of Summer in the Forest is that Vanier not only appears but also does a great deal of the voiceover. We hear memories of his early life and the influence of his father, about his time as governor-general of Canada, life in the Navy, his first encounter with the mentally disabled, the first community, and his reflections on simplicity, respect for everyone, and his spirituality. Patients moved out of prison-like, humiliating institutions, and barriers were dropped, encouraging celebration and laughter, becoming family. Vanier was a big man, physically, with a complete life dedication to spiritually. But he was also genial, down-to-earth, and patient. We see him accompanying a range of men and women in France, and visiting and supporting in Bethlehem. As we accompany the communities in France, it is something of a jolt to be transferred to Palestine. There are many images of the wall separating Palestine from Israel, and some of the L’Arche community living at home and getting ready to go to the community

house, getting to know more people with different styles of life, music, dance and exuberance. Accompaniment is a keyword. There is no goal to be reached. Rather, those who live in the communities are listened to, meals are shared, work is shared, and there are happy and patient conversations around the realities of work and play day-by-day. Vanier notes we are all fragile but many of us hide this. Those who live in the communities have not cultivated the mind or the superiority of knowledge but seek friendship and family. We also see the presence and work of so many of the volunteers — and the challenge of making small talk, listening, alert to cues for responding and communicating. Vanier says L’Arche is not a utopia, but a hope, of presence, taking time, wasting time apparently, but a place where we can be what we are called to be. Which means this film is offering possibilities for its audience to share Vanier’s perspective and to accompany several characters,

FR RICHARD LEONARD SJ sometimes waking up with them, shaving and dressing, going to meals, travelling with them, listening to their confidences, the memories, their hopes. One elderly man, Michel, is prominent, victim of a medical accident when young, with strong memories of the war and its impact, visiting the war cemetery. Andre is also an old man, as is Patrick, Andre not the greatest communicator but with a great friend, Wadid, whose house he visits to share a meal. The surroundings of the L’Arche communities is a forest, beautiful shots of summer, the trees, the green, and an atmosphere of both growth and fulfilment. You can support L’Arche Australia with your purchase of this DVD. Only $25 from the L’Arche Australia website. www.larche. Aurora is giving away one copy of the DVD. To win, email by 17 December with the subject “DVD giveaway”, and include your name and phone number.

Photo: Peter Stoop

Shape your shortbread

Shortbread Biscuits Are you looking for a homemade gift you can share with friends and family this Christmas? Maybe you could take some inspiration from the children at St Nicholas Early Education, Lochinvar, who have shared their Christmas shortbread recipe. The children had a wonderful time rolling out the dough and cutting it into Christmas stars and trees. Maybe you have some little friends who would enjoy helping you in the kitchen too. Most St Nicholas Early Education centres provide a full-service menu, including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, prepared by cooks and enjoyed by children.

Ingredients f 150g plain flour f 100g butter f 50g sugar f 1tsp vanilla essence optional Method Chop flour and butter together and rub into small crumbs. Add sugar and work together to form a firm dough. Wrap in plastic and rest in fridge for 20 minutes. Roll out onto a bench top. Cut shapes and bake on a dry baking tray for about 20 minutes at 180°C.

Sophia, Isabelle, Oscar and Tiffany making Christmas shortbread

Enrolments Now Open Lochinvar & Raymond Terrace

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