Aurora February 2020

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Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle February 2020 | No.198



Levy creates INNOVATIVE LEARNING environment

Vatican to open SECRET ARCHIVE

A fund you can trust

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Appropriate Responses

On the cover Jacob Merrick in Singleton Photo by Peter Stoop

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle February 2020 | No.198



Levy creates INNOVATIVE LEARNING environment

Vatican to open SECRET ARCHIVE

Featured f Jacob’s famished fields


f Catholic response to calamity


f In the spirit of learning


f Life can be a beach


f Ethical concerns surround mitochondrial donation


f Vatican to open secret archive


f Crossing that curricular bridge


f Levy creates innovative learning environment


f Little voices and the Kingdom of Heaven 12 f Families, not orphanages


f Teacher for the ages


f Relationships give meaning to life


f OOSH to the holiday rescue


f School’s out forever


f Faith in the system


f Eclectic festival catches the ear


f Seeking God through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults


f Review: A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning 19 f Take the chance to respond



Welcome to the first edition of Aurora for the new year. As we usher in a new decade, I look forward with hope for what lies ahead. In the “teens” the Diocese went through an excruciating public examination of its historical failures to protect children from abuse. The forensic examinations conducted into the Diocese by both the Cunneen Special Commission of Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse were, as Bishop Bill describes, “extraordinarily confronting, entirely justified and invaluable to our mission as church”. In the new decade, the Diocese will take from these learnings and focus them towards the future. The Diocese is committed to building a church where the safeguarding of the vulnerable is re-established as a core tenant of our lived faith, informed by a comprehensive and transparent knowledge of our past. And so, it is significant that this year the Office of Safeguarding will support the Diocese in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, which

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are a key component of our commitment. I am certain we will share stories with you in Aurora throughout the year of this progress. I am optimistic our prayers for the gift of rain will be answered and assist those affected by worsening drought conditions and raging fires. The recent and short-lived downpour has helped, but it is not enough. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Jacob Merrick, an 11-year-old student who lives on a property in Singleton. Wise beyond his years, my conversation with him drove home the effect this drought is having on so many in our communities — not just those directly affected. And while our Catholic ministries, along with other faith-based and charitable organisations are doing remarkable work, I do hope the government continues to increase its commitment to supporting our communities experiencing hardship both throughout this year and well beyond. Our future depends on it. The Catholic Church, through its agencies, is extending

its support to families feeling the effects of catastrophic weather events by offering chaplaincy, free counselling and reduced school fees. These are all great, practical measures of support. However, the church is far more than its agencies; it is primarily all the faithful. We, as neighbours, have been responding in extraordinary ways to relieve the burden of others in any way that we can, from baking goods for firefighters, placing buckets in our showers, donating what we can in special collections, or offering beds in our homes. In this adversity, we are witnessing the magnitude of the human spirit.

Lizzie Snedden is acting editor for Aurora

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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

Of some new ‘things’ Where I lived when I was a teenager, one of the aspirations of many a Catholic schoolboy was to be dating a girl from PLC, the Presbyterian Ladies College. It was generally an unfulfilled hope. The girls not only seemed more sophisticated and glittering from a distance, they actually were. Only once was I invited to a predominantly PLC party, on the grounds of being a near neighbour, and I was hopelessly out of my depth, quite innocent of the rules of engagement. We were “Would you like to come to the dance at the church hall?” type boys; they were “Why don’t you come down to our chalet for a few days?” type girls. There was, however, another side to PLC girls that exercised a certain fascination. They had, apparently, the best schoolgirl rugby team in Sydney. That may not have been so very remarkable, because girls’ rugby wasn’t “a thing” then. I had and have no idea who PLC played against, perhaps Ascham or SCEGGS or some other ladies’ college beyond my ken. But the idea of the PLC football team certainly added something to the mystery, or mystique, of those girls’ lives, at least for more common creatures like my younger self. Today, of course, girls’ football of all kinds is a thing, and not only for the aristocracy. That is a positive development, an opening up of possibilities for participation that barely existed in the past. Other things that have become “things” in my lifetime I am not so sure about. One of them occurs this month, Valentine’s Day. As a teenager, I knew of Valentine’s

Day from American TV shows, but I would not have known the date or have ever seen it observed here in any way. In 1966, decimal currency was introduced into Australia on 14th of February, a date that stuck in people’s minds because of a very effective jingle used in the government publicity about the change. But there was no reference to Valentine’s Day at the time. It was only decades later, Valentine’s Day having become “a thing” in Australia, that it dawned on me that it fell on “decimal currency day”. Ask any old person, they’ll tell you the same. So, do I mind Valentine’s Day being now in Australia? Not much, if the truth be told. But I do have a lingering unease of some sort about our simply adopting things from American culture. “Cultural imperialism” and all that, especially when the driving force seems to be a marketing exercise. And then there’s the social anxiety that’s created. I’m thinking of primary school teachers who must ensure that somehow no child misses out on getting some sort of Valentine’s message. I’m thinking of the teenage angst of those who don’t have a Valentine. Did we need this as “a thing” in Australia? Before ending, though, I just want to mention another opportunity for young people to be part of a new thing. We have for some years run our “pastoral placement” program for people who have left school. For a certain number of hours a week they commit to service in their parishes, and on other days they’ll get to experience working in settings such as DARA's refugee service, the food van

and other CatholicCare ministries, school retreats and youth groups. Meanwhile they’re helped to reflect on what they’re doing and seeing, against the background of Catholic social teaching and practice. It’s for young folk who want to explore their gifts for service and/or evangelisation. Now the good news is that, though we budgeted for six, we have nine applicants so promising that we’ve just had to take them all on. Maybe this is not as big a development as the growth of girls’ football or Valentine’s Day, but I am glad it has now taken root as “a thing” in our Diocese.

Bishop Bill Wright Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

Frankly Spoken Love is always fruitful, love of God is always fruitful, and if you allow yourself to receive the Lord’s gifts, this will allow you to give them to others. General Audience – Vatican – 8 January 2020

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Jacob’s famished fields LIZZIE SNEDDEN With the prolonged absence of steady rainfall across the country, images of arid and cracked landscapes, dust storms and cattle with bones protruding are commonplace. Hostage to severe weather conditions, the lack of moisture has farreaching impacts. Jacob Merrick, 11, already has a sound understanding of the effect drought is having on his community in the Lower Hunter. His parents bought the farm on which he now lives when he was just one, and they've worked hard to produce lucerne ever since. Each day, both before and after school, and on weekends, Jacob joins his father working on the property. "I help dad produce the lucerne, cut the bales of hay and load it, as well as take orders,” he said. "We get lots of phone calls and emails, particularly now we're in a drought, from people wanting to buy lucerne so they can feed their livestock. We can't keep up with the demand and have to turn people away." Jacob explains this dilemma with a level of maturity well beyond his years. "It's stressful,” he said. “But unfortunately, it's not just a matter of sowing more seeds, because we too are experiencing the impact of drought. We’re using twice the amount of water for half the yield. Our expenses have doubled. It makes me really upset, but I guess that's just the way things are at the moment."


A student of St Catherine's Catholic College, Singleton, Jacob has been involved in the school's agricultural program under the guidance of Joanna Towers, since he was eight. Ms Towers said worsening drought conditions are making it far more challenging to manage the school's property and livestock. "Everywhere I know to call and buy feed is sold out,” she said. “It is next to impossible. That's only going to get harder as access to water becomes more restricted. People in the Hunter are very resilient, and we’re in a lot better position than many others around the country with some water still in the dams, but I think there is this feeling that … it's starting to impact people. “We are doing a lot of praying at school. There are times where we are going to feel down about it, but we can't give up. It will rain again." St Catherine's agricultural class recently hosted a fundraiser where calves born and Jacob Merrick contemplating the future

Photo: Peter Stoop

bred on its farm were sent to butcher and auctioned as meat raffles. The initiative raised $5500, which went back into the school farm, and some meat packs were donated to the Broke Rural Fire Service. Ms Towers said the drought is forcing students to think of ways to develop sustainable farming practices in times of adversity. Jacob said the lessons he is learning at school are helping him understand the realities of farming. “We're taught which stock are best to buy at different times, particularly in drought,” he said. “Things don't come cheap on a farm." Aside from increasing costs, Jacob also describes the toll the drought is taking on mental health. "I do work experience with farmers in the area," Jacob said, "and I see it's hard for them to concentrate because they're losing stock either through having to sell them, or because they're dying because of the heat and lack of water. "I reckon the drought is making a lot of people depressed. Most of the farmers have big families, and they can't afford to keep their farms and their families going. It's tough." Jacob said that aside from a few lucerne paddocks, everywhere around his house is brown and lifeless and dust hazes are common. Yet, even with a first-hand understanding of drought and farming he is keen to follow the family tradition. "I definitely want to be a farmer one day," said Jacob, "it's something I enjoy doing, and I just love animals and the fresh air. I could never have an office job. As well as producing lucerne, I'd also like to get into cattle farming and eventually have my own stud. And, to be a vet.” Agricultural studies are on the rise at universities after a two-decade lull, so he's not alone. "I don't know when the rain will come, but dad reckons it will come this month or next. Something has to give soon,” Jacob said. Help in drought CatholicCare Social Services HunterManning is offering free and confidential counselling services to drought-affected individuals and families within the Diocese. To make an appointment phone (02) 4979 1120. Lizzie Snedden is acting editor for Aurora


Catholic response to calamity Australia is enduring an unprecedented calamity says Australian Archbishops’ Conference president Mark Coleridge, as a result of fires that engulfed the land. “We have all seen the apocalyptic images, even if we are not in the areas most affected,” Archbishop Coleridge said. “Lives have been lost, homes and towns have been destroyed, smoke has shrouded large swaths of our country.” Archbishop Coleridge’s comments come on the back of the conference’s co-ordinated response to the bushfire crisis, which includes taking up special collections at Masses across the country over the Australia Day weekend. The collections will be used to support the Vinnies’ bushfire appeal. Photo: David Stedman

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

Vinnies is on the ground helping people as they deal with the immediate aftermath of fires and will continue to be there as they rebuild their lives in the long term. While the bishops typically respond to challenges at a parish or diocesan level, the scale of this crisis requires a national response from the whole church to complement and co-ordinate local efforts. With your support, Vinnies will: f provide food, clothing, essential items and grocery vouchers for people who have lost everything f pay unexpected bills as people work through the recovery process f make referrals onto a range of other organisations providing crisis accommodation and specialised services f give much-needed emotional support, as well as practical assistance to pick up the pieces after homes are lost. At this point, the best way to support people affected by the bushfires is to make a financial donation. Distributing goods in kind in the immediate future is difficult due to the cost of transport and the difficulty of getting goods to affected areas because of road closures. Purchasing items locally

from small businesses is great support for the economy. To donate, visit or, go to a Vinnies shop. All monies donated to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal go directly to eligible individuals in bushfire-affected areas across Australia. The total 100% of money donated to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal is used to help people affected by the fires. “With broad and deep roots across the nation, the church stands ready to walk alongside people throughout their journey of recovery,” Archbishop Coleridge said. “Our experts on the ground — from agencies like Vinnies, CatholicCare and CentaCare, in parishes and other Catholic communities, including Catholic hospitals and aged-care providers — know this will be a long-term process to help people and whole towns rebuild.” A genuinely Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer, which inspires concrete and compassionate action. Please continue to pray for those affected, especially those who have lost loved ones, for those fighting the fires and for an end to the ongoing crisis. If you would like to access prayers and other resources please visit

In the spirit of learning DARRELL CROKER The newly appointed principal of St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton, brings a commitment to the vitality of learning and an understanding he will be surrounded by like-minded passionate educators and learners.

at Maitland. He has spent almost three decades as an educator in Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Newcastle-Maitland and is acutely aware of the important role St Francis Xavier’s College plays in the network.

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle appointed Greg Ptolemy as principal of St Francis Xavier’s, commencing this year and at a significant time in the college’s history.

“I anticipate the college will continue to undertake reflective practice in order to sustain the foundational principles that have allowed it to provide quality education for so long, whilst embarking on new learning that will drive it to remain at the forefront of educational practice for years to come,” he said.

“It is an enormous privilege to be granted the opportunity to undertake the role,” Mr Ptolemy said. “It is my hope that SFX will remain deeply committed to developing students holistically with a focus on excellence in learning, founded in a deep sense of our spiritual journey together. As a community, we will continue to use the traditions of the past as a catalyst for the exploration of future possibilities.” Mr Ptolemy is a product of the Catholic education system, first with the Sisters of St Joseph in Cessnock, and then under the tutelage of the Marist Brothers

Mr Ptolemy said he was “blessed” to have worked with so many wonderful communities throughout the Diocese that have helped shape his personal learning journey. He said these experiences shaped his understanding that learning is fundamental to living. He believes the ongoing process of renewal through learning invigorates us as human beings to grow and realise our potential, regardless of age. Mr Ptolemy is one of three newly appointed principals in the Diocese. Joining him are Amy Maslen at Joseph’s Primary School, Gloucester, and Frank Jones at St Joseph's Primary School, Taree. Darrell Croker is a contributor to Aurora. Greg Ptolemy

Photo: Peter Stoop

While the departure of the Marist Brothers from the direct leadership of the college will inevitably result in change, Mr Ptolemy says it is his desire to ensure the foundations of the Marist charism remain at the centre of the college’s undertakings.

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Photo: Peter Stoop. Inset: Lizzie Snedden

Lorin Ramo at Bar Beach

Life can be a beach BRITTANY GONZALEZ

Development and Relief Agency (DARA) refugee programs continue to expand, providing vital support to new Australian immigrants. A real highlight at the end of last year was the “Welcome to the Beach” program, offered in conjunction with CatholicCare, Cooks Hill Surf Life Saving Club and other services. More than 200 people, including refugees and international students, attended the two-day event at Bar Beach which aimed to introduce Newcastle’s famous surf culture and provide essential safety advice.

that new arrivals to Newcastle could have about entering an unknown environment. "Participants feel welcomed, they feel a sense of belonging and they have fun," Mr Sandy said. For some of those participants, the effect was profound. One was Lorin Ramo, 19, a recently arrived refugee from Syria.

The program encourages new arrivals to use the beach over the summer period, offers information about surf safety, and introduces families to volunteer lifeguards.

“Great trip at the beach,” Ms Ramo said. “I was so excited to see the beach and to see blue water and play with water, as I did not see the beach before coming to Australia. I have never visited the beach in my country. We did not have the opportunity to see the sea because of the difficult conditions.

DARA project liaison officer John Sandy said the program removed a sense of fear

“When I came to Australia, I visited in CatholicCare and it helped me a lot in

many areas. They organised a trip to help new refugees see the sea. I cannot count the beauties we saw and all the new refugees. I don't know how to thank them. I say with all my heart, thank you very much,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for me. They encouraged me to go on this trip. It was one of life's best pleasures to go out on this trip with the help of CatholicCare and to share moments of happiness and comfort with my family and friends and with all the new people I met.” Ms Ramo said the beach gave her great emotional comfort by helping her to regain her energy and enthusiasm and forget the hardships she has endured.

nationalities and getting to know them. It was very beautiful. It was nice to get to know each other and everyone was happy. Another experience was seeing the sunset at the beach. The enchanting scenery took me to distant worlds, and I hope this journey never ends.” Ms Ramo said she would be careful not to forget the beach safety instructions she has been taught. “We did the program before going to the beach. It is necessary to be careful in the water, not to swim long distances for fear of any emergency.” Brittany Gonzalez is a communications co-ordinator for the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle.

“One of the most amazing experiences I had on this trip was seeing people of many

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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

Ethical concerns surround mitochondrial donation FR KEVIN McGOVERN

In November last year, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ran a public campaign asking whether Australia should allow the creation of babies with DNA from more than two people? The NHMRC invited all Australians to provide their views on the use of a new assisted reproductive technology that might prevent certain rare mitochondrial diseases, but which requires careful social consideration. As a priest with expertise in Christian ethics and moral theology, I was one of the experts the campaign made available for consultation. The other experts included medical and legal professors. Australian law currently prohibits the creation of babies using DNA from more than two people, and also prohibits making changes to an embryo or egg that can be passed down to future generations. NHMRC was asking the Australian community to consider the ethics associated with mitochondrial donation, with a view to providing advice to the federal government. Mitochondrial donation might be able to prevent mitochondrial DNA disease in an estimated 60 children born each year in Australia. The social and ethical issues relate to the use of mitochondrial DNA from a donor (using IVF) that results in a child having DNA from three people; the rights of children to know their full genetic heritage; the potential risks and benefits of the technology; and the implications for future generations.

Human beings are made up of billions of cells, most of which contain a nucleus. The nucleus holds most of our DNA – somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 genes on 46 chromosomes. Most of our cells also contain many mitochondria, which provide the cell with energy and support other important functions. I think of them as tiny batteries. Mitochondria also contain some DNA – 37 genes in all. Mitochondrial DNA disease occurs when there is a defect in one or more of the mitochondrial genes. Affected mitochondria do not function properly, and therefore do not provide the cell with the energy that it needs. There are more than 300 different mitochondrial diseases. Symptoms range from fatigue to deafness, intellectual disability, diabetes, liver failure, heart failure, respiratory failure, seizures and strokes. One in 5000 Australian babies is born with a severe or life-threatening form of mitochondrial DNA disease. Many of these babies die as children. Many other Australians (about one in 200) are born with defects in their mitochondrial genes that could lead to mitochondrial DNA disease at some stage in their lives. We inherit our mitochondria from our mother. Mitochondrial donation attempts to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial DNA disease from mother to child. There are at least four techniques. Each of them involves IVF, which is not approved of by the Catholic Church. Each also involves the father’s sperm, the mother’s egg (with defective mitochondria), and a donor egg

(with healthy mitochondria). The aim is to produce a zygote or early embryo that contains the nuclear DNA from the father’s sperm, the nuclear DNA from the mother’s egg, and the healthy mitochondria from the donor egg. This zygote would then be implanted into the mother’s womb, and hopefully would develop free of mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondrial donation is new, and we know little about how effective or safe it might be. There is some risk of a carryover of the defective mitochondria – which means there is some risk of the child still developing serious mitochondrial disease. There is an alternative to mitochondrial donation that is safer and less ethically troubling.

If mitochondrial donation is permitted in Australia, the technique most likely to be used would be pronuclear transfer or PNT. In this technique, both the mother’s egg and the donor egg are fertilised by sperm from the father. The nuclear DNA in the zygote produced from the donor egg is then replaced with the nuclear material from the zygote produced from the mother’s egg. If all goes well, this should produce a zygote who is genetically related to both his or her mother and father, but who also possesses healthy mitochondria from the donor egg.

The alternative is simply to fertilise the donor egg with the father’s sperm. It means there will be no genetic relationship between the child and their mother, but just as parents of adoptees love their children, these parents will love their child too. And this alternative eliminates any risk of their child developing mitochondrial disease.

The ethical concern is that pronuclear transfer involves producing and then destroying human life. Two zygotes are produced. Each of them is a unique human life. Each of them is what all of us once were at the earliest moment of our existence. But one of these zygotes is destroyed so that some of its parts can be used. I feel very strongly about this issue because I know that I was once a zygote and an embryo in my mother’s womb, and this zygote is my brother or my sister. It is wrong to destroy human life even from that moment when that life begins.

Mitochondrial donation introduces changes that could be heritable – that is, changes that could be passed on to any progeny of this child. What effect could this have on the human genome in the future? The United States does not permit mitochondrial donation for this reason. Australian law does not currently permit mitochondrial donation. Might it be better and safer to leave this ban in place? Fr Kevin McGovern is a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Mitochondrial Donation Expert Working Committee. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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Vatican to open secret archive TODD DAGWELL

Pius, Pontiff from 1939 to 1958, has been accused of tolerating the rise of Nazi Germany and of being negligent in his efforts to protect Jews during the Holocaust. His detractors hope the archives will finally enable historians to prove Pope Pius failed in his response to Nazism. However his supporters, who believe Pius XII helped save Jews behind the scenes, hope the documents will prove he acted appropriately and therefore strengthen the case for his sainthood. In 2008 at a Mass marking the 50th year since Pius’s death, Pope Benedict XVI defended his predecessor, saying he worked “secretly and silently to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews possible”. The church officially declared Pius “venerable”, a precursor to beatification, in 2009 but three of his successors – Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II – have now been declared saints before him. The delay has been attributed to the accusations Pius failed to condemn Nazism with some Holocaust survivors describing the church’s decision to declare Pius “venerable” as “profoundly insensitive and thoughtless”. The Vatican usually opens its archives 70 years after the end of a pontificate, but scholars for decades have been calling for the early release of Pius’s papers. Criticism of Pope Pius’s perceived inaction during World War II gained traction in 1963 with the publication of Rolf Hochhuth’s play, The Deputy, A Christian Tragedy, which accused the pope of indifference to the Holocaust. Over the next decade many books were published on the subject before interest spiked again in 1999 following the publication of Hitler’s Pope by British journalist John Cornwell. He argued that Pius’s prior career as a diplomat helps explain why he didn’t openly denounce the Nazis.

Pius XII was Eugenio Pacelli, the son of a Vatican lawyer. Before he became pope, he served as both the Vatican’s ambassador to Germany and the Vatican’s secretary of state. During this time he supported General Franco in the Spanish Civil War, and the friendly relationship between the Vatican and Benito Mussolini led to the creation of the sovereign state of Vatican City in 1929. “The church isn’t afraid of history,” Pope Francis said in March last year when he announced his decision to open the archive early. He said Pius’s pontificate included "moments of grave difficulties, tormented decisions of human and Christian prudence, that to some could appear as reticence". The American Jewish Committee (AJC) welcomed the decision and said it had pressed the Vatican for more than three decades to make the wartime papers public. "It is particularly important that experts from the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the US objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as the valiant efforts made during the period of the Shoah [Holocaust]," said the AJC's, international director of interreligious affairs, Rabbi David Rosen. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, director, Sara J. Bloomfield said in a statement last year that it was “long overdue for speculation to be replaced by rigorous scholarship, which is only possible once scholars have full access to all of these records. This is important for the sake of historical truth, but there is moral urgency too – we owe this to the survivor generation, which is rapidly diminishing.” Pope Francis said he was confident that “serious and objective historical research will allow the evaluation of Pius in the correct light”, including “appropriate criticism”. In our April edition Aurora will examine the first reactions of scholars and commentators to the newly released documents. Todd Dagwell is a contributor to Aurora.

Photo: jorisvo /

Almost 12 months ago Pope Francis announced a decision that is expected to shed light on one of the most controversial periods of Vatican history. On 2 March – years earlier than expected – the Vatican will open up its sealed archive on Pope Pius XII, who led the church during World War II.


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

Crossing that curricular bridge BRETT DONOHOE An evolving model of contemporary learning at St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm, encompassing cross-curricular work and a co-teaching approach, is preparing students for the 21st century. St Bede’s adopted the model in its foundation year, 2018. From the initial educational brief that informed the architectural design of the school, learning has evolved through the clustering of subjects and teachers. The challenge from the beginning was to develop a pedagogical approach that would be innovative, exciting and enriching within a flexible learning environment. Learning spaces were to consist of different zones, including teacher instruction, collaboration and creative group work, and independent study. A variety of furniture in these spaces and the use of digital technology have helped teachers and students adapt. This model supports personalised learning through identifying students’ strengths and capabilities. The key to the successful implementation of this contemporary approach has been the recruitment and induction of a passionate, committed staff. St Bede’s commenced in 2018 with 108 enthusiastic Year 7 students and a small but united staff. Initially, teaching and

learning took place in a demountable block known as the “flexible learning village” (FLV), which consisted of a large generalpurpose learning area, and another large open space, each with its own furniture. These spaces catered to individual classes or clusters of up to 60 students with two staff. Students were timetabled into cluster groups combining Mathematics with Science, and HSIE with English.

“Identitatem Projectus Horribilus” — HSIE/English/Music

Co-teaching is a skill that requires clear communication between teachers and constant evaluation; personalised learning is created through relevant assessment and meaningful feedback. Over the past two years, we have developed tasks across Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE)/ English/Music, and Science/Mathematics/ Technical and Applied Studies (TAS).

This task, “The Case of the Mystery Bone” was innovative and exciting for students to solve. They became forensic scientists investigating a crime scene and processing evidence to find out “who done it”. CSI Chisholm was presented at the University of Sydney STEM Academy Conference where it was highly acclaimed.

In Term 3 last year, St Bede’s launched a cross-curricular task involving all Year 7 key learning areas. This assessment decreased the number of tasks given to students, therefore reducing the overwhelming feeling students can encounter when presented with multiple assignments and due dates. These tasks came under the concept of “Identity”. The entire Year 7 cohort was taken offline for the day to experience and unpack two major tasks:

Students were to create a Horrible History episode where they designed a script and storyboard to assist in filming their documentary. They were also required to compose incidental and thematic music to accompany their episode. "CSI Chisholm" — TAS, Mathematics and Science

Other cross-curricular tasks include: Year 8 “Water in the World” — HSIE, English, Science This creative and real-life project allowed students to cross over into Geography, Religious Studies, English, and STEM curriculum content. They developed their own innovative solution to improving sustainable water use in a project conducted in conjunction with Hunter Water. Several students’ solutions were

recognised, both through attendance at the Hunter Water Expo (and 15 seconds of fame on NBN news), as well as winning accolades at the Hunter Young Business Minds Awards. Year 7 “Livability Project” — HSIE and English In its second year, the “Liveability Project” brought together the skills of persuasion from English with the knowledge and content of Geography in Place and Liveability. Following a presentation from Chisholm’s Waterford Harvest developers, AVID, students researched and pitched a proposed improvement to the suburb’s liveability. Teaching and learning at St Bede’s is not limited to integrated teaching and crosscurricular tasks. It has been just one means of engaging the students within realworld contexts and improving literacy and numeracy skills. Subject-specific instruction and enquiry are also equally important. But crucially we are teaching our students the necessary skills for this century — collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication — and future growth will include further development of crosscurricular work. Brett Donohoe is assistant principal at St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm.

Students at St Bede's investigating for CSI Chisholm Photo: Peter Stoop

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Levy creates innovative learning environment SEAN SCANLON

Archie, Ruby and Oliver. Inset: Laura Munroe with Cillian and Ruby

The Catholic Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle is expected to spend more than $92 million on school infrastructure in 2020, with the federal and state governments committing a combined $4m in funding. This record investment will enable the Diocese to continue to transform traditional classrooms into modern learning environments and meet the growing demand for Catholic education in the region. Education is changing and as a Diocese we are looking to evolve with that change. As such, we are committed to a robust building and development program across the school system that will truly enhance the physical facilities and students' learning experience.

School Building Levy (DFSBL). The DFSBL is charged to the oldest child for each family. It is used predominately to repay loans through the Catholic Development Fund for building infrastructure and purchases for our school communities, including the development of new Catholic schools within the Diocese, and for small current projects not supported by CDF loans. Our investment in schools would not be possible without the generous support of families. The levy is reviewed annually in accordance with current and projected projects and enrolment figures. In 2020, the DFSBL will increase by $5 per calendar week, per family, when compared to the 2019 levy.

The new facilities we are building support a shift from the traditional teacher-centred approach to student-centred learning. They provide students with exciting and innovative environments that will prepare them for future study and career pathways and promote independent learnings as well as collaboration.

The Catholic Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle currently employs 3,500 teaching and support staff, both permanent and casual, working in 58 Catholic schools, with more than 19,600 students. In the past four years from 2016, the Diocese has increased its enrolments by 755 students and invested $139m in infrastructure including $32m in government funding.

Each school year, the Diocese reviews student fees, including the Diocesan Family

In the same period, the Diocese opened two new high schools — St Bede's

Catholic College in Chisholm and the St Laurence Flexible Learning Centre at Broadmeadow. It also expanded its offerings at existing secondary schools including St Joseph's College in Lochinvar and St Mary's Catholic College in Gateshead, which both now offer classes up to Year 12. Many primary schools' enrolments have grown dramatically in the same period. Niall and Laura Munroe have been preparing their five-year-old daughter Ruby for Kindergarten this year. Key to this was deciding on which school they felt was the right choice for their family, and they explored both public and independent education options. After meeting with St Therese’s Primary School principal Dulio Rufo, they felt the New Lambton school was the best option for Ruby. The couple also intends on sending their son Cillian and their third child, born last month, there too. “St Therese’s ticked all the boxes for us,” Ms Munroe said. “We loved that the principal took the time to show us around, the staff were friendly, and the children seemed to be really engaged in the classes

Photo: Peter Stoop

and enjoying the Mini Vinnies activities that were taking place that day. “When we visited the classrooms, we noticed there were different modes of teaching and learning going on than what we were used to growing up, but as Mr Rufo explained, education is evolving. We could see new buildings being constructed that would enhance these modern teaching practices, which were backed by research from around the world — even our home country of Ireland. “While we knew making the decision to send our children to a Catholic school would incur higher fees than the public system, we consider it an investment in their future and believe it will get them off to a great start in life.” Some families will be exempt from the 2020 DFBSL increase, including in the droughtaffected Upper Hunter. It is our policy that financial hardship should not prevent a child from attending a Catholic school. Sean Scanlon is the CEO of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.


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Little voices and the Kingdom of Heaven NATALEE BONOMINI

Primrose Selui with The Saint Laurence O’Toole’s Multicultural Children’s Choir Photo: Peter Stoop

Exploring ways to encourage and welcome young families in or back to the Catholic Church is a modern challenge being creatively addressed in a small pocket of our Diocese. As the recent Synod identified, there is a need and want from parents and children to be more engaged in their faith and in their church. On a local level, Father James Odoh and parishioner Primrose Selui, of Saint Benedict’s Inner Newcastle Parish, have taken the opportunity to be a part of a family friendly program that allows children to “make some noise” in the church.

The second part of the program was intended to help build community among Catholic parents and to give them an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of their faith, optimising their time while waiting for their children to finish choir. Fr Odoh provides a space for mothers and fathers to simply talk about the Catholic faith they share and to listen to one another. The topics covered stem from the seven sacraments within the church, the church’s teaching, scripture and tradition and its application to their everyday lives.

The Saint Laurence O’Toole’s Multicultural Children’s Choir was formed in 2019. Ms Selui, a volunteer, leads the children’s choir and Fr Odoh engages with the parents about the Catholic faith. The one of a kind family oriented program is called Children’s Choir and Parent Catechesis.

“Parents are actually the first teachers of their children and we need the young children in the church,” said Fr Odoh. “If the young parents don’t know about the faith that we are practising in the church it will be hard for them to practise the faith at home and to be able to teach their children about the faith.

The inspiration for the choir was to encourage children to feel welcomed and included in the life of the church. It was also an opportunity for the church to offer and for the children to receive the gift of music as they mature into young adults.

“Bringing them into the church and allowing the young parents to participate in the sacrament and the service will encourage them to be fully part of it and after which they will live it out also in their home, which is also the domestic church.”

Musically gifted, Ms Selui, gives her time and leans on her experience as a choir conductor in Tonga, and local vocalist, having performed in the past at the monastery and currently at the cathedral. She leads and teaches the eager and spirited children she happily and proudly calls “her choir”.

children and their families to continue to feel welcomed and to participate in church and at Mass.

Ms Selui was invited to perform a solo at the 42nd annual Christmas “concert from around the world” last December at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Instead, she encouraged her children’s choir to sing on the night as their first public performance.

“So, just to allow them to know that children are gifts, even in their noise or in their cry, it brings us joy and reminds us about Christ as a baby.”

“The feedback from people that night was amazing,” said Ms Selui. “I think it’s different from when adults are performing. When it’s kids, it’s like an angel performing. “I am very proud, and I was thinking we are going to have more recruits for next year. I am happy because it is something the people really admire. When I look at the kids, I can see they are out there already and they can do anything.” Working in harmony, Ms Selui and Fr Odoh are ensuring the Catholic Church stays alive through inspiring and encouraging

“As a community, we like hearing the voice of the children because most of the time we don’t have them within our midst,” said Fr Odoh.

The Saint Laurence O’Toole’s Multicultural Children’s Choir is testimony and witness that young families are still very much present and a part of the church. It is also an encouraging reminder that Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) If you would like to join the Saint Laurence O’Toole’s Multicultural Children’s Choir, please email Natalee Bonomini is a Newcastle writer.

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Families, not orphanages THERESE OSLAND Imagine being 12 years old and living in an orphanage in rural Kenya with no family around you and no other pathway in your life until you turn 18, when you must leave to find your own way in the world. You don’t really know your story and you don’t belong to anyone. You are alone. For many children in orphanages this is their story — a one-way journey into an institution without hope of another chapter in their childhood. Sometimes a single event or circumstance for a family can result in a child being separated from siblings, parents, extended family members and their communities forever. I met 12-year-old David during the recent year I spent in the Kenyan highlands. My role was to develop another pathway in the life journey of children living in institutional care. Working alongside dedicated Kenyan social worker and manager of the orphanage, Anne Kinthuia, I provided technical advice as we developed a program and built a small team. This was to undertake the complex task of the Kivuli orphanage transitioning the children into family-based care and providing the framework for follow up support and community mobilisation.

As we unpacked each child’s history, we found that David came into the orphanage after his mother died and his father had left the family. Over time we uncovered fragments of David’s story that eventually led us to find not only his grandmother (“sho sho”) and other family members, but also that his six-year-old brother Peter, attended the same school. Peter lived in another orphanage in the same small town. After several months, a day came where we travelled on dusty roads to the northern part of the province, both boys dressed in their best clothes, to meet their sho sho, older sister and brother, aunt and cousins. Seeing their 94-yearold grandmother greet the boys with a traditional Turkana blessing by placing her hand on their head as she greeted them was a day that captured the true purpose of my trip. To read the full story, go to Therese Osland is Carer Recruitment and Support Officer, Out of Home Care, CatholicCare Social Services.

Teacher for the ages LIZZIE SNEDDEN

Sister Monica, director of the Kenyan catholic orphanage where Peter resides, Therese Osland and Anne Kinthuia, manager and senior social worker at Kivuli

For the first time in decades Vickie Pettett didn’t return to the classroom last month. Instead, after teaching for more than 40 years, Mrs Pettett is busy embracing retirement by spending more time with family, making travel plans and serving her community. Teaching was more a vocation to Mrs Pettett than a job. “When I arrived at school it wasn’t just a place of work for me, it was a place of friendship, support and love and I am blessed to say it provided me with an opportunity to meet many wonderful people from all walks of life and of all ages, who I now consider to be lifelong friends,” she said. Mrs Pettett's love for teaching was planted at a young age while attending a small school in her hometown of Sandy Creek. In primary school she would often assist the school's sole teacher by supervising the younger students during lunch. Years later, while attending boarding school at St Joseph's in Perthville, the nuns encouraged her to formally pursue this passion. After finishing school she enrolled at Bathurst Teachers’ College.

Photo: Peter Stoop

Vickie Pettett wearing the St Therese's Medal of Service, alongside school principal Dulio Rufo

Mrs Pettett landed her first teaching role in 1968 at Dunedoo Central School, where she was assigned the Kindergarten class

and appointed coach of the primary girls' netball team. It was here she met her future husband John, a fellow teacher. In the 1970s, after the pair had married, they moved to the Hunter with their growing family. In 1983 as a mother of four, she returned to teaching full-time after accepting a role at St Paul's Primary School, Gateshead. Following this, she taught at St Joseph's Primary School in Charlestown before joining St Therese’s Primary School in New Lambton, where she taught for the past 25 years. While she always retained her hands-on role in the classroom, Mrs Pettett relished the opportunity to assist with school carnivals. She also went on to become the first religious education co-ordinator at St Therese’s, a position she treasured deeply. “I loved the opportunity to work with families as they prepared their children to receive the sacraments of initiation including baptism, confirmation and Eucharist,” Mrs Pettett said. At the school's final presentation assembly for 2019, Mrs Pettett received the inaugural St Therese's Medal of Service, which includes the school motto “Be True” and the Mercy cross. Lizzie Snedden is acting editor for Aurora


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OOSH to the holiday rescue BROOKE ROBINSON

In the recent Christmas school holidays, St Nicholas OOSH centres around the Diocese made the most of their surroundings by offering locationspecific activities that were both fun and educational. St Nicholas OOSH, Taree, took students on a dolphin cruise in Forster, as well as a visit to Bago Maze, Stoney Aqua Park and The Big Buzz Fun Park. St Nicholas OOSH, Rutherford, spent one of its vacation days doing science experiments. It created its own lava lamps using jars, oil, water, food colouring and Alka-Seltzer. OOSH supervisor Traci Hogno ran the Rutherford program and said the science experiment day was her favourite. All the students of varied ages were engaged and learning a lot while still having fun.

School student Neve attended OOSH at Rutherford and said her highlight was going to Inflatable World. She had lots of fun and said it was a very safe activity. “It is so innocent, it would never hurt anyone jumping on the inflatables,” she said. Other adventures during the holidays included cooking and cake decorating, laser tag, a visit to the cinema, iceskating, and a trip to Ninja Parc.

Olivia and Harrison

Ms Hogno is looking forward to delivering the OOSH program for students in 2020. “It is such a great program, and the kids always have a lot of fun,” she said. “It really benefits parents too, being able to leave their kids with someone they trust.” OOSH provides a fun, safe, experience for students after school and on holidays. St Nicholas OOSH currently operates in 12 locations with more opening this year. To find out more go to Brooke Robinson is content officer for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Neve and Brianna doing an experiment at St Nicholas OOSH Rutherford

Relationships give meaning to life REV JAMIE CALDER

Bishop Bill blesses the partnership between the Diocese and ACU.

Christian theology of the Catholic variety is essentially practical. It is tapping into an ongoing meditation on the nature and purposes inherent in all our relationships. These are the simple everyday relationships we have with each other, and that lie at the heart of all our institutions, be they marriage, a Catholic school or a Catholic parish. In these places, we have many relationships against the backdrop of an ultimate horizon. For Christians, this ultimate horizon is God. Thus, in Ignatian Spirituality terms, theology for leadership in mission is about finding God in all things, and specifically, finding God in the quality of relationships we have with one another. Nothing is new in all this, of course. It’s just another way of saying connecting to what’s important to each of us, taking time to do this, is at the heart of Catholic theology. This is essentially a practical theology for enhancing our sense of community, of connection to ourselves, others, and ultimately, God. In a time when many of us wonder if we actually matter, if we are seen and valued by those with whom we work and live — if we’re good enough or strong enough or whatever enough — taking time to reflect on the connections in our lives can be deeply healing and reinvigorating.

Photos: Peter Stoop

The rise in dual-income families has typically left parents short on care options during the school holidays but St Nicholas OOSH has stepped in to fill the gap and the kids are loving it.

With all this in mind, the units of reflective study in the Graduate Certificate in Mission and Culture seek to support a reflective space in which people of different faiths and none, might come together and connect with what is most important to them. This is a meditation on purpose and the processes that foster and support “humans becoming human” and flourishing. This course presents Catholic belief and meaning in relation to ultimate existential meaning and purposes, always ultimately revealed in the shape of the relationships in each of our lives. To find out more about the Graduate Certificate in Mission and Culture, running in June 2020 in partnership between the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and the Australian Catholic University, you are invited to attend an information session on 10 March 2020. See page 21 for details. Rev Jamie Calder SJ MAPS is Associate Professor Academic Coordinator Catholic Programs, Identity & Mission at Australian Catholic University.

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School’s out forever BY DARRELL CROKER

It’s an honest appraisal of life after the HSC from a gap-year teenager working part-time in hospitality. In December 2018, under the headline “Our HSC students are high achievers”, MN News ran a story about the outstanding results schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle achieved. One student was First in Course in NSW, and Diocese schools also achieved seven All Rounder awards and 146 Distinguished Achiever awards. With the 2019 HSC cohort now contemplating their futures, Aurora caught up with some of the high achievers from the 2018 group from All Saints’ College, St Mary’s Campus at Maitland. Those who went straight to university say it doesn’t entail quite the pressure of the HSC. But not all high achievers head directly to tertiary study. Sophia Derkenne made the All Rounder list for the 2018 HSC but decided to take a gap year in 2019. “I’ve tried to play as many different roles as possible since the HSC,” Ms Derkenne said. “Something different to the rigour and rhythm of senior school. I began tutoring English back at All Saints’ at the beginning of 2019, which, as a teen myself, was a great experience of responsibility and insight into working with teenagers. “I also landed a job in hospitality; the lack of glamour was an important part of growing my identity from ‘the high achiever’. Customers don’t really care that your ATAR was 98.5 if their food’s late.” She also travelled for six-and-a-half weeks. “It was tough for a high achiever, because I always like to be in control,” she said. “But it was good for my headspace. “When you have time and less structure, you do different things. I spent a lot of time with family in different ways last year. I went walking with my dad on the Portuguese Camino and went on a silent meditation retreat with my mum. Different and very exciting stuff. “And then I continued to develop my creative passions. I was a member of the ATYP National Studio, a playwriting program for emerging Australian artists. I also won the Bayside Council Emerging Artist award for visual art.

“And now I’m off to immerse myself in that world next year, studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Theatre) at the Victorian College of Arts in Melbourne.” Fosterton’s Clayton Carlon achieved First in Course in NSW for Industrial Technology in the 2018 HSC. For his major project he built, from first principles, a basic eight-bit computer featuring circuit boards he designed and soldered himself. The HSC markers were so impressed they included it in the Intech Exhibition at The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Mr Carlon is studying a double engineering degree at the University of Newcastle in electronics and computer systems. “I’ve just completed my second semester and it’s all going well,” he said. “The workload is probably greater than my HSC year, but the expectations and stress are less.” Lily Cains also went straight to university, studying a double degree in Law and Arts at Newcastle. But she plans on combining tertiary studies with travel.

Photos: Peter Stoop

“Customers don’t really care that your ATAR was 98.5 if their food’s late.”

Clayton Carlon

“My major is Politics and International Relations,” she said, “and my minor is French. I'm working to hopefully travel overseas to study an intensive short course in international law.” Sydney Slade was another to make the All Rounder list in 2018 and she is studying Physiotherapy at the University of Newcastle. “Though it can be challenging at times, I am really enjoying it and am looking forward to second year,” she said. Just as she did during her HSC year, Ms Slade uses sport to balance her life. During her first year at university she also tutored a couple of students in maths.

Lily Cains

“I coached a netball team for the first time last year, which was a great experience. I also continued to play rep netball for Maitland, and we were placed second in our division at the 2019 NSW Senior State Titles. This year I am playing netball for Hunter in the DOOLEYS Metro league and will play in the Newcastle Greater competition on weekends.” Darrell Croker is a contributor to Aurora. Photo: Peter Stoop

Sydney Slade


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Photo: Peter Stoop

Faith in the system BRITTANY GONZALEZ

Elizabeth Porter is a licensed conveyancer and director of Porter Veritas Conveyancing, which offers expert contract advice for purchasers, and contract preparation and advice for vendors. A career in conveyancing law was a seed planted when Elizabeth was studying at Saint Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton, where she completed Legal Studies in Years 11 and 12. With a policeman as a father, it is fair to say Elizabeth’s respect for the law was ingrained from a young age. A genuine success story, Elizabeth has worked and resided in Lake Macquarie for more than 15 years, with Newcastle and Port Stephens also being called home. Passionate about conveyancing law, Elizabeth believes it is paramount to provide a truthful, ethical, respectful and professional service equally to her clients and colleagues. What Catholic school/s did you attend? Do you know why your parents chose a Catholic education for you? I attended a local public school from Kindergarten to Year 6 (1985-1991). My parents enrolled me at San Clemente High School in Mayfield for Years 7–10 (1992-1995) and then Saint Francis Xavier’s College (SFX) in Hamilton for Years 11 and 12 (1996-1997). From a young age I had attended and enjoyed our local church’s Sunday School program and later, Sunday services. Christmas and Easter were always celebrated by attending a Service.

My parents, now in their early 70s, say they chose a Catholic education for me because they wanted to ensure I was learning and maturing in a safe and nurturing environment while at the same time focusing on academia and preparing me for higher education and life thereafter.

In summary, the traditions taught me to:

What are your fondest memories from your schooling years?

f forgive and to reconcile

I really enjoyed Year 10 at San Clemente and Year 12 at SFX the most. Year 10 at San Clemente cemented friendships and I felt confident, supported and accepted during what could have been a difficult time in a teenager’s life. Similarly, I graduated from SFX knowing who I was as a young adult. I felt confident to enter the workforce and started to make plans for my future; I knew what I wanted out of my life. Both schools held memorable retreats and leadership camps, which reinforced the framework for confidence, resilience and teamwork that made me feel a part of a supportive and loving community. Has your Catholic education been of benefit in starting up and/or running your business? Catholic education, together with the support of my family, has been the framework of the confidence, encouragement, resilience, and belief required to start up and run my business. It wasn’t until I was invited to take part in this interview that I realised how much Catholic education, especially the Marist Charism traditions instilled at SFX, prepared me to be a future entrepreneur.

f be present and undistracted, and to communicate respectfully f be empathetic f be accepting and to value and respect others

f lead by example. What drew you to work in the legal industry? My father was a detective sergeant in the NSW Police, and I was very proud of the service he provided to the community for so many years. My father’s occupation fortified my sound respect for the law from a young age. My interest in the Australian legal system was incited after electing Legal Studies and General Studies at SFX. After leaving Year 12 I was fortunate enough to be mentored by lawyers in national law firms and conveyancing practices. Criminal law would have been an obvious choice; however, I developed a preference for contract law, especially conveyancing law and practice. Any advice for people starting out in the legal industry or budding entrepreneurs? Both the legal industry and being an entrepreneur (or a combination of the two), require constant prudent planning and determination. Realistically though, there’s no issue that can’t be overcome. Here are some tips I’ve learnt along the way.

f Listen and learn from those willing to help, and be appreciative. f Remember that experience takes time. f Have empathy. f Treat everybody with the same level of respect. We are all human beings with jobs to do to make the world go ’round. f Admit when you are wrong. f Learn and use people’s names. f Seek help if you need it. Don’t pretend you are OK or that you understand. Is faith a part of your life? If yes, how has it helped? Faith has been and will continue to be an essential part of my life. I have many times prayed to God, whether it be work-related or to do with personal matters, asking for help, guidance and forgiveness. Having faith continues to give me the confidence to move forward and to accept what we cannot change ourselves. I feel having faith is important because it can affect decisions, the way we treat others and the way we can react to difficult situations. Brittany Gonzalez is a communications co-ordinator for the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle.

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CareTalk The bushfires across Australia have significantly impacted on me and my children. Although we are lucky and not directly affected, my children and I feel distressed and helpless due to the loss and devastation. One of our neighbours lost their home in the fires and I want to help. What can I do to get through this and make sense of it all?

CatholicCare’s assistant director and registered psychologist Tanya Jarrett, 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.

Natural disasters such as the bushfires still burning across Australia have a wide-reaching impact. Although many of us may not have been in the direct path of bushfires, we see the effect of the devastation around us. It’s difficult to make sense of such enormous loss and navigate through the intense emotions that are very normal during this time: helplessness, sadness, grief, anger, fear and more. For adults and children, reactions to the traumatic events may include trouble sleeping, nightmares, withdrawal from people, anxiety, problems concentrating and more specifically for children, fussy eating, wanting to stay near parents and perhaps anxiety about sleeping alone. After a traumatic event, children and adults need to be able to feel safe. It’s important to find out how much your children know, and provide them with accurate but age-appropriate information. Sometimes, children pick up on bits and pieces in the news or elsewhere, and their anxiety can increase if they construct their own version of what is happening. Your

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children may have questions about what your family would do if fire threatened your home. This might be a time to discuss a fire safety plan based on your children’s concerns. Depending on the age of your children, you may decide to limit media exposure about the bushfires. Repeated exposure can increase their anxiety. For younger and/or anxious children, if they have already watched a fair bit of media coverage, it’s important to reassure them and also be mindful about how much you talk about the bushfires in front of them, particularly about the most concerning aspects. Despite the significant distress being felt across the country, and internationally for the Australian bushfires, there has also been an overwhelming caring response. Being able to provide help or support in some way assists those who most need it, and allows us as humans, to deal with our own distress. You may consider providing practical help or making a donation of some kind. You can ask your neighbours what they need and let them know you are available for support.

However, it’s important to make the right type of donation. Many websites have information about the organisations to which you can donate, for example, in NSW they include some of the following: Australian Red Cross, The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society, Rural Fire Service NSW, WIRES. There are also many other charities and organisations doing good in the communities directly impacted by the fires. Social media highlights many of them. On a personal level, it’s important to manage your own stress and recognise your emotions as normal; but there are signs that you shouldn’t ignore. Think about doing the healthy things that make you feel good despite these challenging times. For more information about looking after yourself, visit the Beyond Blue website for further information: www. If, after some time, you still feel overwhelmed and you would like further support, contact CatholicCare on 4979 1120 to speak to a counsellor. CatholicCare is also offering free counselling to bushfire victims.


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Eclectic festival catches the ear ALEXANDER FOSTER Attendees of the three-day Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) in Perth late last year received sage advice as well as enjoying workshops and live performances. The festival exists to provide young people with opportunities to deepen their relationship with Jesus, be empowered to be disciples in the world today and encounter and celebrate the vitality of the Church in Australia. Listen to what the Spirit is Saying was the ACYF theme for the 6000 young Catholics from around the country who made their way to the west coast to celebrate the event between 8-10 December. “Listen to what the Spirit is Saying means being able to be silent and to be able to work out what’s going on within us and then opening ourselves up to God and to hear God’s voice through our thoughts, through what we read, through how we encounter each other,” said Mary-Anne DeLuca, one of several group leaders who accompanied the 40-odd young people from the Catholic Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle to the festival. The festival consisted of large-group plenary sessions with performances, presentations, Mass and liturgies. There were workshops on topics such as service, prayer, leadership and social justice and live performances from popular Christian artists such as Joe Melendrez and Fr Rob Galea. An Encounter Expo comprised more than 80 stalls from participating Catholic agencies, organisations, religious orders, and ecclesial movements. A Justice Activity Centre provided participants with a unique opportunity to directly engage in justice issues and contribute to the lives of others in a hands-on way. Each participant from Maitland-Newcastle had a unique reason for attending the festival. Daniel Abrams, a student from All Saints’ College, St Mary’s Campus, Maitland said: “I’m mainly looking forward to the energy of everybody and that community spirit. Coming here, obtaining that energy, bringing it all back to my school and trying to implement all that energy to see what gets people up and going.” Group co-ordinator for MaitlandNewcastle, Samantha Hill, who was responsible for the planning and overseeing of our Diocese’s involvement in the festival, had the following to say of the experience: “The best part about being

a group co-ordinator is the fact that I get to accompany young people from our Diocese along a faith journey. “Some of these young people are experiencing the festival for the first time, so I get to have these conversations with them about what workshops they’ve been to, what they’ve experienced, what their thoughts have been and what they’re feeling. So as they’re breaking open their experiences I’m living the experience through them and I’m seeing their faith grow and be nourished as they’re exploring the festival for the first time and exploring what their faith means to them.” Ms Hill was accompanied by a steering committee that included Bishop Bill Wright, Fr Anthony Coloma (festival chaplain), Paul Greaves (assistant director, Catholic Schools Office), Renata Powell (teacher, Catholic Schools), Mary-Anne DeLuca (Mission and Outreach support officer) and me representing the communications team.

Photos: Alexander Foster

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The festival concluded with a pilgrimage walk in 40°C heat from Perth Exhibition Centre where the majority of the festival took place, to a Closing Mass at Trinity College several kilometres away. “Take the chance, take your courage in both hands, and open your hearts and your lives to Jesus,” Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costello imparted to the congregation during his homily at Mass. “Don’t walk away sad from Jesus. He is our Way, he is our Truth, he is our Life.” At the conclusion of ACYF, MaitlandNewcastle’s participants had the option to stay for a two-day spiritual retreat at St John of God Retreat Centre in Shoalwater, just 40 minutes outside of Perth.

Authorised under NSW permit: LTPS/19/41177

Two Chances

“We know that ACYF is a really loud, busy experience, so you hear a speaker or you hear a song or you share a story, but the retreat experience is about stopping and having a chance to be still and silent, and to unpack and process and digest all of the things that you’ve experienced throughout the festival,” Ms Powell said of the experience.

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“It’s a time for reflection, a time for pausing in prayer and in community with others.” The location of 2021’s Australian Catholic Youth Festival is expected to be announced soon with Archbishop Costello sharing that it will be in a rural location. Alexander Foster is a Digital Officer for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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Seeking God through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults ROSE McALLISTER As humans, our lives are not static. We grow and learn to understand the truths about ourselves, others and the world around us through relationships. Our lives are a continuous journey of discovery and it is important not to close the door to change or transformation.

Review: Mike Willesee is a fantastic storyteller and from the first sentence of A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning, he draws the reader in. Willesee shares the beginning of his life and his initial strong faith, before leading into his scepticism of God’s existence. The story about a holiday when he was six years old and helping the community to fight a fire is enlightening given the twist at the very end. Willesee takes the reader through different phases in his life, to meeting a man who would change his focus — his neighbour Ron Tesoriero. Mr Tesoriero encouraged Willesee to investigate unexplained miracles. He knew Willesee was a great reporter and would know what questions to ask to get the stories. The book details television specials


Christian life is ultimately about change and responding to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the signs of the time, just as Jesus did in first-century Palestine. Following Jesus Christ requires a discerning mind and heart that seek the way of God and pursue action and change that promote God’s vision for a world shaped by the power of love. In St Pope John Paul II’s pastoral letter, At the Beginning of the New Millennium, he points out there are challenges faced with being faithful to God’s plan and responding to the world’s deepest yearnings. How can the church be home and school of communion? Being part of the church encourages us to step away from a focus on “me” to “we” and to become part of a sharing community. As we are all parts of the one body of Christ, Christians are called to share their gifts in communio so they may have a lasting impact on the world. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is suited to those seeking God and open to the transforming power of God’s love. The process is gradual as seekers experience the cycles of the liturgical year and develop an understanding of how the rhythm of the seasons is an invitation to experience God’s grace. Developing relationships, sharing stories

A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning

seeking the truth of bleeding statues, stigmata, and miracles of Eucharistic host that had turned to flesh and blood. Tests were performed on the blood samples from the miraculous items. They were shown to have no DNA, which is an impossibility. Willesee shares his experiences of seeing things with his own eyes that he couldn’t explain. This led him back to God. Sharing his renewed faith then became a priority for him, and convincing television networks to show his specials. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2016 and only given a 12-month prognosis. He outlived that to see his last show on Channel 7, The Blood of Christ. In A Sceptic’s Search, Willesee speaks of the missed opportunities of the editing of that special, and shares what he would have loved to have seen revealed.

I highly recommend this book. I plan to watch The Blood of Christ documentary again, knowing what I know now of the incredible impact it had on Willesee — something that became his aim to complete before he died in 2019. In his last interview, Willesee said: “I think God and religion are so politically incorrect at the moment. Nobody wants to know. You can be laughed at just for saying you believe in God … I’m constantly reminded that most journalists would say this is ridiculous. But I’ve stuck with the story and I’m making progress. It shows the truth of God in the Eucharist. The truth that God is alive in our world and that His hand moves.” Mike Willesee, A Sceptic’s Search for Meaning, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2019. Brooke Robinson is content officer for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

about the ups and downs of life and reflecting on them in light of the mystery of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection is central to the growth of faith in community. There is not a one size fits all in becoming Catholic. The Holy Spirit works in different ways with different people in different times and places. If you are seeking, searching, pondering, interested or already a member of the Catholic Church, you are invited to join us for the Rite of Election on Sunday 1 March, at 2.30pm in the Sacred Heart Cathedral, 841 Hunter Street, Newcastle West. At the Rite of Election those who have been seeking God via the RCIA process and who have discerned a readiness for baptism at Easter are presented to Bishop Bill by their parish. Their names are inscribed in the Book of the Elect. This marks the beginning of their final preparation for baptism. As Christians we are called to look after and care for the world and everything in it. We are never finished. The Holy Spirit calls us to a transformation of mind and heart that turns us away from all that is not of God, and towards Christ’s radical way of life. Rose McAllister is a member of the new Diocesan Liturgy Forum: Christian Initiation.


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

Take the chance to respond FR GEOFF MULHEARN As a priest who sat through most of the special commission hearings in Newcastle, and some of the hearings of the royal commission in Sydney, I have heard firsthand of the damage of sexual abuse on those who experienced it. To see middle-aged men weeping as they gave testimony in the witness box, and to hear traumatic stories in personal conversations with some of the survivors, leaves me in no doubt at all about the emotional pain and damage caused by such abuse. I know that many clergy, religious, and lay people find it very difficult to face the dreadful reality of abuse of children, and also of vulnerable adults, by church personnel. Still, for the sake of all who were affected by the abuse, I think it can be very helpful for people to view the video

Lina’s Project and consider their individual and communal response. An opportunity to do this will be available at Toronto at 6pm on Wednesday 12 February. In today’s culture, many have rejected the idea of the Transcendent. There is a consequence. Just offering to pray for survivors, for example, may not be all that helpful. It is important that the survivors find people who will stand in solidarity with them as they work through the trauma they have experienced.

help develop more courageous, compassionate, and vulnerable leaders and members, who may then be more supportive of those survivors trying to get their lives together. Fr Geoff Mulhearn is Priest Supervisor and Sacramental Priest at Toronto Parish.

For the leaders and members of the Catholic Church it is so very important they move strongly to address the abuse of clerical power in governance, in decision-making, and to embrace genuine dialogue with others. In this way we can hope that greater awareness of institutional failure that led to the abuse taking place will

Regional Event

You are cordially invited to a community gathering The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle facilitated The Atonement: Lina’s Project in 2017 on behalf of Lina, a victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of a member of clergy. Bishop Bill then established September 15 as a Perpetual Day of Remembrance and Lina’s Project was screened onto the external walls of the Sacred Heart Cathedral for a week. Lina’s Project has since been shown in two regional centres – East Maitland and Forster – and the next screening will occur in Toronto on Wednesday, 12 February 2020. This event, with the support of the Toronto Parish, will display Lina’s Project in the Toronto Multi-Purpose Centre. As part of this, the community is invited to attend a barbecue to support victims and survivors of abuse and gather in a spirit of recognition, healing and hope. At the conclusion of the projection a barbecue will be held in the grounds adjoining the Toronto Multi-Purpose Centre. The presentation contains material that may cause distress including images of perpetrators of abuse from the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, the Marist Brothers and other Orders.

Wednesday 12 February 2020 Toronto Multi-Purpose Centre, 9 Thorne Street, Toronto 6pm screening of Lina’s Project will commence 6.30pm-8pm barbecue For catering purposes, please RSVP by February 7 on 02 4979 1188 or Personal details are not required to RSVP for this event, only the numbers of attendees.

W W W. M N N E W S . T O D AY / A U R O R A


Community Noticeboard Diocesan Synod notes now available Following the Diocesan Synod held 23 November 2019, all responses have now been collated and are available in a document called Diocesan Synod Celebration – Responses. You can view the report on under ‘Pastoral Planning’. You can also watch the keynote presentations from Fr Richard Lennan and Lana Turvey-Collins, and download resources such as PowerPoint presentations from workshop speakers. If you would like a printed copy of the responses, please contact your local parish. Leading for Mission: Faith and Formation in the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, in partnership with the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at Australian Catholic University, invite you to attend an information session about the Graduate Certificate in Mission and Culture (GCMC). The session will be held Tuesday 10 March between 5-6.30pm in the Toohey Room at Cathedral House, located at 841 Hunter St, Newcastle West. The GCMC is an innovative and integrated formation and educational program designed specifically to support the leadership development needs of the Diocese, and to enhance participants understanding of the Christian and Catholic context in which they exercise leadership. The course provides participants with the necessary higher-level skill sets to think theologically around their organisational leadership practices and to develop skills in the promotion of a Christian and specifically Catholic culture. RSVP by Friday 6 March at Y7PAX. For more information, contact Jenny Harris, National Biennial Liturgy Conference Liturgy: Forming a Prayerful and Eucharistic Church, will be held on 12-14

March at the Novotel Sydney, Parramatta Hotel. This conference aims to provide those working in liturgical ministry in parishes, schools, and other communities with enriching opportunities for liturgical education, prayerful celebration, professional networking and fellowship. Go to for more information. Sisters in Faith The Sisters in Faith Dinner will be held on Tuesday 17 March at 6pm at Victor Peters Suite, 841 Hunter St, Newcastle West. An opportunity for all women of faith to join together. A love offering towards the dinner will be appreciated. RSVP by 9 March at sisterinfaithdinner.eventbrite. com. Contact Alyson Segrott, alyson. or 4979 1117 for more information. 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. 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.

For more events please visit

We also have a wait list for our Bringing Baby Home workshop, which assists couples transition to parenthood. FOCCUS Individual sessions by appointment only. For further information on all our courses, including costs, please contact Robyn Donnelly, 02 4979 1370, or 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-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. 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 (02) 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 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 contact Mums’ Cottage on 4953 4105, email admin@mumscottage. or visit Garage sales A garage sale is held in the Mums’ Cottage grounds every second Monday at 10am. For more information contact Mums’ Cottage on 4953 4105, email or visit

For your diary February 8

International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking


World Day of Prayer for the Sick


Lina’s Project Toronto (see page 20)

14-15 Before We Say I Do (see opposite) 18

World Mission Sunday


World Day of Social Justice

Youth Mass


Shrove Tuesday

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


Ash Wednesday

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


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

Feast before fasting BROOKE ROBINSON

Lent begins this year on 26 February. It is an important time on the Catholic calendar, as we prepare for Easter. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday, and it finishes on Holy Thursday before the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper. It includes 40 days of fasting, which excludes Sundays and continues through Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The Lenten fast reflects the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:2).

Isabella and Ruby

Shrove Tuesday Pikelets INGREDIENTS 1 cup self-raising flour 1 cup milk 1 egg butter, for frying





Into a large mixing bowl add the self-raising flour, the milk and the egg, and whisk. Add a small amount of butter (½ teaspoon) into a frypan over low/medium heat. One tablespoon of batter will make one pikelet. Spoon tablespoons of mixture into the pan to make about three pikelets at a time. Once you start to see bubbles form in the mixture (after about 1 minute) you can flip it and cook for a further 30 seconds. Stack and serve plain, or with butter, jam or syrup.

It is a time to reflect and take part in three areas — prayer, almsgiving and fasting. More time given to prayer during Lent will draw us closer to the Lord. We might pray especially for the grace to live out our baptismal promises more fully. We can also pray for the elect who will be baptised at Easter. There are many types of prayer, and this could be an opportunity to try something new, such as imagining ourselves in Bible scenes as we read, or listen to them at Mass.

include money, but a donation of time to serve as a volunteer or the effort to educate yourself about their work and mission. Also, look out for Lenten programs run in people’s homes around the Diocese. Meeting regularly with a group keeps the purpose of the season in the front of our minds. The day before Lent begins is Shrove Tuesday, which this year falls on 25 February. It is traditionally the opportunity to use up the best or rich ingredients in our pantries. Here is a recipe for pikelets that can be made on that day. Students at St Nicholas OOSH Rutherford, made pikelets during their vacation care program. They had fun mixing the batter and seeing it bubble in the frypan as it cooked. Brooke Robinson is content officer for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Fasting can include giving something up, but not just food. Possibly fasting from social media, or a certain television show or streaming platform. For the early Christians, going without food, enabled a neighbour to eat. Through our fasting, we can look for ways to nurture others. Giving generously can include financial gifts, but also gifts of time. Research charities that are in need of donations and offer something to them during the Lenten season. This could not only

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