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CEWA Commissioning Masses: Staff take on “awesome responsibility” of Catholic education


Archbishop Timothy Costelloe commissions staff working in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Perth during Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 16 February. Photo: Ron Tan

By Rachel Curry

More than 400 new staff have been commissioned to serve as “the face of Jesus” in Perth Catholic schools – as powerfully described by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe – in a number of Masses held throughout the Archdiocese this month.

The 11 Eucharistic celebrations were attended by almost 5,500 people and offered an opportunity for old and new Catholic Education WA staff to pray together, give thanks and acknowledge their important role in the intellectual and spiritual formation of children.

At the beginning of each Mass, new staff were asked to come to the front of the church to be commissioned and blessed by Archbishop Costelloe or one of his delegates: Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, Monsignor Brian O’Loughlin, Mgr Kevin Long, Vicar General Father Peter Whitely, Fr Joseph Parkinson and Fr Greg Donovan.

The new staff promised to diligently fulfill their roles by witnessing to the teachings of the Gospel, committing to serving the needs of the students in their care, and seeking to contribute to the wellbeing of all who belong to the school community.


The congregation are asked to bless new staff members during the Catholic Education WA Commissioning Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 16 February. Photo: Ron Tan

During his homily at the Commissioning Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 16 February, Archbishop Costelloe paid tribute to the crucial role of educators in our Church and in our society.

He reminded those working in Catholic schools that, by inserting themselves into the life and mission of the Church, they had taken on an “awesome responsibility”.

“After all, we speak of the Church as the Body of Christ, but the Church is us, and for the children and young people in your classroom and in your school, the Church is you – not exclusively you, but certainly you,” he said.

“You have accepted a solemn responsibility to be the face of Jesus, and the voice of Jesus, and the compassionate glance of Jesus, and the forgiving heart of Jesus, for the children and young people entrusted to you – by their parents, by the Church and by the society in which we live.”

The Archbishop told the staff they must come to know Jesus themselves, in order to reflect Him to others.

Celebrating Mass at Infant Jesus Church on 9 February, Fr Whitely spoke about God’s call to service, explaining that He does not call us because we are perfect; rather, He calls us despite our sinfulness, weakness and failings.

“Having called us, He offers us graces that can be gained by our prayer, our living as Jesus taught and our worshipping God, especially through celebration of the Eucharist, so that we can fulfill the mission He has entrusted to us,” he said.

“These graces will enable us, as staff members in our Catholic schools, to give the students not just an intellectual understanding of God, but a real and personal experience of God who is full of love, mercy and compassion.”

During Mass at Good Shepherd Church on 17 February, Mgr Long urged the staff to see their daily work in schools as the faithful living out their baptism.

“A teacher who is patient and merciful and challenging is living out both the Year of Mercy theme, as well as practising a real Lenten discipline,” he said.

Newman College English and Religious Education teacher Stephanie Cornell was commissioned by Mgr O’Loughlin at Our Lady of the Rosary Church on 16 February.

Miss Cornell, who graduated from the University of Notre Dame Australia, said the Mass and celebration afterwards were “a great way to be welcomed” into Catholic Education WA.

“I felt a real sense of belonging and collegiality and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my colleagues from other schools,” she said.


WA Governor Kerry Sanderson and Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt chat to Archbishop Timothy Costelloe at a social function after the Mass. Photo: Ron Tan

During her career as a teacher, Miss Cornell hopes to inspire and encourage students to pursue their dreams – be it through helping them achieve academically or simply believing that they can get there.

She was confident her Catholic beliefs would help her in this role.

“I think that having a sense of faith will affect me as a teacher because I will always know that I can reflect and seek answers from God should the situation arise,” she said.

“I also believe that having faith of my own helps me to teach in the Catholic sector because I am able to present to students the notion that young people can believe in God, without being stereotyped as ‘too religious’.”