The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle recognises that community and faith are mutually inclusive and is always looking at ways to strengthen this relationship further; connecting with the community, whatever their age or stage of faith.
For Catholic schools to be effective and successful in the life and mission of the Church there needs to be a relationship with the local parish community and the wider diocesan community.
In 2011, a pilot program was launched, which specifically aimed to provide support to families by connecting them to the life of their parish, their school community and new or existing networks of families to enable them to participate in the family, faith, social and educational activities of their local community.
In 2017, this program was further developed with the introduction of the Family Ministry Coordinators. Family Ministry has been serving the parishes and schools of the diocese for five years. It is currently staffed by a Family Ministry Coordinator in each deanery and supported by Pastoral Ministries and the Catholic Schools Office. We work closely with other agencies, departments and groups across the Catholic community. Much of our endeavours are focused through the faith formation of children and young people, in conjunction with the further faith of parents and carers
Our aim is to evangelise and catechise families through their children. Family Ministry is family-centred, parish-based and school-supported. The current Family Ministry Coordinators are: Helene O’Neill, Newcastle Deanery; Lucy Sneesby-Tooth, Hunter Deanery; Loretta Heffernan, Myall Deanery; and Rose-Marie Mahoney, Watagan Deanery.
Members of both the faith and wider community includes students, parents/carers, teachers, parishioners and clergy, all of whom take great pride in their Catholic schools. Below are some practical ways Family Ministry Coordinators can assist members of the community to connect with parishes and schools.
- Attending school liturgies and celebrations on special feasts or occasions, for example. Catholic Schools Week, Holy Week, Easter, Anzac Day and Mother's Day. These are just a few examples of how schools, parishes and the wider community can be connected. The prayers are meaningful and on most occasions, the students act out part of the Gospel story or sing the hymns that convey special meaning to them.
- The Way of the Cross held at Kilaben Bay. This annual event is presented by the Diocese with support from Catholic schools. During this celebration the students present their interpretation of the events of Holy Week from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday. The parish (where the event is held) provides the hospitality for all to share. Music, liturgical dancing and acting are features of the students' involvement.
- Most schools have sports carnivals and cultural events - these events attract parents, extended families and parishioners. They provide occasions for support and encouragement for the participants and enable those not at school to participate in the wider life of the school community;
- Mini Vinnies - this is a wonderful organisation for primary aged students to be involved in. Mini Vinnies run winter appeals and support other fundraising requests. It is important for the Mini Vinnies to be connected to St Vincent de Paul. Together, the groups share a true sense of outreach and compassion. Many secondary schools also conduct Junior Vinnies, with a huge focus on social justice and the environment and also volunteer for CatholicCare's Dara Van which provides support to those in need, and connects clients to community agencies and support services;
- Family Mass - from the readings to the plate collection through to the welcoming ministry, primary school children are involved. Many of the children sit together with their friends and learn to respect the beliefs of others;
- Children's Liturgy - enables the children to understand their faith, our Catholic traditions and Gospel teachings at their level. Parents and parishioners welcome are always welcome to participate and celebrate these occasions with the children.
- Craft groups - pass on the time-lasting skills of knitting, crocheting and sewing to primary school children. Whilst the age difference can be up to 70 years, both young and not-so-young benefit from spending time together.
- Virtua - activities aer now a feature of diocesan and parish events, enabling outreach to all parts of the Diocese.
Please do not hesitate to contact your school if you would like more information on any of these activities and events.
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle website has the contact details of parish priests and parishes. Please feel welcome to contact parish offices if you wish to learn more about parish activities.