Sydney Catholic schools welcome refugees

Newly arrived families from three Sydney Catholic schools have been welcomed to Australia at a special event held at North Sydney’s Mary Mackillop Place.

Refugee families from Mary Mackillop College Wakeley, Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield and Holy Spirit Lakemba gathered last Tuesday to enjoy a barbecue, mass and games at a day run by an action group of young former students.

Invited families were largely refugees from Syria and Iraq, and some had been in the country as little as a few days.

“Many of the families who came today have lost family, friends and neighbours, often killed in horrendous fashion because they refused to renounce their Christian belief,” said Sister Maria, one of the organisers of the event.

“How gifted Australia is by the presence of these resilient people.”

Attendees were brought to North Sydney by bus, and the day’s activities began with morning tea. Mass was conducted at the Mary MacKillop memorial chapel and ceremonial duties were shared by several priests, with the service conducted partly in Aramaic.

After the service, families gathered on the lawn to enjoy a barbecue together, and children were kept entertained by activities like skipping, face painting and beading.

It’s one of the lovely privileges of the job to be able to welcome people into our community.

– Phillip Scollard

Yousef Barbowhose of Patrician Brothers’ Fairfield has been in Australia for about nine months, and said he and his friends were encouraged by the warm welcome on offer on the day.

“The mass was beautiful,” he said. “It’s so nice to see so many people.”

Students like Yousef were the reason all three of the involved schools were so eager to be involved in the day.

“Participation wasn’t even a question – it’s an important part of who we are,” said Narrelle Archer, Principal of Mary MacKillop College.

“It’s one of the lovely privileges of the job,” agreed Holy Spirit’s Principal Phillip Scollard, “to be able to welcome people into our community, and to welcome people into Australia.

Mrs Archer and Mr Scollard’s schools, as well as Patrician Brothers’ Fairfield, were invited to participate in the day because all three are Catholic Intensive English Centres,  dedicated to giving newly arrived migrant students the best possible start.

The day was organised in part by former students of the three schools, who have since joined with friends to form a Josephite action group for young people. The group was supported by a team of young volunteers.

“The generosity and commitment of the young Action Group (JAG) who are running the day is nothing less than inspiring.  They’re living in a very real way Mary MacKillop’s motto of never seeing a need without doing something about it,” said Sister Jan, the group’s co-ordinator.

“It’s wonderful that we’ve been given the gift of this day and the opportunity to strengthen solidarity with newly arrived families to our country,’ she continued.

Andrew Faryad said his Sydney Catholic school’s strong focus on leadership and links to the Josephite social justice programs encouraged his involvement in the day.

“I wanted to hold on to some of those ties post-school,” he said.

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