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Use a practical, down-to-earth common sense approach when dealing with the young, said Archbishop Costelloe


Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB celebrated the CEWA Opening of the school year Mass on 31 January at St Marys Cathedral. Photo: Ron Tan.

By Amanda Murthy

More than 300 Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) leaders, staff, parents from across the Archdiocese of Perth gathered on Friday 31 January to celebrate Mass at St Marys Cathedral, as they witnessed the commissioning of new staff and welcomed another school year in prayer.

The Mass, celebrated by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, who in his homily, took time to speak about the life of Saint John Bosco (also known as Don Bosco) on his feast day, encouraging those present to be inspired by the faith-journey of Saint John Bosco, especially in their encounters with the young.

Archbishop Costelloe was joined by concelebrants the Very Rev Father Peter Whitely VG and St Marys Cathedral Dean, Rev Dr Sean Fernandez and Cathedral Assistant Priest Fr Conor Steadman, along with Fr Phillip Perreau and assisted by Deacon Mark Powell.

The Mass also gained support from the likes of local politicians namely the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Sue Ellery, Shadow Minister for Child Protection, Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence and representing the Leader of the Opposition the Hon Nick Goiran.


CEWA Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce spoke of the mission of educators during her welcome address for the CEWA Opening of the school year Mass on 31 January at St Marys Cathedral. Photo: Ron Tan.

CEWA Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce delivered an opening address, reminding those present, of the common mission that each worker in the Catholic Education system should strive for, and the responsibility that comes with being a leader, educator and school staff member.

“At the heart of all our decisions and actions is the dignity of each child,” Dr Sayce cited.

“I encourage you to remember this as a personal guiding principle this year, as we strive to give each student in our care opportunities to develop and explore their unique identity in God, and their own gifts, talents and abilities.

“We must have high expectations of ourselves and our colleagues, just as parents, carers and families will have high expectations of us this year.

“The challenges and this immense responsibility, however, should not stop your job from being full of joy, meaning and personal reward; nor should your jobs be thankless,” she added.

Dr Sayce also encouraged the congregation to support their colleagues this year, to recognise examples of professionalism and excellence in their work.

“Let me be the first to thank you now for your passion for teaching and learning, and your commitment to the growth and wellbeing of the students who will benefit from your generosity and expertise,” she stated.

“Gathering here for a celebration of the Eucharist is a fitting way for us to start the year, and I hope it helps to fill you with joy and purpose ahead of the first day of term one,” she added.


e 300 CEWA leaders, staff, parents from across the Archdiocese of Perth gathered on 31 January to celebrate Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, as they witnessed the commissioning of new staff and welcomed another school year in prayer. Photo: Ron Tan.

A special blessing was imparted to the new staff in Catholic schools, with each recipient accepting a scroll, as the congregation sang the hymn ‘Blessing song.’

During his homily, Archbishop Costelloe explained that it was the approach gentleness and loving kindness in the midst of great religious hostility and violence shown by Saint Francis De Sales during his time as Bishop of Geneva, which provided the modal for St John Bosco on how to deal with the young.

“In the face of hostility, Francis de Sales always responded calmly and respectfully.  St John Bosco became convinced that it was this approach to religion, rather than an aggressive and condemnatory approach, which provided a perfect example of how to deal with the young,” Archbishop Costelloe stated. 

“St John Bosco eventually described his educational approach as being a combination of religion, loving-kindness and what he called reason, but which we might best understand as simply being practical, down-to-earth common sense.

“As a Catholic school, your school will need to be a place where the Catholic faith, in all its dimensions, is not simply tolerated or paid lip-service to, but is embraced as the life-giving soul of the whole school community, in energetic, faithful and creative ways.

“Your school will also be a place where gentleness and loving-kindness reigns,” Archbishop Costelloe state.


The CEWA Opening of the school year Mass was a great way for leaders, staff and parents from across the Archdiocese of Perth to pray and network with one another as the new school year begins. Photo: Ron Tan.

Archbishop Costelloe went on to state that another example that school leaders and staff can learn from the examples of Saint John Bosco was the way he treated every student with respect, love, and kindness, even believing that the corporal punishment was unnecessary if teachers really cared for the young.

“He treated each young person with gentleness and loving-kindness – with profound respect – and the young people responded to him because of it,” Archbishop Costelloe cited.

“In this, of course, Don Bosco was simply a faithful disciple of Jesus, who described himself as gentle and humble of heart,” he added.

Finally, Archbishop Costelloe said that to best serve the young, all Catholic school will need to be a place where structures and rules are at the service of the young rather than the other way around. 

“This is what Don Bosco meant by “reason” – by what I have called down-to-earth common sense.

“Schools exist for the well-being and the flourishing of the young, not for anything else.  Compassion, flexibility and a certain “lightness of touch” create space in people’s lives so that they can grow and develop,” Archbishop Costelloe concluded.

Attendees gathered at the front porch after the Mass to share a meal and network.