Through their work, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta teachers reach out to those in need in their local communities. A recent Formation Day for staff at Our Lady of Angels (OLA), Rouse Hill provided insight into the lives of marginalised people further afield.
Staff travelled into the inner city to learn about a range of outreach programs run by the Catholic Parish of St Canice’s, Elizabeth Bay and the Wayside Chapel, Kings Cross.
The welcoming community of St Canice’s provides outreach programs including Canice’s Kitchen which offers food and company, and David’s Place which offers prayer, reflection and companionship. The parish is also committed to providing humanitarian support for the children of Railaco, East Timor.
OLA staff also learnt firsthand about the work of the Wayside Chapel from Rob, a community member who shared his own story of the life-changing impact of the friendship he has found through this well-respected organisation.
OLA Religious Education Coordinator Katrina Byrne said the Wayside Chapel is a safe haven for many people. It’s a place where welcome and hospitality are crucial, and it fulfills this call through having an open door policy.
“The staff had an unbelievably powerful encounter with life on the fringes, where people in desperate need have hope spoken into their lives by other people of love, faith and witness.
“Through community, these vulnerable people are taught that they too reveal the face of God to others,” she said.
This day challenged many staff members personally and emotionally. One teacher explained the shift in how they now think about homelessness: “It’s not homelessness,” the teacher said, “it’s someone experiencing homelessness.”
“My passion for reaching out to others was renewed as a result of the Staff Formation day,” she said.
With the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference calling for urgent action on homelessness in their 2018 Social Justice Statement, it’s timely that this experience has inspired a significant outreach program at OLA in Term 4. It is hoped that this program will challenge their school community to recognise the face of God in others and consider deeply the dignity of each human person.