Faith Story and Witness
Santa Maria College has a deep history. Since the opening of our College in 1938, the legacy of Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy is heavily woven into the tapestry of our school.
As part of this legacy and as an accreditation requirement, all staff employed in Catholic schools in Western Australia are required to complete Faith Story and Witness. This important program highlights:
- the faith story of the school in which the staff work
- the role staff have as witnesses of evangelisation
- the Catholic nature of the school curriculum.
In mid-January this year, just over 40 Santa Maria staff were invited to join our 2023 program. Each Catholic school develops its own program for Faith Story and Witness, which centres on its charism with its key principles ensuring staff are provided with a Christ-centred focus, a vision of Catholic identity, and a rich opportunity for adult faith formation.
Session 1: Storytelling
Our first session began by exploring the value of storytelling. We are born into stories. They nurture and sustain us throughout our lives. With this understanding in place, participants were invited to share the stories behind their own names, and we then revealed to one another when and where our places in the Mercy story began. Some were born in a Mercy hospital, others were ex-students of mercy schools, and for many, the day itself was the very start of their place in the story of mercy. We then continued by honouring our school’s foundation, history, and faith story in developing a Gospel vision. In understanding this story, we considered the Ireland of Catherine McAuley’s time, those pivotal life experiences and strong faith convictions which formed the basis of Catherine’s mission to the poor and vulnerable, the establishment of the House of Mercy and the Sisters of Mercy, and the pioneering women who brought Mercy to Perth.
Session 2: Christian Witness
In our second session, we delved into Christian Witness. Staff developed an understanding of witness as proclaiming the Gospel by living our faith, loving God and our neighbour selflessly and obeying God’s will for our lives. It can be said that our witness can attract others and help draw them to Christ. Staff were given a first-hand experience to listen to what Christian witness in a Catholic school looks like when four staff members joined our panel discussion. Teachers Jennifer Jansen and Derek Smith, Laboratory Technician Sally Nettleton, and Sister Breda O’Reilly shared their own experiences with such passion, joy and enthusiasm. We were blessed to have them with us in our presence.
Session 3: Catholic School Curriculum
The final part of our time together allowed staff to discover the nature of a Catholic school’s curriculum. We discussed how those who work in Catholic schools are called to a vocation to shape students’ hearts, minds and souls. Participants then were emersed in how the curriculum of the school contributes to the Christian development of the community. By investigating the College’s mercy values, the College prayer and our anthem, staff understood how we live out the mercy charism in our 21st-century world.
The day concluded with an exploration into mercy’s rich symbolism, as participants learnt about the meaning of the tender shawl of Mercy, the homemade walking boots, the Mercy cross and the comfortable cup of tea.
To extend the day’s learnings beyond the day itself, staff were invited to turn a sentimental teacup into a mini succulent garden to reside in a variety of sacred spaces around our College. We hope that they may act as signs of the spirit of the Mercy charism and as a reminder of Catherine’s vision in our school environment.
Here is what some of our staff, who completed this year’s program, had to say:
“A beautiful way to start my new role and next chapter at Santa Maria College. I am looking forward to many new learning opportunities. Faith, and the story of Catherine McAuley, have a very strong presence within the College.” Anna D’Ortona, Events Coordinator
“The Faith Story and Witness journey with Mel was a beautiful introduction to Mercy education and its development over time in Australia. It deepened my understanding of how the value of Mercy is incorporated within the school community, and it encouraged each of us to bring our own flair to the journey we are on in our daily encounters with staff, students and the wider school community.” Serra Driver, Religious Education Teacher
“I always knew Catherine McAuley was a remarkable woman, but there was so much more I learned about her through this session. The day also provided a great opportunity to get to know other new staff on more of a personal level and was a fantastic way to bring in the new school year!” Jake Tana, Social Media Officer
“I found the Faith Story and Witness very engaging; it was a wonderful day. As a past student, I knew about Catherine McAuley’s story, but Mel brought it to life through videos, readings and group discussions. Hearing about Catherine’s hardships and determination to keep to her mission and work towards her goal was inspiring. It reminded me to be grateful for my experiences and excited for the opportunity to educate young girls of today. We also potted some succulents into a teacup, bringing together moments of Catherine’s life and starting our journey at Santa Maria College.” Merryl Sequeira, Mathematics & Robotics Teacher
“I enjoyed learning about the history of the College and gaining a better understanding of Catherine McAuley’s life and where her values originated from. Potting succulents in teacups was also an enjoyable way to end the day.” Amy Buckingham, College Receptionist