Seeds of Justice 2023: Student Conference

The Western Australian chapter of Mercy Education Limited’s ‘Seeds of Justice’ program provides students in both Mercy-sponsored schools and Mercy-affiliated schools a variety of opportunities to:

  • form students and staff in the Mercy charism;
  • raise awareness of contemporary
  • issues in social justice; and
  • facilitate new links between students and staff of Western Australian Mercy schools.

This year’s student conference saw students from Santa Maria College, Mercedes College, St Brigid’s College, Aranmore Catholic College, Ursula Frayne Catholic College and Mercy College gathered together at St John of God Retreat Centre in Shoalwater.

The theme of this year’s conference allowed students to be ’empowered to respond to both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor’. This inspiring message from Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Sì, allowed both staff and students to explore further this key area of justice also identified by the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea in their 2017 Chapter Statement, “disturbed by the despair and suffering of many peoples and the degradation of Earth, we are impelled to reflective action for gospel justice”.

The two-day program was filled with numerous experiences presented by a variety of staff members.

Millennium Kids Inc CEO and co-founder Catrina shared her knowledge of her not-for-profit environmental youth organisation, which empowers young people with a skills for life approach to become leaders and change agents in their communities. Catrina ran a mini Sustainable Development Goals session, with students then prioritising challenges and providing examples of how young people are addressing these.

Students were offered opportunities to measure their ecological footprints with the data also suggesting how many Earths would be needed if we were to continue to live as we did. Results ranged from one to six! Being able to collate this data gave us a unique chance to research various solutions to reduce a person’s ecological footprint. Each student group was able to generate several impactful and promising solutions.

Our evening session addressed the question, ‘Where to from here?’. Each school was challenged to identify issues they were passionate about, together with the effects and causes of these issues. Students were then asked to brainstorm a variety of ways they would like to change these issues, to identify a plan of action and to then, most importantly, ascertain ways to measure how successful their action plan would be. It proved to certainly be a ‘watch this space’ moment as the buzz of future possibilities encompassed the group. The night ended with a screening of “The Letter” which tells the story of a journey to Rome of frontline leaders to discuss the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ with Pope Francis. The exclusive dialogue with the Pope included in the film offered a revealing insight into the personal history of Pope Francis and stories never seen since he became the Bishop of Rome. You can watch it here.

Day two saw students become true ‘seeds’ and do their part to sustain and nurture God’s creation at Naragebup, the Rockingham Environmental Centre, a non-profit community organisation run by volunteers, built by the community for the community. As an education and resource facility for the community, the centre enables a greater understanding of environmental issues and sustainable lifestyle choices. Students gave their time to clean animal enclosures, feed frogs and lizards, clean up the children’s playground and plant new flower and vegetable seedlings in the community garden.

As with all good things, they must come to an end, and as midday approached on day two, we gathered for one final time to celebrate our end-of-conference liturgy in which students were commissioned as Seeds of Justice leaders and awarded their badges. As we did during the liturgy, we prayed for the grace we need to be what God has destined for us…to live our life to its fullest, enjoying and caring for this great and beautiful planet. By planting the seeds of disturbance, we keep this conference’s spirit, energy, and vision alive in our school communities and the world. We know we can make a difference!

Melissa Trolio | Director of Mission

What A Term! So Many Opportunities – Jennifer Oaten

As I look back on the past nine weeks, I am so grateful for who we are as a community and what we have achieved. Through the dedication of our staff and the enthusiasm of our students, we have established new connections, immersed ourselves in opportunities and worked through challenges.

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