‘So many people deserve a medal’

03/01/2013

Catholic Outlook June Barrett Story
St Patrick’s Cathedral Parrramatta Parishioners June and Jack Barrett. Photo: Virginia Knight.

By Virginia Knight, Catholic Outlook, December 2012/January 2013

On Sunday 25 November, June Barrett was the first to receive the 2012 Diocesan Medal of Honour presented by Bishop Anthony Fisher OP.

The medal is recognition of June’s extraordinary breadth of work across 50 years in St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish in catechetical education and parish ministry, and as a genealogist and archivist of local and Church history. The citation describes June as “a model of Gospel values”.

June said she was proud to be in such wonderful company. “I was so impressed by the breadth of work of the other recipients,” she said. “There are so many others, past and present, who are deserving of similar honours.

“I think the role of the volunteer is unbelievably important. All those people who assist at Mass are volunteers – readers, acolytes, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. People are very generous with their time.”

June’s own involvement in her community began as the mother of a young family in the late 1960s. She grew up in Ashbury and met her husband, Jack, at a dance organised by the Catholic Youth Organisation when she was 19.

They were married two years later but didn’t settle in the Parramatta area till 1960 when they made their home with Jack’s elderly aunt, Molly O’Neill, who had raised him as a child.

And it was the example set by the women in her new parish that inspired June. “Women like Molly, Gertie Barnes and Betty Delaney were marvellous and I thought, ‘I want to work for the parish as they do’,” she said.

Molly had been a catechist and volunteer with the St Vincent de Paul Society feeding homeless people from her house. Following in her footsteps, June has been a catechist in local state schools for 46 years.

The couple has six daughters and June gave much of her time to volunteering at the local Catholic schools, St Patrick’s Primary and Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta.

In the early 1980s June was diagnosed with cancer, and through the power of prayer, believes she was granted a miracle and recovered. “I remember Fr Blayney visited me in hospital and said, ‘Pray for a miracle June.’ I did, and I got it.”

With her second chance at life, June chose to focus on the things that interested her, which would lead to a whole new beginning.

Read full story at the Catholic Outlook site


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