Catholic Youth Parramatta

Spirituality for today’s graduates


Broken Bay Institute News Story
Working Together...pictured outside the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, Redfern, from left, back row, Alex Cassar and Patrice Moriarty with Kareel Phillips (youth mentor) and Paul Wilson ( Augustinians) with, in foreground, Jerome Mundine and Issac Phillips. Photo: Dan McAloon

Saint Augustine in his autobiography ‘The Confessions’ spoke in such a contemporary voice about the human struggle to find one’s spirituality and do God’s work in the world that his message has remained a timeless example for any who aspire to grow spiritually and work for justice and peace.

Bringing Augustinian Spirituality to a new generation of Australians has seen the Augustinian Fathers and The Broken Bay Institute-University of Newcastle to develop courses for postgraduates to use to enrich their lives and work.

The two courses, Augustinian Spirituality for Social Justice (THEO6032) and Social Teaching of the Church (THEO6023) enable participants to explore local and global justice issues in the context of the Church’s teachings. For graduates seeking vocations in areas such as social work and religious education there is much to recommend the courses, according to Therese Guy, a teacher on Sydney’s northern beaches.

“I’ve worked with indigenous people in Cherbourg, Mount Druitt and Redfern and these courses gave me a good mix of theoretical and practical input that was foundational to my interests in the social justice sphere,” Therese said.

Trained as a Visual Arts teacher, doing the courses, she says, widened her career options as a teacher. Completing the courses gave her a Graduate Certificate in the Theology; a prerequisite to teaching Religious Education.

“So now I’m teaching fulltime, which was not the case before. I’m teaching RE to students in Years 7 to 10 and loving it. I’d recommend the courses to anyone who wants to teach or learn about social justice issues.”

Patrice Moriarty and Alex Cassar from St Clair’s parish in the Parramatta Diocese, are also postgraduates who have done the courses. As Augustinian volunteers they are currently working in Redfern with young Aboriginal men who are doing a maritime careers course as part of the Tribal Warrior Program.

The Tribal Warrior Program is one of Redfern’s little publicised success stories, although it is credited by community elders and police alike with bringing youths who were previous criminal offenders into career paths where they do not reoffend and drastically reducing petty crime in the suburb.

Early in the morning at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, Patrice and Alex work with young Aboriginal men who are doing the program. Literacy and multimedia projects are on the agenda today. Patrice works with Isaac Phillips, 19, on ‘Lingo from the Block’- an Optus-supported recovery of local Aboriginal words, some of which are used by Issac’s extended family.

Meanwhile, Alex and Jerome Mundine, seated at the computer edit a short multimedia documentary on the boxer Tony Mundine. “He’s my cousin,” Jerome said with unrestrained pride.

Everyone here is pushing for positive outcomes. It is the trusting relationships between these young people, both black and white, which underscores the learning that is taking place. Patrice, a psychology graduate, says doing the courses instilled in her a good attitude for volunteer work. “You’re not here to impose your values on the person,” she said. “You’re here to walk together and share knowledge that empowers that person. And that’s fantastic.”

It is a sentiment Alex, 18, agrees with. He is studying architecture at UNSW and originally did the Augustinian course during summer break last year.  It was timely preparation for his desire to work with disadvantaged youth as a volunteer.

“I got a lot out of it in terms of social justice and spirituality. Working here in Redfern the barriers break down and you get to know the guys doing the program really well. You feel connected to something much bigger than yourself.”

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