One of the highlights of Catholic Education Week, the annual Mass of St Patrick for Schools drew more than 2,000 students, staff and dignitaries to St Patrick’s Cathedral last Friday 17 March. Archbishop Peter A Comensoli reflected on the life of St Patrick, observing that everyone, no matter how young, is invited to trust God and to take up the mission God has for them.

The event was organised by Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS), and attending the Mass were Edward Simons, Acting Executive Director; Gerard Dalbosco, Chair of the Board, and other Board members; and Fr Mark Reynolds, Episcopal Vicar for Catholic Schools.

Representatives from the Victorian and Commonwealth parliaments were also in attendance, along with Senator Sarah Henderson, Senator Raff Ciccone, the Hon David Hodgett and Brad Rowswell MP.

Singers from Avila College, Mount Waverley, and altar servers from Simonds Catholic College, West Melbourne, contributed to make the Mass a special one.

Before Mass, Edward Simons welcomed everyone. ‘Catholic Education Week celebrates the very best of our sector,’ he said, ‘the principals, teachers, students, and families who come together to make our vibrant Catholic learning communities so special for 155,000 students across the Archdiocese.

‘That so many of you are here today, as the golden light streams through our cathedral windows, is a realisation of our mission to form lives of faith, hope and love in the light of Jesus Christ.’

During his homily, Archbishop Comensoli spoke about how young St Patrick was when his life was turned upside down, and invited everyone aged 16 and over to stand. ‘At the age of 16,’ he said, ‘St Patrick was taken into slavery. It triggered all that would follow in his life, for it was then that he found friendship with God, and began to live the way of missionary discipleship.’

‘Sixteen is a young age, isn’t it? For those of us standing, think back to what it was like being 16, and the decisions we were making then.’

Despite the unexpected turns his life would take, what Patrick did was place his trust in God, giving him a wholehearted ‘yes’.

Without Patrick’s 16-year-old ‘yes’, and without the Christian faith that has been handed on down through the centuries and across the oceans to us, our gathering here as Christian disciples in the mission of Catholic education would not have happened.

He then invited everybody younger than 16 to stand. ‘You can be like Patrick, even at your younger ages,’ he said.

‘God trusts you. Jesus trusts you. The Spirit is saying to each of us, “Go out, and tell the Good News”. We can do this, wherever we are and however old we are … It is for us to respond simply and humbly to God’s entrustment with five small words: Jesus, I trust in you.’

Following Mass, primary school students enjoyed the first Concert in the Park since 2019, with performances by students from Caroline Chisholm Catholic College, Braybrook; Catholic Regional College, Caroline Springs; Emmanuel College, Altona North; and Thomas Carr College, Tarneit.

Secondary school students attended a Young Speakers Colloquium at the Catholic Leadership Centre featuring a presentation by Fr Rob Galea.

As well as celebrating the work of Catholic Education in Melbourne, the Mass was an opportunity to recognise a number of schools that have reached significant milestones, ranging from 25 to 175 years of learning.