Hundreds of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) students from across the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney have come together to celebrate Mountains Live at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Springwood.
The event, which is organised in conjunction with Catholic Youth Parramatta, is an opportunity for students to come together for an afternoon of dancing, singing and community-building. The schools involved were St Canice’s Primary Katoomba, St Finbar’s Primary Glenbrook, St Thomas Aquinas Primary Springwood, Our Lady of the Nativity Primary Lawson, Our Lady of the Way Primary Emu Plains and St Columba’s Catholic College Springwood.
In addition to meeting other students and forging new friendships, the event had a particular focus on stewardship and uniting schools for a common purpose: care for the place they call home which for most is the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains.
“Mountains Live was an exciting opportunity to bring together our young Catholic school students from the five primary schools from Katoomba to Emu Plains and the student leaders from St Columba’s Catholic College in a unique experience of church,” said Virginia Fortunat, Religious Education Coordinator at St Thomas Aquinas Primary, Springwood. “They gathered as one community to sing, listen to each other and to make a commitment to make a difference in their little world, our Blue Mountains, and realise the impact that makes on the whole world.”
Opening with an energising performance by the St Columba’s band, there was an electric atmosphere with children, teenagers and adults alike standing up to sing and dance. There was an Acknowledgement of Country before students enjoyed icebreaker games before breaking into small groups where they introduced themselves and discussed Diocese of Parramatta’s Laudato Si Campaign, led by Bishop Vincent Long, which is a seven-year commitment to care more deeply for the environment and those in need.
Laudato Si is Pope Francis' encyclical message highlighting that all life on earth is connected and asking people to actively protect God’s creation, especially the Earth and vulnerable people.
“Lots of schools came together and we met lots of other students and there was such a good vibe in the room. We learnt all about each other”, said Our Lady of the Way Emu Plains student Mikayla Blazek.
The theme of the day was ‘Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor’ which was taken from the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Social Justice Statement and encourages everyone to reflect on their actions and gain inspiration to drive further change in their communities.
“Mountains Live was really fun because you got to do different activities and meet new people”, added fellow student Lara Dwyer. “Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor was a great topic. It was such a fun day, lots of singing and dancing and getting together.”
“We're trying to pick up our rubbish more and we're starting a litter club where we go around the school and try to clear rubbish”, said St Canice’s student Natasha Vasquez-Seers. “It's really great that all the kids at St Canice's are getting much better with keeping things clean and taking care of our school and the Blue Mountains”.
Later, students were invited to share what they’re grateful for, taking the time to reflect and appreciate the little things in life and to not take them for granted.
“I am grateful for where I live”, added Natasha. “The Blue Mountains is so beautiful and we need to take care of it”.
The event concluded with some emotionally charged music that got every person singing proudly. Songs such as “Go and Make a Difference” and “Send Us Out”, were hits as schools pledged themselves to truly making a difference in their school communities and the world.