Religious feature in Australia Day honours for lifetime of service to community

Sr Rita Fitt sgs (Catholic Weekly/Photo by Daniel Hopper)

Sr Rita Fitt sgs (Catholic Weekly/Photo by Daniel Hopper)

Religious were among a range of distinguished Catholics to receive Australia Day Honours this year for their work in the community, The Catholic Weekly reports.

Good Samaritan Sister Rita Fitt was “excited but also humbled” to receive her medal of the Order of Australia for service to secondary education.

“There are colleagues I work with who could have received it,” she said.

The family liaison coordinator at St Mary Star of the Sea College in Wollongong has always appreciated that the college initiated her ministry of compassion. It involves being available to students and their families in times of need, working alongside school counsellors and psychologists as well as with the parents and friends group.

“It’s been a real joy to be a bearer of hope for people in the name of the college,” she said.

“I see this as an award for the college which allows and encourages me in this role which benefits all of us. The principal Dr Frank Pitt has honoured me with the freedom to do the ministry in whichever way I feel called to do it.”

One of those ways is popping in to visit the HSC students at home during the weeks before their final exams simply to encourage them.

“It’s something people look forward to,” Sister Rita said.

Fr Kevin Bates sm (Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli)

Fr Kevin Bates sm (Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli)

Father Kevin Bates SM parish priest at Hunter’s Hill is a recognisable name in the Catholic community as the writer of hymns sung in Australian parishes and schools over many years.

He said he was “astonished and honoured” to hear he was to receive a medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Catholic Church.

“Music has been with me all my life,” he said.  “I started writing music in the late 1970s and it hasn’t been the main focus of my ministry, which has mostly been in education, but it has been a vehicle for my ministry.

“It’s a language we all share and a great means of communicating, particularly with young people. I am very grateful that I’ve been able to use it.”

Father Bates has also served as the director of the Aquinas Academy and director of the Marist Centre and is a current member of the Inter-Church Council at Hunters Hill.

“In my role I represent our Marist, parish and church communities and am very aware that this award belongs to all of them, especially to the many people who serve the community faithfully and often in hidden and unknown ways,” he said.

“In a time when the Church must become more humble, honest and open to significant changes, it is worth acknowledging the good work that continues every day even in the midst of scandal and dislocation.

“In accepting this award, I do so as an act of thanks for all those who remain faithful to the Gospel and to the life-giving mission of the Church.”

Fr Paul Pidcock sm (Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli)

Fr Paul Pidcock sm (Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli)

Fellow Marist Father Paul Pidcock SM was a vital part of the life of St John’s College Woodlawn in Lismore for 55 years until his retirement last year, fulfilling several roles over that time as its chaplain, member of the college executive council, bursar, teacher and social outreach organiser.

“The college has seen big changes over that period, with the Second Vatican Council and going from an all-boys boarding college to a co-ed systemic day school, and those changes have gone very well,” he said.

“I’ve really loved my work and I’ve been very happy to work with the students. I’ve found them to be very generous and responsive especially in their work with the St Vincent de Paul and also as Red Cross blood donors and other things I thought were important.”

Father Pidcock, who received his medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Catholic Church, also taught at Marist College in Burnie, Tasmania, and is currently a committee member of the Father Tony Glynn Australia-Japan Centre at Southern Cross University.

 This article was drawn from an article written by Marilyn Rodrigues, first published in The Catholic Weekly, featuring a range of Catholic recipients of Australia Day Honours in 2019.