Harrison Edwards is in his final year of school and is moving toward the HSC with the poise and commitment that characterises Sydney Catholic Schools’ students. Here he speaks about what Catholic education means for students in 2021.

From Kindergarten through to Year 12, I have been educated in the Catholic education system, and I’m so incredibly thankful for every moment.

I’m just one of the millions of those who have been educated with the teachings of Jesus over 200 years here in Australia. I represent one of many, and there are three things that mean Catholic education for young people today – Solidarity, Community, and Teachings.

Harrison Edwards, the current faith formation leader at Marist Catholic College North Shore

Marist Catholic College Faith Formation Leader, Harrison Edwards. Photo: Giovanni Portelli Photography

One thing that I love about the Catholic education system is the number of opportunities that we as students are open to, and with my education at Marist Catholic College North Shore I have been open to a plethora of opportunities. Solidarity is at the peak of these opportunities which start in Year 9. Through the experiences I have gained with sandwich making, Street Level Cafe and Matthew Talbot, it has been incredibly eye-opening to me.

We complain if the bus or train is running late. We complain if our food is running late. But some in our community are going to sleep hungry, worrying about where they are going to sleep. This is the perspective we get in a Catholic school, and that is why Catholic education means solidarity to young people.

Secondly, Catholic education means community.

Being enrolled in a Catholic school means you are a part of a special community. A safe, welcoming, and inclusive community, and a community of which you will form lifelong friends. This community means friendship, being others centered, appreciating, and valuing everybody for their diversity, and respect.

There is a strong sense of community in all schools, but what makes a Catholic school community is that we are all bonded under the name of Jesus Christ, and it is a community that will always demonstrate the qualities of Jesus and Mary.

This sense of being a part of something is most prevalent at carnivals, such as swimming and athletics. There is always a great passion, determination, grit, competitiveness, and above all, family spirit. Whether it’s up in the stands, tug-o-war, in the pool, or out on the track, it is what makes the Catholic education system what it is.

The passion, love of work, and determination are clearly represented in these activities, and these events mean Catholic education to young people.

The mateship and love are so clearly illustrated in a Catholic school. When you get to be a senior, you get to know the majority, if not all, of your peers in your corresponding year. We always look out for each other and are always including the marginalised of our peers, because we have that strong sense of mateship and love for those with who we interact on a daily basis.

Being in a Catholic school has taught me to be more like Jesus, as the school is very much Christ centered. Being Christ centered is much more than “Loving one another as I have loved you”; it’s being kind, caring, respectful, and, most importantly, being courageous to stand up for what is right.

For a young person today, Catholic education, being Christ centered, means finding value in their lives and reaching their full potential as compassionate, contributing, life-giving members of society who are highly skilled, informed, tolerant, open and courageous.

Being like Jesus is a challenge that nobody has ever achieved in over 2000 years. But what Catholic education teaches you is not to be exactly like Jesus.

Your teachers don’t tell you to walk on water or to turn five loaves of bread and two fish into enough to feed the 5000. They teach you the fundamentals of what it is to be Catholic.

If Jesus walked into any Catholic school, I’m sure he would be extremely proud, particularly of solidarity, community and teachings of Jesus.