Moments of faith, family, loss and transition have shaped the newest recruits to Sydney Catholic Schools’ unique family educator role.

Here they share the events that prepared them to nurture meaningful relationships between parents and carers, school, and parish.

When Anne-Marie Julian’s daughter died of an unexpected and fatal heart arrhythmia three years ago at age 10, her school put together a ‘beautiful liturgy’ in her honour.

The children wrote personal letters to the family and the principal set up the Lauren Julian Kindness Award in her memory.

COVID was in full swing and prevented the Julians’ extended family visiting from Ireland in the wake of their loss. But the day after Lauren died, their local church was full with friends and community.

“That was organised by the family educators who have been so kind and caring and brought the whole community together to support our family,” Mrs Julian said.

“We were also visited and accompanied on our grief journey by the Catholic Grief Care team and Sydney Catholic Schools’ Director of Mission and Identity and Executive Director.”

“Becoming a family educator is a chance to give back.” – Anne-Marie Julian

This year, Mrs Julian has become the family educator at McAuley Catholic Primary School Rose Bay.

She brings experience including twenty years of corporate work, a strong faith instilled by her Irish-Catholic upbringing, and a keen interest in diversity, equity and inclusion to the role.

Mrs Julian said she was most looking forward to connecting with parents, and providing opportunities for parents to connect with each other, their school and their church.

“Our Family and Faith program … enables families to flourish in faith and life.” – Barbara Perry

“For me, becoming a family educator is a chance to give back,” she said.

“Giving parents the opportunity to build relationships and connections means that they already have very strong working relationships if they run into difficulty.

“I have a particular interest in grief care, and in neurodiversity as well. Those are issues that can be very difficult for families and it’s vital that we give them support. Together, we are stronger.”

Program ‘pivotal’ for school communities

Family educators during their induction to the role at Sydney Catholic Schools.Mrs Julian is among nine family educators new to the role this year.

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Manager of Family Wellbeing and Education, Barbara Perry, said the organisation’s Family and Faith program –  led by family educators since it began in 2009 – was pivotal to building welcoming and vibrant school communities.

“Our Family and Faith program promotes Catholic mission and identity and enriches the wellbeing of parents, who are the first educators of their children,” she said. “It enables families to flourish in faith and life.”

Family educators lead activities including morning teas, social justice and outreach initiatives, playgroups, book clubs, reflections, prayer sessions, retreats, and more.

Fellow Manager of Family wellbeing and Education at Sydney Catholic Schools, Guy Zangari, said new parents could expect a warm welcome from their family educator.

“Over the years, many friendships have been formed through parents meeting at events they have planned,” Mr Zangari said.