School Ministry on the Margins

In the following blog piece, Sr Duyen Thi My Nguyen, RSM kindly offered to share her experience of liturgy on the margins in her own words.

No one working in a wealthy Catholic school in an urban city of Australia could say that their ministry is on the margins. But I do!

Sr Duyen (far right) with the RE Team, getting ready for Palm Sunday and Holy Week Remembrance Service

I am a religious Sister with ministry background in accounting, education and theology. I spent seven years in a rural part of South Australia working as a classroom teacher, religious education coordinator and running and supporting the Sacramental Programme and RCIA for the local parish. But I did not consider my ministry at that time on the margins. They were parish-based ministries, for which parish priests were often available and ultimately responsible for all religious celebrations and sacraments, both at the school and in the parish.

The school that I am at now is one of the wealthiest Catholic schools in an urban city of Australia. It used to be an independent Catholic school and has now become a diocesan school. The school, however, is not attached to any particular parish. It is primarily responsible for organising all school Masses, religious celebrations and sacraments. It has a sound foundation in upholding Catholic ethos and Mercy charism and spirituality, in which the school was originally founded and established.

The school holds class Masses every week. As the school’s Religious Leader and Liturgist, I work with the RE Team to run most of our school religious celebrations, prayers, rituals and ceremonies, all except for presiding at a Eucharistic celebration. We have been struggling to get priests to come and celebrate Masses for us. Since priests in Australia are currently declining in number and increasing in age, should they take on extra responsibilities in addition to their already full schedules at their own parishes? This has become a reality for many schools, both parish and non-parish-based schools across Australia. In this situation, I consider myself working in ministry on the margins.

I am now trying to incorporate the Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion into our weekly Class Liturgy and greatly encouraging and supporting any of our staff who is willing to learn and to lead such a liturgy in the school. We are urgently called to this “ministry on the margins”: to and act prophetically and creatively otherwise our young people will be deprived of Eucharistic food – the source of our spiritual nourishment.

Australia, 3 May 2022

Thanks, Duyen!

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