Words of Australia's first saint inspired Spirit of Catholic Award winner

Catholic Education Week

​Spirit of Catholic Education Award winner Maureen Burton with Archbishop Mark Coleridge and BCE Executive Director Pam Betts

MAUREEN Burton has been named a Spirit of Catholic Education Award winner at a special Mass held in St Joseph's Cathedral, Rockhampton, that kicked off Catholic Education Week celebrations across Queensland.

The Spirit of Catholic Education Awards, initiated in 2006, recognise the contribution individuals within Catholic education make to the life of Catholic school communities.

The prestigious awards are open to staff, volunteers, parents and members of the clergy throughout Queensland.

A surprised Maureen, one of eight award recipients, said she felt “a little embarrassed and humbled” on receiving the award from Assistant Minister for Education, Brittany Lauga.

In 2018 the consultant in inclusive education based at the North Schools Service Centre was pivotal in providing emotional, financial and physical support to a BCE employee, a refugee from a country besieged by war.

Alone in Australia, this person supported their family who had remained behind and were being targeted by a terrorist group.

Maureen stepped in to support her co-worker in seeking immigration advice and in lobbying politicians for Australian visas for the other family members stuck in a war zone, all the while supporting them in the workplace.

When two visas were finally granted, Maureen instigated fundraising to enable her colleague to purchase airline tickets and to find accommodation for the family.

She then galvanised BCE’s office community into providing donations of furniture and other needs and organised helpers to move her co-worker into new accommodation prior to the family arriving in Australia.

Her efforts spurred the entire office community and inspired many in schools who donated time and effort in helping find the colleague a community of people who genuinely cared.

Maureen said the award was more an acknowledgment of the generosity of spirit of many.

“I was so proud of the way so many of our BCE employees and their families and friends responded and it was this cumulative effect that in the end made a real difference,” she said.

“Therefore, I receive the award as part of a caring community who responded to a need.

She said it also was an acknowledgment that going the extra mile was part of Catholic identity, something she witnessed every day at work.

“Also, my husband and I have five grandchildren and it means a great deal to us that they grow up having a social conscience and are challenged to live out the Gospel values in their daily lives.

“Perhaps this award may encourage them to grow in their capacity to bring their heart, head and hands to everything they do.”

Maureen, who began her teaching career at St Flannan’s School, Zillmere, in the 1970s, said seeing others do good deeds was what inspired her to have a go.

“I have always been inspired by St Mary of the Cross MacKillop – ‘never see a need without doing something about it’.

“I witness this on a day-to-day basis working in our BCE school communities.”

She said she was deeply committed to the spirit of Catholic education and was blessed to work as part of a team of like-minded individuals who were also deserving of a nomination for a Spirit of Catholic Education Award.

“Many people who struggle also do wonderful things for others while they live with their own personal challenges.

“Being vulnerable helps us more readily notice the vulnerability in others and the opportunity of contributing to making a difference.

“It is important to grow goodness in our world and to notice the kindness and goodness of others is one way of keeping the Spirit of Catholic Education alive,” she said.

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