Mass of Thanksgiving for the service of Greg Whitby AM KSG to the Diocese of Parramatta
Readings: Apocalypse 4:1-11; Psalm 150; Luke 19:11-28
Dear sisters and brothers,
They say, “All good things must come to an end”. And so, it is with a tinge of sadness that we – his colleagues, family, friends and representatives from learning communities across the Diocese – have come here to say farewell to Greg and wish him every blessing for his future.
In doing so, we are mindful of his long and unstinting service to Catholic education in Australia and particularly to the Diocese of Parramatta. Greg started his teaching career way back in 1974 as a classroom teacher. He taught in various schools including Liverpool Boys High School, John Therry Catholic High School, Patrician College Blacktown and Emmaus Catholic College. He moved out of the classroom and worked in several senior administrative roles before becoming the Executive Director of Schools for the Diocese of Wollongong in 1999. In 2006, Greg was appointed by Bishop Kevin Manning, my predecessor, as the Executive Director of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.
Over a period of nearly 50 years, Greg has dedicated himself to education and 14 of those years, he has guided Catholic learning communities across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. He has endeavoured to imbue the whole system with the best of civic and ecclesial values, standards and principles. In a society that increasingly sees education as a commodity that can be bought and traded, Greg has promoted school as a vehicle for social equity and inclusion. Thanks to Greg’s leadership, Parramatta is truly on the education map. We are known to be at the cutting edge of innovative, inquiry-based, technology-oriented and above all Gospel-grounded education.
Fittingly, in 2007, Greg was named as the most innovative and creative educator in Australia by the Bulletin Magazine. In the same year, he received a Presidential Citation from the Australian Council for Educational Leaders. In 2011, he was named Apple Distinguished Educator for his contribution to the implementation of Learning Technologies in Education. In 2012, Greg was appointed Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great for his contribution to Catholic schooling. He was also the recipient of the 2017 Sir Harold Wyndham Medal awarded by the Australian College of Educators. In 2018, he was recognised with an Order of Australia award for his outstanding contribution to education and the transformation of schooling for young people across Greater Western Sydney.
Fittingly, also, the Gospel today speaks about the courage to overcome fears and to take necessary risks for the sake of the kingdom. The parable of the talents is about stepping outside our secure, comfortable and insular world and engaging with others in active solidarity. It is about using the gifts we have been entrusted with for the common good. This parable insists that watchfulness for the fulfilment of the kingdom must not lead to passivity, but to doing one’s God-given duties. We must be learning, growing, carrying out our responsibilities and developing the resources that God entrusts to us until He returns and settles accounts.
Pope Francis encourages us to live our Christian life with vulnerable trust. We should not be content with the status quo, especially when that status quo is less than what God wants for us as individuals and as a community. If one can detect the direction of Pope Francis’ pontificate, it has something to do with the movement from security to boldness, from safeguarding our privileges to learning to be vulnerable, learning to convey God’s compassion to those who are on the periphery.
Discipleship is a journey that demands courage because it forces us to abandon security in favour of vulnerability and to risk the turbulent waters of the deep instead of staying in a shallow harbour. Greg has certainly navigated through turbulent waters even in the six years that I have worked with him. In all of these challenges, Greg has remained focused on his task of delivering better educational outcomes and leading with dedication, integrity and a sense of mission.
“I have chosen you from the world to go and to bear fruit that will last”. These words of our Lord strengthen us as we celebrate Greg’s contribution and commit ourselves to fostering his legacy. We sit on the mat that he has woven in order to create a new tapestry even as we take a plunge in a new governance framework for our education mission. This new governance model is not mere corporatisation but an embodiment of synodality. This is truly a momentous leap of faith – just as Greg in his turn did before us.
So, as a people of faith, we believe that good things come to an end to make way for better things to happen. In thanking Greg, I also acknowledge the partnership and support of his wife Sue and extended family. I trust that with such a strong legacy, we can move to a new chapter. May God who journeys with us bring to fulfilment his plan for us.
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