John, 17, has just completed exams in English Literature and Maths and said that while the past few months had been an intense time of study, his faith was always there.
“It wasn’t until I began doing exams in Year 10 that I came to understand just how important my faith was,” John told The Southern Cross.
“When due dates for assignments and exams were in close time proximity, I remember I would get stressed but having attended Wednesday Masses I always felt at peace and all my worries and stress just disappeared.
“My faith is important to me because through my faith I find God, and through God I find peace and salvation. It was also because of my parents’ loving support that I was able to strive through Year 12.”
John’s commitment to his faith and studies was acknowledged when he was presented a Mary MacKillop Award at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on October 26. A total of 56 senior students from 28 colleges and schools received the Archdiocesan award, which recognises their ‘faith, personal characteristics of merit, success in their chosen learning pathway, contribution to fellow students and wider community, and their optimism and hope for the future’.
Coming from a Fijian background, John said he has been “surrounded by a strong Catholic faith” throughout his life. Parents Joe and Saravina, older sister Sisilina (who also received a student award in 2017), twin brother Aloisio, younger sister Fifita and brother Paul, are all regular worshippers at St Luke’s Church in the Noarlunga-Seaford parish and are members of the Fijian Catholic Community.
John said he was privileged to be the Mission captain at Cardijn in Year 12, which saw him involved in whole school and house Masses, helping to organise the Vinnies sleepout and ‘Athon’ Day, among many other social justice causes. Outside of school he attends a newly-formed men’s ministry group, is a member of Youths For Christ and the Prayer, Praise, Pancakes group as well as part of music liturgy at Wednesday Masses.
On the other side of the city at Andrews Farm, Yom Akech from St Columba College was also a recipient of a Mary MacKillop Award.
Passionate about global climate issues, Yom led the Multicultural and Social Justice team during Year 12 and was involved in the college’s Kinship Program.
“This is quite a unique and dynamic aspect of our college in which we are able to regularly interact with students outside of our year levels…my involvement was mostly in prayer and inter-house competitions with other kinship groups,” Yom explained.
A regular volunteer at Vinnies, Yom said this was her way of trying to bring about change in the local community.
“Although there are many global social justice causes that must be brought to attention, volunteering at Vinnies has shown me just how local the matter can be and has further catapulted my drive to bring change for the better,” she said.
From South Sudanese origins, Yom was born in Kenya as a refugee and immigrated with her family to Australia when she was five.
In nominating her for a Mary MacKillop Award, the college noted Yom’s tenacity, saying that despite her speech (stuttering) and physical impediments she always had a ‘glass half full’ approach to life.
“I have a disability called hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, that does have an effect on my life in general, but it just makes me work harder for the things I want to achieve,” Yom said.
“As a person, faith is a critical part of my life as it not only defines my connection with God, but how I view the world, and it is what allows me to understand about others and myself.
“My morals and beliefs originate from my faith and I believe that through God all things are possible and this teaching is what I carry through life.”
Full list of Mary MacKillop Student Award recipients:
Blackfriars Priory School: Francesco Freda, Philip Clark; Cabra Dominican College: Grace Lam, Alanna Howick; Cardijn College: Katelin Lawrie, Joseva (John) Saukuru; Christian Brothers College: Campbell Hillock, Joseph Tripodi; Gleeson College: Luca Topolnjak, Madeline Scherer; Kildare College: Hitha Sijo Padayattil, Leticia Grasso; Loreto College: Rosa Lepore, Sophie Treasure; Mary MacKillop College: Aimee Taddeo, Adriana Bianco; Mercedes College: Joshua Anthony, Sophie Faulkner; Mt Carmel College: Matthew Iuliano, Madison McAuliffe; Nazareth College: Marinelle Fernandez, Shane Paul; Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College: Emily Siva-Pereira, Ruth Hall; Our Lady of La Vang: Brittany Zidov, Kianna Collopy; Rostrevor College: Joshua Rahaley, Lewis Pipe; Sacred Heart College: Ashley Pearce, Dante De Ieso; St Aloysius College: Grace Peterson, Holly Saberton; St Columba College: Yom Akech, Kuoirot Majak; St Dominic’s Priory College: Isabel Palmer, Isabella Haddad; St Francis De Sales College: Scarlett Clapton-Caputo, William Brooks; St Ignatius’ College: Thomas Daw, Emily Flaherty; St Mary’s College: Teresa Kelly, Amelie Mullarkey; St Michael’s College: Brianna McCulloch, Nathan Pellizzari; St Patrick’s Special School: Scarlett O’Neil, Jack Penman; St Patrick’s Technical College: Jackson Billingsley, Deakin Summers-Hine; St Paul’s College: Ryzaq Guttierrez, Pierre Boutros; Tenison Woods College: Laura Cesario, Jacob Lang; Thomas More College: Clare Innes, Keenan Green; Xavier College: Rukudzo Ndudzo, Jeanne Brett.
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