When asked to nominate a staff member or student who represents and embodies the values and vision of Kildare Ministries, Star of the Sea College chose Mary Harmes. Mary Harmes has been the driving force behind the Social Justice activities at Star of the Sea College for the past 11 years.
As the Social Justice Co-ordinator at the College, Mary’s kindness to all she meets ensures that everyone feels welcomed into the Star community. Her creative ideas and support for those who wish to be involved is well regarded by students and staff and her capacity to mobilise others into action is legendary.
Social Justice at Star is extensive and many of the programs the school supports have been initiated by Mary. Regular programs supported by the College include:
- Weekly Soup Van support
- Sacred Heart Mission volunteers (every second Monday and every Friday)
- Friday Night School (tutoring for non-English speaking students, many of them refugees)
- St Kilda Mums (assemble new Mum packs)
- Sale of ‘The Big Issue’
- Kildare Ministries Educating for Justice Student programs
All of these programs need volunteers and Mary coordinates the many students and staff who are involved in making a difference in our community.
Mary also co-ordinates all fundraising and appeals for:
- St Vincent de Paul (Christmas Hampers)
- ACRAF awareness
- Birthing Kits assistance
- Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project (BASP)
- NSW Drought Appeal
Mary raises awareness of these issues and motivates staff and students to develop programs to support each cause.
Mary feels her greatest success has been supporting Clarissa from the Big Issue with her weekly visits to Star. Mary contacted the Big Issue 9 years ago to find out how Star could get involved. Since then Clarissa has travelled to Star each week (now from Bendigo) to sell the Big Issue. Most importantly Mary has supported Clarissa in finding permanent accommodation and reduced the worry in her life. Staff and students have embraced Clarissa and it is incredible to see how this program has positively changed Clarissa’s life.
Mary views change holistically and combines the motto of ‘changing head, heart, hands and feet’ for ultimate success. Mary applies Nano Nagle’s values and the Star motto ‘Deeds not Words’ to her work. She has a deep theological knowledge and approaches her work as ministry. Mary is a member of the Kildare Ministries Mission & Ministry Sub-Committee of the Trustees, and the Justice Coordinators’ Network allowing the depth of Mary’s experience and wisdom to be shared across all 10 schools and 3 community works of Kildare Ministries.
Mary’s parents taught her to include ‘the other’ and she has not only lived this belief but has also shared this wisdom with the students at Star.
.Social Justice is close to Mary’s heart and she aims to ‘Teach the girls to stand in solidarity with people and not to judge’.