Antonine College leader celebrates 50 years of service to Catholic education

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3 March 2021

Christina Staunton-Burke, Faith and Mission Leader at Antonine College, Pascoe Vale South, celebrates 50 years of service to Catholic education.Christina Staunton-Burke, Faith and Mission Leader at Antonine College, Pascoe Vale South, marks 50 years of service to Catholic education this year and will be presented with a commemorative plaque at the college today.

Incredibly, Christina has been involved in Catholic education for a quarter of its 200-year history in Australia. After training at Mercy Teachers’ College in Melbourne, Christina began her career teaching 46 Year 4 students at St Bernard’s School, Coburg East, in 1971.

In the mid-80s, she spent five years teaching in NSW at St Monica’s School, Richmond, and St Matthew’s School, Windsor, after moving with her family to RAAF Base Richmond. On returning to Melbourne, Christina worked for a short time at St Anthony’s School, Alphington, before teaching for 13 years at St Margaret Mary’s School in Brunswick North.

Inspired by her mother’s large Irish-Catholic family which produced four siblings who pursued religious vocations, Christina says she feels privileged to have had the opportunity to contribute to Catholic education over such a long period.

‘I feel blessed. I would strongly encourage young people to go into Catholic education. It’s a special vocation where you can make a difference in the world’, she said.

Throughout her career, Christina says she has been guided by the Holy Spirit and drawn inspiration and courage from Isaiah 41: 10 ‘Fear not, for I am with you’, which also happens to be Antonine College’s theme in 2021.

‘Coming from a place of God’s love, my energy comes from the Holy Spirit through the colleagues and students around me. Along the way, I have worked with some wonderful people who have given me strength and inspiration’, she said.

Christina says that even after 50 years, the teaching vocation continues to present new challenges and opportunities.

‘COVID-19 and remote learning in 2020 reinforced my belief in the importance of strong relationships with students and families, and a supportive school community.

‘Technology is now also playing a big role in schools and I feel we are much better at catering for learning diversity. But the fundamental aim of nurturing each student’s talents to be the best they can be stays the same’, she said.

At Antonine College, Christina has immersed herself in the work of leading the faith and mission of the college, with its unique character.

‘Antonine College caters for students who come from language backgrounds other than English, with the majority of students having parents who were either born in Lebanon or have Lebanese heritage and are Maronite Catholics. There are also students from Egyptian, Syrian, Assyrian and Iraqi cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Some students are from non-Arabic speaking backgrounds such as Filipino, Vietnamese, Greek and Italian.

‘Working with such a diverse community, and learning about the different cultures and charisms at Antonine, has been a great privilege, including opportunities to travel to Lebanon on six occasions’, she said.

Christina has also been a model of lifelong learning throughout her teaching career, completing diplomas in Religious Education, Education Administration and Multi-Cultural Studies, along with master’s degrees in Education and Religious Education.

Antonine College co-principals Sr Mariette Kareh and Joanne Bacash acknowledged Christina’s contribution this week, saying: ‘We are thrilled to congratulate Christina on 50 years of outstanding service to Catholic education.

‘In particular, we acknowledge the last 21 years of support for the Antonine Sisters in their mission to first establish a primary school in 1998, and then extending to an F–12 college in 2005.

‘When we think about the essence of the Catholic teaching of service to others, Christina is a true embodiment of this’, they said.

Sr Daad El-Azzi, Antonine College principal from 2007–19, also passed on best wishes saying:

‘Working with Christina at the college, I witnessed her constantly teaching with wisdom and love in classrooms, in corridors, in playgrounds, offering advice to colleagues without being critical, serving by being present to staff and students, and making sure they feel safe and comfortable to learn and teach.

‘Christina has an incredible work ethic, caring with kindness, leading with courage, listening to others with patience, giving others credit for their gains, praying, adapting and embracing change, especially when she was proudly watching the college growing from the humble beginnings to the present time, and making major contributions to its growth by serving in different positions of leadership.

‘Christina, we thank you for your service, your humility and your love. We ask St Maroun for his intercession so that God may continue to bless your work’, she said.