St Francis Xavier’s Primary School joined 1755 other primary and secondary schools across the nation last month to mark 200 years of Catholic education.

The local children were part of some 700,000 Catholic students celebrating the occasion.

Catholic Schools Week occurs annually, but this bicentenary year was a significant one.

As part of the commemoration, a special mass was held at Saints Mary & Joseph Catholic Cathedral in Armidale on Monday, May 24.

Representatives from schools across the diocese (which extends to Walgett, Tenterfield and Quirindi), including staff and students from St Francis Xavier’s, were in attendance, as well as Bishop Michael Kennedy.

It was here that Terry Hynch received The Spirit of Catholic Education Award for most outstanding school officer in the diocese.

Mr Hynch was recognised for his work at the school as the Aboriginal education assistant (AEA), a role he began in 1998.

Bishop Kennedy shared some of Mr Hynch’s accomplishments with the 200 ceremony attendants.

“He is extremely passionate about closing the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and has always been a valuable advocate for our school community,” the Bishop said.

“He contributes enthusiastically and in a very valuable way on excursions and sporting events as well as always lending a hand for additional duties and supervision.”

Bishop Kennedy also noted Mr Hynch’s involvement as a decade-long chair of the Narrabri Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, member of the Diocesan Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Committee, an active participant of the Wii Gaay Learning Hubs and three-time attendee of the World Indigenous People Conference on Education.

“Terry works hard every day to assist his school and our diocese to close the gap for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families,” Bishop Kennedy said.

“He is part of the heart and soul of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in the diocese of Armidale.”

Mr Hynch is still in shock after the announcement, saying he can’t remember any other indigenous people from Narrabri winning the award in his 23 years at the school.

“I’m still surprised with the award, but very excited to be recognised,” he said.

St Francis Xavier’s principal Michael Ball shared in Mr Hynch’s excitement.

“It was a very nice day in Armidale and Terry has been such a humble recipient,” Mr Ball said.

“We think he certainly deserves the recognition for not only the work he does as an AEA at our school, but with other schools too – his efforts extend across the diocese.”

Catholic Schools Week celebrations continued for the remainder of the week at St Francis Xavier’s, with a number of fun and educational student activities.

“We arranged the students into a ‘200’ formation and were fortunate enough to have a local farmer help out with his drone to photograph it,” Mr Ball said.

“We’ve also got some creative activities planned, including a design project that will have the students look at catholic schooling history.”

“Staff and students will also be wearing bicentenary pins throughout the week.”

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