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The Catholic Leader launches 2019 Community Leader Awards and catches up with a past winner

God’s work: (Right) Steph Santos in Cape Town with NET (National Evangelisation Teams) Ministries, where she spent the past six months.

STEPH Santos says a Catholic community that supports one another and engages in each other’s work is imperative. 

“We live in a culture that seeks to tear down one another when someone is succeeding, and, as Catholics, that should not be our attitude,” Miss Santos said. 

She received the Youth Leader Award at the 2017 Community Leader Awards, hosted by The Catholic Leader, for her work developing youth groups across the Gold Coast as part of the Gold Coast Deanery.

Miss Santos said she was just doing her job and doing what she knew God wanted her to do. 

“It’s not something that I thought I would be recognised for, so what an incredible honour to have been nominated and awarded,” she said.

And life hasn’t settled down since she won the award.

“I was privileged enough to represent ACU (Australian Catholic University) at the pre-synodal meeting of young people last year in Rome, which was a phenomenal experience of being part of a global conversation and drafting a document for the Church, representing the voice of young people around the world,” she said.

“I finished up my contract as deanery youth co-ordinator for the Gold Coast Deanery in October, 2018. 

“(I) started working for Real Talk Australia, where I get to share my passion in helping young people know and understand their worth and get real about the topics of love and relationships. 

“And for the past six months of 2019, I have volunteered with NET (National Evangelisation Teams) Ministries and was sent to Cape Town in South Africa on the pilot team, which has been such an incredible experience doing youth ministry in South Africa.

“It’s been a pretty unreal two years, looking back at it.”

And her studies, a Bachelor of Theology at ACU, wasn’t the only learning she was doing either.

“Something that I’ve learnt is that even when I think I’m tired or that I’ve had enough of mission work, God has a purpose and a plan for me and I need to continually lean on him and trust him,” she said.

“When I try doing things on my own and in my own strength, that’s when I struggle and things get harder. 

“But leaning on God is how I am able to be sustained.”

And by leaning on God, Miss Santos has managed to continue to strive to be a Catholic leader.

“Great leaders make more leaders,” she said. 

“I’ve continued in my mission to be a community leader, but something that I’ve had to learn to do as a leader is to let go.

“Leaving my role as deanery youth co-ordinator was really challenging. 

“I know it was time for me to move on from the youth ministry and step away as a leader, so new leaders in the (community) could rise up. 

“It was hard to let go at first, but I’ve been able to see new leaders emerge and so it’s worth it.”

Honoured: The 2017 Community Leader Award winners Stephanie Santos, Michael Curtin, Sr Elvera Sesta and Annette Baker. Photo: Alan Edgecomb

The Catholic Leader managing editor Matt Emerick said the newspaper invited people around Australia to nominate outstanding Catholics for the Community Leader Awards.

“The awards have become a major event in our Catholic community, and we are excited to open nominations again for this year,” Mr Emerick said.

“It is an opportunity to showcase the good work the people in our Catholic parishes, schools, organisations, ministries and charities are doing to make Australia a better place.

“We look forward to the flood of nominations that will come in and to see everyone at our awards event in November.”

The award categories are split into professional leaders, young leaders, school leaders, volunteers and community leaders.

The professional leader award goes to an outstanding corporate or business professional active in the Catholic community.

The young leader award goes to anyone aged 13-30 who has shown outstanding commitment to the Church.

The school leader award is presented to a Catholic primary or secondary principal, teacher or staff member who has made exemplary contributions to the spiritual, personal and academic life of their students.

Volunteer of the year goes to a volunteer in a Catholic charity or organisation who shows outstanding commitment to their charism or mission.

The community leader award is for an active Australian parishioner who has gone above and beyond for their parish.

Nominations for the 2019 Community Leader Awards will close on October 20.

Nominations can be made online from June 30 at or check The Catholic Leader newspaper for a paper nomination. 

All winners will be announced at our awards party in November. 

Full details on the awards party will be released soon.

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