A graceful day for His Grace
Excited children spent weeks learning to say ‘Your Grace’
The archbishop and Cabramatta’s Sacred Heart school principal, Sybil Dickens, peruse the new religion books with a teacher and young student
By Damir Govorcin
Children at Sacred Heart Primary School spent weeks practising how to say “Your Grace”, says school principal Sybil Dickens.
“They were so excited” at the prospect of meeting the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop George Pell, who was coming to visit.
And, says Mrs Dickens, “the opportunity to meet the leader of our Church in Sydney is something the staff, parents and students will never forget”.
Despite the controversy of the past few weeks, Archbishop Pell appeared relaxed and seemed to relish the opportunity to meet more than 5000 students from seven schools in a whistlestop tour of the Fairfield area.
For weeks, schools in suburbs such as Villawood, Wakeley, Bossley Park, Mt Pritchard and Cabramatta have been gearing up for the visit and all the preparation and anticipation was worth it.
Students presented Dr Pell with flags from Lebanon, Russia, Brazil, Korea, the Philippines, Italy, China, Thailand, Argentina, Spain, Malta, Croatia, Poland and Vietnam – representing the culturally diverse background of people who live in the area.
Teachers, parents and students hung on his every word as the Archbishop reiterated the need to embrace multiculturalism and to continue the teaching of the Catholic faith in our schools.
He told the students, staff and parents that if they, as members of parish and school communities, can help families retain and develop their Catholic beliefs and practices, they are helping them find “the pearl of great price”.
The archbishop said the students and parents he spoke to “are making a very important contribution to the richness of our Australian faith and culture”.
“Many of the students are from families who are experiencing considerable pressure as they strive to establish themselves in their new homeland,” he said.
“Hopefully this emphasis on faith development will be a foundation for future happy lives for these students.
“The education and love you give these children is something they will never forget.”
Drugs, gangs and violence are problems associated with Cabramatta, making the area for many a no go zone.
This has made the recruitment of teachers difficult at Sacred Heart Primary School, which has a predominantly Vietnamese enrolment.
But teachers at Sacred Heart speak of a loving and safe environment for the children to learn about Catholic values.
“When I first came to this school, every morning I would have to pick up used syringes … it was disgusting,” says Mrs Dickens.
“We then erected a giant gate all around so that unwanted guests couldn’t come in, which provided the children with a far safer environment to learn.
“Through our belief in Christ, we are making a difference in these children’s lives.
“These kids come from fractured families who have a great deal of problems, but my staff provide them with love, education and hope.”