War ‘difficult to justify’
High 5s and Jesus values at Holy Spirit
Fr Janusz Bienick outside Holy Spirit Church, North Ryde ... high fives and volleyball with the schoolkids
By Damir Govorcin
Fr Janusz Bieniek, parish priest at Holy Spirit Church, North Ryde, offers a wry smile when he compares the church behaviour of children at the local Holy Spirit Primary School with his last posting in Papua New Guinea.
"I can't believe how 500 school kids can be so quiet and reflective when they are at Mass, while in Papua New Guinea people are playing on drums, and talking and singing loudly," he says.
"I must say I enjoy the peace and quiet here."
Three years ago, Fr Bieniek was appointed parish priest at Holy Spirit Parish, around the same time that Mrs Patricia Williams was made principal of the Holy Spirit Primary School.
They have worked closely in bringing the school and parish together.
The school, on the same block as the church, has 530 students from Kindergarten to Year 6, from nationalities including Italian, Philippine and Lebanese.
Fr Bieniek's warmth and bubbly personality has made him a favourite among staff, students and parents.
His enthusiasm is infectious and he has a wonderful rapport with the students. He often high-fives the children, plays volleyball with them, and the warmth behind his smile makes them feel happy and safe.
"Fr Bieniek is our pastoral leader and is very caring of our staff and students," says Mrs Williams.
"We both have a similar philosophy in that we believe that the school is Church.
"The parents ask for his presence at parents and friends meetings, and he always makes himself available to attend school functions.
"He supports us in religious education and is a wonderful liturgical leader."
For his part, Fr Bieniek has developed a strong affinity with the school and the parish and is heartened by the sense of community.
"I'm positively surprised and amazed about how people in the parish feel so connected and responsible for the school," he said.
"It makes me work harder when I see the love and care people have for the school and parish.
"For me, it is all a matter of participation, care and attitude."
The school, founded by the Sisters of Mercy, is steeped in religious tradition, which forms a strong basis for the curriculum.
Each week, the school as a whole and individual classes attends Mass and reconciliation; and the liturgies have also been designed to involve parents.
Mrs Williams says the school takes great pride in its religious education, as well as offering the students opportunities in the areas of music, dance and sport.
"We are interested in the pastoral care of the students and we offer them an excellent rounded education," she says.
"We have an outstanding, dedicated and stable staff that provide the students with a loving and caring environment.
"The teachers care about one another and that filters down to the students. Each child is looked after in terms of their individuality and their talents don't get lost at this school."
Mrs Williams, who has been involved in Catholic education for 36 years, says: "Jesus is my model".
"I have a great love of the scriptures; the scriptures and the Eucharist are paramount to my way of life," she says.
"I model my Christianity through the way I treat my staff and students, and hope to be seen as a Jesus person living out the Gospel values.
"My role is one of service to the teachers, parents and students to ensure they get the best possible education within a Catholic, caring environment.
"It's about preparing the students to have an understanding of who they are and give them a high self-esteem to ensure they incorporate the Jesus values as they will be our Christian leaders in the coming years."
Mrs Williams says the staff and parents have been proactive in addressing problems such as bullying, implementing a discipline policy to ensure the school remains a safe haven.
"We have a student management policy based on the concept of self-discipline, on the understanding that we all have rights and we have to be responsible for our own actions," she says.
"We have spent a lot of time in developing the children's understanding of their sense of responsibilities and ownership of their actions.
"We give the students strategies to help them to develop consistent, positive, and appropriate behaviour.
"We also have specialist programs for students who have special needs.
"We have a proactive approach to bullying and don't sweep problems under the table."