There were giggles all round when Sydney’s archbishop lobbed into St Christopher’s Primary School in Panania and was given a special gift to lift his favourite game.
“We know that you love to play tennis when you have any spare time, so we have a special present that might just help you reach even higher performances on the courts,” said principal Jamie Wahab, handing a black sports cap to the Archbishop.
“Hopefully it will help you to be more like Federer than McEnroe, and I do feel certain it will improve your game.
“It is a very excellent that with our logo on the front and your name on the back – just in case someone else tried to grab this sought-after attire.”
Smiling, the Archbishop promptly put the cap on his head then turned it back to front, gangster-style, to the delighted applause from the students.
The archbishop was at the Josephite-founded school to bless and officially open a new library, classrooms and learning spaces on the feast day of the founder of the order, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
He wished students, staff, parents, builders, architects and visiting dignitaries including local MP David Coleman and head of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White a happy solemnity of St Mary, “patron of education in Australia and a favourite of this school”.
“With her inspiration we will keep building on our heritage in beautiful facilities, keep building on our faith and ideas, as we do here at St Christopher’s,” he said.
Mr Wahab said the occasion was not only a celebration of the new buildings, but a moment to recognise that “along with our amazing teachers and staff you will grow into students and adults who will, as Pope Francis has said, be passionate about giving to others, not only material things but also sharing something of yourself – your own time, your friendship and your God-given abilities.”
The Archbishop also asked St Mary for prayers for Australia’s Catholic school system as it seeks a fairer federal funding model.
“Family, parish, school and society all have a part to play in bringing children up from ignorance to knowledge and preparing them for citizenship,” he said.
“St Mary MacKillop is our local advocate and exemplar, and we turn to her in these challenging times to intercede on behalf of our whole system of Catholic schools.”
He promised to do “everything I can” to work with state and federal government partners in education to ensure families can continue to access a Catholic education for their children – despite a current funding model that is “deeply flawed” which would make the Catholic system “less and less competitive” in the years ahead.
“I’m confident that with good will all round we will find a solution,” he said.
Both men expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for its $1.6 billion contribution towards the capital works projects, and Sydney Catholic Schools which provided the bulk of the funding.
Mr Coleman congratulated the school and parish community on its achievements, and said it has the most active parents’ community he had found in his electorate.
Year 6 student Aimee Crispin said she would miss her school and its bright and modern spaces when it comes time to graduate.
“The library is my favourite thing here, and the classrooms and learning spaces are really good for allowing us to work wherever or however we want to.” She said.
“If you want to stand, sit or just relax you can.”