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Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Little readers learn the faith at Sydney City South

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Sydney city South Parish - The Catholic Weekly
Photo: George Al-Akiki

Elizabeth Arblaster noticed the Sydney City South Parish children struggling to get through Mass on Sundays. 

A few children’s missals later, they were running to collect one from the pile each week to learn more. 

Now after the success of their book basket, Elizabeth and the Ecclesia Domestica parents’ group have their eyes on a brand-new parish children’s library to bring education and faith to Roseberry’s young ones.  

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“I think we all remember books we read as kids that had an impact on us, pictures we saw in children’s Bibles that have amazing illustrations,” Elizabeth said. 

“Tales of saints and the different character journeys in the Old and New Testament aren’t often heard outside church and school settings, but I remember all those,” added Gemma, a mother of two. 

“Those images stay with you and become a part of you. You inhabit that world.” 

Photo: George Al-Akiki

The group of parents meet once a month to pray and share parental resources for bringing up their children in the Catholic faith. Together they landed on the idea of a library of faith-based books for all children of the parish to help “evangelise the imagination.” 

“It’s a very tangible thing too. The first five years of a kid’s life can be some of the most formative, and then everything after that is an unfolding, consciously and subconsciously,” said mother of two Stefanie. 

“That’s the time for formation, and so we all get together because we’re interested as parents being the first teachers of our children.” 

After scouring bookshops and public libraries, Elizabeth came up short on Catholic material. 

“That made me realise that unless each family forked out a lot of money, they wouldn’t get access to these books,” she said. 

Popular books with the kids include, My First Interactive Mass Book from Ascension Press, complete with a rotating wheel for the priest’s vestment colours and a flap that reveals the link between the Eucharist and Christ’s sacrifice in body and blood on the cross. 

In a bid to help, parishioners have been generous. Together they’ve donated old books or sponsored the purchase of new stories. A bookplate with each sponsor’s name will feature at the front of each asking readers to pray for them.  

Publisher Veritas Publications has also been supportive, so excited by the project they sent over 10 books to Elizabeth instead of just two.  

Photo: George Al-Akiki

“It shows the heart that the parishioners have for our young people and young families. We all want the best for each other and that starts with the children,” said Elizabeth. 

Sydney City South Parish has been a growing community with emerging young families in the last several years under the guidance of Fr Paul Smithers.  

Most recently St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School opened its doors to its first Kindergarten students in 2023, where St Joseph’s Preschool is also located.  

As the library grows, Elizabeth and the other parents also hope to open the space for the young ones in the afternoons. 

“We already have one mother’s daughter keen to be our little librarian! She’s so excited about it opening up and wants to help keep it tidy, so it’s quite sweet. We’ve got some good little readers in our parish,” said Elizabeth.  

“We need to find new ways to support families, to give people ways to go forward in their faith, and this is a chance to do just that the very beginning of life.” 

Catholic Weekly readers can help Sydney City South Parish with donations of Catholic children’s books or sponsorship for new ones, to add to their library.   

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