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Inspiring stories of schools connecting with their parish

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Stories of pastoral care, love and devotion to those suffering adversity have been just one of the many highlights to emerge from the school/parish visitation program currently underway in the Archdiocese.

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For the past four months Jill Gallio and Tim Grauel from the Office for Renewing Parishes have been visiting Catholic schools to outline the Archdiocese’s renewal initiative and promote discussion regarding the values that contribute to a healthy, vibrant and renewing school/parish partnership.

They have met with school boards, principals, teachers, APRIMs, parish leadership teams, parent groups and some senior students to gather feedback on the connection between the particular school and parish and how this could be further strengthened.

At the end of July, nearly a third of the more than 90 Catholic schools earmarked in the 12-month program had been visited, with Mrs Gallio and Deacon Grauel describing the visits as “enriching”.

“We hear about family and class Masses that are held on a Sunday and the rich involvement of the children and the pride of the parents who come along,” said Mrs Gallio.

“We hear about the sacrament programs, that most times are parish-based and school-supported, and the parents are present with the children at the sessions.

“As we hear these stories we wish that parishioners in the pews were more aware of the ways that our Catholic schools are the face of the Church to many families and how hard everyone works to sustain the Catholic identity in our schools.”

Deacon Grauel added that while the composition of Catholic schools today is very different to that of past years, in a rapidly changing cultural context, school communities remain committed to Gospel values and school charisms.

“At the meetings several parents, both Catholic and non-Catholic, have expressed how important it is to see and get to know the parish priest and staff of the parish and how much they are valued by the children and their families.

“There are many families that come from other Christian denominations and with so many cultures represented in our schools, we are enriched by the cultures and faiths present,” Ms Gallio said.

Members of the school communities have expressed their gratitude for the visits by the Renewing Parishes team. As one school board member wrote: “It encouraged us to reflect on our existing relationship between the school, the parish and the local community. We continued our reflection after you left, thinking about our journey so far and ‘where to from here’.”

It is expected that more than 65 schools will be visited by the team by the end of the year, with the remainder to be engaged during the first term of 2018.

The Archbishop’s Visitation Team will be visiting the Bordertown parish (Bordertown/Kingston/Keith) from August 6 to 13. A report on this visit will appear in the September issue of The Southern Cross.

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