Link between parish and school essential

18 Jun 2008

By The Record

Perth priest sees big chance to evangelise youth, support teachers


By Anthony Barich
PENTECOST is not just an event that occurred over 2000 years ago when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles as Jesus promised and gave birth to the Catholic Church.
It continues to impact the hearts and minds of today’s youth so that faith is something tangible in their lives.
Fr Michael, Gatt, St Kieran’s parish priest in Osborne Park, has made it his mission to strengthen the ties between the parish and the adjoining school, and on Pentecost Sunday saw 72 young people confirmed.
In this way, history repeated itself as the participants heard the Gospel where Jesus sent out 72 Disciples to announce the Good News.
In April last year Archbishop Barry Hickey said Catholic primary and secondary schools are to be accountable to their parish priest for their religious activities in accordance with the Australian Bishops’ Mandate Letter “Many parents want to baptise their kids so they can send their kids to a Catholic school, so we can’t afford not to educate our children in the faith. In the faith you can give them the sacraments, which are for life,” Fr Gatt said. “Because they are confirmed, it’s easier for them to approach a priest because they are part of something special. The Sacraments of the Church are the Sacraments of life, and are very important.
“They’re not just for when we are kids but for all our lives. If they don’t receive the sacraments in childhood they wont get it when they’re 30 or so.”
The confirmations, attended by 2000 family and friends, was the result of the Sacramental Program that the parish facilitated under Fr Gatt’s guidance during March, April and May.
The success of the event can be measured, he says, by the figures, which “speak for themselves”.
The key, Fr Gatt says, is positive communication between school and parish, and constant encouragement of catechists, students and parents alike.
“The communication between school and parish is superb, they encourage the children and we do what we can to encourage them – and the numbers reflect it,” Fr Gatt said.
“We’re happy to have these blessings from God and be positive about the spiritual community, because what I give to them I can’t give to anybody else. We can’t afford to miss out on these blessings or not encourage them.
“If we lose our school children we don’t have much left; we have to build on them. They need all the encouragement they can get. Parish life is enhanced with a school because without it, as a priest, you don’t have much to work with.
“At my 40th anniversary I said I would do another 40 years, because I enjoy the sense of a spiritual community. I’m open in every way to the people who I preach to, to the Church.
“The faith, then, is a living entity, you don’t need to make an effort, it’s natural and spontaneous.
He said that those other 2000 relatives and friends reminded him of the beginning of the Christian Church where Christians were gathering around the Apostles to hear the Word of God and embrace it into their lives. 
“I sincerely thank the parents, sponsors and teachers for the good support they have given to both the school and parish community.”
The Sacramental Program also reaped the benefits of students celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation (45 students); the First Holy Communion celebrated on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (46 students) with a grand total of 163 students.


Fr Michael Gatt prays over newly confirmed students at St Kieran’s Church, Osborne Park.