By Anthony Barich
Family and community are at the heart of the charism of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and their school, Our Lady of Grace, in North Beach.
So it is no surprise that the school community has been moved to action in response to the Victorian bushfires tragedy. Coincidentally, one student’s father, a WA fireman, has travelled East to help fight the fires.
At the request of parents, the school conducted a free dress day on February 13, and parents and children arriving at school that morning were invited to make additional donations to the cause.
Parents shaking tins at the school gates reaped $2000 alone.
When the students embraced the idea it soon it took on a life of its own. Quite independently from the parents, a group of Year 6 students had asked permission to run a number of stalls and raffles to raise money for the cause. Set up at recess and lunch breaks, they proved popular with students.
Over $3380 was raised in total for the Australian Red Cross helping the bushfire victims. A local business also promised to double whatever the school fundraises.
“Aside from the fundraising, this was a useful initiative,” Mr Kenworthy said, “as it builds a sense of community, which this school is quite renowned for.
“It’s in keeping with the ethos of the school students looking beyond themselves and promoting generosity of spirit.”
The school also supports a school in a poor area in the Philippines run by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Religious Order who have a convent adjacent to the North Beach school.
Sr Mary Joseph CSFN, who helped organise the fundraising event with the Year 6 students, was impressed that the parents and students could mobilise such an effort in just the second week since school started after the Christmas holidays.
She also set up a wall of prayer posters for display in the school assembly area, which many students contributed to. One student summed up their intentions, “to express solidarity with the fire victims in Victoria through our prayers and donations”.
Bunbury Catholic College also set up an appeal on behalf of the students, teachers and parents to help the Victorian community affected by the bushfires.
On February 17, the college held an assembly to remember those who have lost their lives in the Victorian fires.
This assembly included a liturgy followed by a ‘Money Chain’, designed so that students, teachers and parents could donate generously during the assembly.
The collected money was put into one of the four chains (according to the students’ and teachers’ Houses), and at the end of the assembly, the house with the longest chain of money and the house with the most money raised was awarded points that go towards the end of year House Shield.
The event was designed to involve students as much as possible and to give something to those who have nothing. All money raised will go directly to two Mercy Schools located in the Yarra Valley, that have been directly affected by the deadly fires.
The Catholic Education Office of WA is also donating $110 000 to assist with the disaster relief. This amount represents $1.50 per student and employee in Catholic education in WA.
As The Record went to print, an ecumenical Memorial Service was be held for the victims of the Victorian bush fires in St Mary’s Church Bunbury on February 18, at which a retiring collection would be taken up for survivors. Bunbury Bishop Gerard Holohan said: “Many in our community are affected by the tragedy, and it is our hope to be of service to these people at this time.”