by PETER GRACE
Giving support to pupils at a nearby state school has become a special project
for St Ignatius parish, in St Heliers, Auckland.
Parish priest Fr John Dunn said that several years ago the parish was confronted with poverty on its doorstep. Now, he told NZ Catholic, the parish’s response has become its particular contribution to the 2014 diocesan outreach, Fit For Mission.
Glenbrae School is a decile 1 school about 3.6km from St Ignatius in St Heliers — a relatively well-off suburb.
Glenbrae School principal Lesley Elia said the support grew from an idea of St
Ignatius parishioner and University of Auckland employee Jannie van Hees.
It began with volunteers taking around bedding and similar kinds of items. “It was just asking people what they needed, so we sent out a survey.
“Do you need bedding for adults, children, kitchen things. . . ? And the response was huge.”
They shared that with St Ignatius parish, “and they were just wonderful”.
“So much stuff came in — and even brand new things.” Some of the children
commented: “I was warm last night!”
Then the parish started arranging the delivery of breakfast every Monday — porridge, Weetbix and milk.
“And part of the value of that was the bond of them delivering that and talking to [the children],” Ms Elia said.
The breakfast programme has now changed, as it has been absorbed into a
joint initiative run by Sanitarium and the Government.
The next St Ignatius action was to start sewing classes for adults and senior
pupils. Part of that was getting and maintaining sewing machines.
“I would say about 30 children overall have been through the sewing class.”
Parishioners give time to teach music — ukulele and recorder. And some help
children with one on one learning in class.
“It’s been done in a generous way. And I’ve said to Fr Dunn, ‘You’ve got a really wonderful parish’, and he said something like, they’ve benefited from the work they have done, so it has been a plus for the parish.”
Fr Dunn told NZ Catholic that going into the Glenbrae School community and
seeing the level of poverty raised a lot of eyebrows in the relatively well-to-do St Heliers parish.
The impact was shown in such things as changed Prayers of the Faithful, speakers at the end of Mass giving updates and outlining further needs, increasing numbers of volunteers and further donations.
“It also changed attitudes, when people saw that much of this poverty was of
a no-blame sort.” And that led to further deep reflection.
The parish set up a Glenbrae committee to liaise with the school and manage
its end of things. “At Glenbrae, the principal played a key role as families felt increasingly comfortable to express needs.”
The partnership led to initiatives such as parishioners being involved in
breakfast deliveries; delivery of furniture for homes; children’s clothing; a sewing group (with seven sewing machines donated); a budgeting service; and volunteers helping children with their reading.
“It’s a big commitment for a lot of people in our parish,” Fr Dunn said.
Other people outside the parish also joined in the effort, he said.