It has been a difficult year for all of us, but it can be especially hard if all of the distractions happened in your first year of ‘big school’.
But for Kindergarten students at St Thomas Aquinas Primary, Springwood, the easing of restrictions surrounding the pandemic has meant they have been reunited with an old friend – Fr Paul Slyney, the Parish Priest.
“During 2020, our Kindergarten students have had limited opportunities to visit our church and get to know Fr Paul,” Virginia Fortunat, Religious Education Coordinator at St Thomas Aquinas told Catholic Outlook.
“They were delighted to receive an invitation from Fr Paul to visit the church and learn more about his vocation in our St Thomas Aquinas Parish community,” she said.
Fr Paul added, “I consider the pastoral care of the students and families to be of vital importance.
“Once the NSW restrictions had eased, it was important to engage with the children again to talk about their Catholic faith and ensure that they were feeling happy, safe and were coping with our strange times that we find ourselves in.”
The “wonderful and engaging students,” as described by Fr Paul, asked a range of questions about his life as a priest.
“The hands did not stop going up,” he said.
Images posted on the parish’s Facebook page show students dressed in Fr Paul’s vestments, sitting on the Presider’s Chair and holding the various vessels used during Mass.
Virginia explained, “it was a wonderful opportunity for the students to get to know Fr Paul a little better and for Father to respond to their curiosity.”
Fr Paul said how important it was to maintain a strong connection between the school and parish community and the joy he received in being able to speak with them.
“I am a regular visitor to both the Primary and Secondary schools, so I am a familiar face to all of the students.
“I have conducted Mass on both school grounds, so when the students come to church, they are seeing someone familiar, a person they can trust.
“It has been particularly hard on each of the parishioners and students during this turbulent time. I have been unable to visit the schools, but I know that their curriculum encompasses all that I could ever wish to impart on them.
“To see them in church again is a blessing.”
Each of the students were given a candle that was blessed to take home, encouraging them to place it on their tables during dinner and to light it when saying prayers.
“We would like the children to involve their brothers and sisters, Mums and Dads, cousins and friends in our church.
“We would love for the children to know how much God loves them and for them to trust in the Word of the Lord,” Fr Paul said.