Strengthening bonds between school and parish

By Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Mission Team, 1 April 2024
Fr Jepser Bermudez OSA with students at Holy Spirit Primary School, St Clair. Image: CSPD/Supplied


Holy Spirit Primary School St Clair has a close connection with the Parish Priests of Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair-Erskine Park, which spans many years and highlights the personal and professional rewards of partnerships between the school and Parish.

Fr Jepser Bermudez OSA and Fr Dave Austin OSA were appointed as Parish Priests at Holy Spirit at the beginning of 2023. Both priests had a previous connection with the community, with Fr Jepser serving as a deacon and Fr Dave previously serving as the Parish Priest. This year, they have been joined by Fr Joseph Aresseril Jacob, who goes by Fr Saju.

Principal of Holy Spirit Primary Frances Garzaniti described the relationship between school and Parish as a strong one, enhanced by opportunities to collaborate in a meaningful way.

“Holy Spirit has been blessed to have had a wonderful relationship with the Parish Priests for many years. In recent times, the school has made a concerted effort to build on that relationship as it strives to strengthen our community spirit,” she said.

One such example is welcoming Fr Jepser to the community. With Holy Spirit being his first parish, the school community made sure to spend time getting to know him.

Each grade was assigned to investigate a different area of his life and invited to share what they had learned with a special presentation and ‘Welcome Wall’.

The Parish Priests of Holy Spirit have also played an integral role in staff formation, which is focused on the theme Sacrificial Love. As part of this, Fr Jepser and Fr Dave recently shared their insight into the Augustinian order with school staff and explored how it connected to the idea of using their gifts to serve. This included participating and planning a variety of activities throughout the staff formation day in partnership with members of the CSPD Mission Team.

(L-R) Fr Dave Austin OSA, Fr Jepser Bermudez OSA and Fr Saju OSA from Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair-Erskine Park. Image: CSPD/Supplied

When asked about the significance of the connection between the school and the parish, Fr Dave and Fr Jepser said that the close relationship goes back many years, in fact to the Parish’s pioneering days when it was established in 1985, and the cooperation with the founding pastor and his successors, the Sisters of Mercy, and the local community.

Holy Spirit Primary opened in 1986, followed by Emmaus Catholic College, Kemps Creek (1988), and Trinity Primary School Kemps Creek (1993), each led by the Sisters of Mercy.

When the Augustinians assumed leadership of the Parish in 1995, they built on the strong foundations of their predecessors and fostered a close, collaborative relationship with the schools.

As a religious congregation, the Augustinians brought their charism of community life and a variety of ministry experiences to the Parish. Many had a background in teaching and school leadership and felt ‘at home’ in the school setting. This educational experience was enhanced by collaborative opportunities to work with the school in their commitment to providing quality Catholic Education for their community.

Both priests agree that at Holy Spirit Primary, there is a strong personal and professional relationship where school and parish work together to provide positive experiences of liturgy for the students and families, support for staff and in-service opportunities. The priests are always welcome at school assemblies and in the staff room.

While they acknowledge that there is more scope to engage with the broad spectrum of families in schools, they say valuable opportunities to encounter parents in a variety of settings – such as parish and school liturgies, assemblies, graduation ceremonies, sacramental programs, and other pastoral contacts – are important in strengthening the partnership and collaboration of the Holy Spirit school and parish community.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Easter | Autumn edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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