The patience of a child

By Anita Sulentic, 9 January 2024
Children participate in Christmas-themed craft at Ambrose School Age Care Sacred Heart Primary, Westmead. Image: Supplied


In the lead-up to Christmas, there’s a lot of anticipation at the Ambrose before-and-after-school care service at Sacred Heart Primary Westmead.

“We are waiting. We are waiting for Christmas and Christ to come,” says Manju Neroy, the Service Coordinator.

“We prepare during Advent, but the waiting can be hard for children. Some liken it to going shopping with their mum – ‘it takes soooo long!’ – which is very sweet. But we focus on the birth of Jesus and the gospel values every day.”

Manju loves bringing the message of Jesus to children and their families. She attends daily Mass and uses the readings to theme the children’s activities in partnership with the school. A partnership so strong that when asked to speak to Catholic Outlook, Manju requested that Tracey Clogher, Acting Religious Education Coordinator at Sacred Heart, join as the relationship between the school and Ambrose is so strong it would be remiss not to include them, especially as this year marks 10 years for this Ambrose service.

“We’ve seen it grow and become part of the school community. It’s a really valued service for our families as it provides peace of mind that their children are safe at school early in the morning and into the evening,” says Tracey.

Manju continues: “We work in a complete partnership. We get information from the school and we give information to the school as we hand the children over in the morning. And vice-versa in the afternoon. We will know if a child has had a hard day and how we can help support them.”

This is especially important when major events affect children. Manju recalls two families losing family members in 2023 – one lost their father and another lost their grandfather, who was the father figure in the house.

“In those moments, I just think about how I will provide for these children. We are here to provide them and the grieving families with comfort and solace and look after the children with warmth and love. We also make sure they have something nutritious and substantial to eat because grief is hard and all-consuming. We try and make the child’s routine as stable as possible so they can work through their grief.”

The collaboration continues all year long and has become a beautiful, fluid relationship. The schoolwork and curriculums are shared, so Ambrose can continue with any fun experiments or craft in the afternoon. Any teachers left onsite at the end of the day will pop in to say hello to the children and families, and will usually stick around if they smell the delicious food cooking.

“We are a Mercy charism school, and the Mercy value of hospitality is something we instil in the students,” said Tracey.

“The students love to offer fresh nachos, garlic bread or popcorn with any teachers onsite. They really love to do that act of service and share.”

Manju was a teacher in India before moving to Australia. Her passion for working with children and supporting families is palpable.

“Working with these children gives me the most joyous moments. I feel that I’m leaving an everlasting impression on the minds and hearts of the children I care for. I also get to meet families from different cultures and support them in keeping their cultural values alive. And knowing that I’m helping a family by being there for their children when they are not able to be there due to their work commitments or other engagements gives me such satisfaction.”

Do you know someone who would like to work with an organisation with Catholic values? Ambrose is always looking for great people to join our team. Visit

This article was originally published in the 2023 Advent and Christmas | Summer 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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