(L-R) Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited CEO Anthony Goonan, original St Michael's Parent Committee member Jude Kerr, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, original St Michael's Parent Committee member Mary McBain and St Michael's Catholic Out of School Hours Care (COSHC) Coordinator Nicky McNab at the blessing of the COSHC centre at St Michael's Primary, Baulkham Hills. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta
Before and after school care at St Michael’s Primary Baulkham Hills is very much a parish affair. It was therefore fitting that members of the parish were part of the blessing of the Catholic Out of Hours School Care (COSHC), which has recently come under the responsibility of Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited (CDPSL).
The centre, located in the school grounds, now has the benefit of the support of a larger organisation, explained the principal of the school, Danuta Maka. “Managing children today is so much more complicated,” she explained. “The staff of the COSHC now have access to professional development and networking of the other centres in the Diocese.”
Out of school hours care at St Michael’s now operates between 7am and 8.30am and again at 3.10pm to 6.30pm on school days. The centre also runs Vacation Care programs in the school holidays. However, it was not always like this.
The plaque at the blessing of the Catholic Out of School Hours Care centre at St Michael’s Primary, Baulkham Hills. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta
Mary McBain, who was one of the original parents’ committee members, explained the reason the centre started. “We started the centre in 1994 because there was a need,” she said, adding, “Women have always worked."
Contrary to the myth that working mothers didn’t exist in the past, before the centre, children of working parents often had to catch a bus to somewhere else to be cared for.
“I wasn’t very comfortable with my five or six-year-old catching a bus to another location,” she explained.
Another committee member at the event, Jude Kerr, added “It was such a blessing to have the centre here on school grounds. Without mobile phones, sometimes there was no way of knowing whether your child was ok.”
The idea originally came from a parish renewal session, and soon a group of mothers, teachers and others who could help, were putting together the plans for the centre, which was the first one of its type established in the Diocese of Parramatta.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, poses with members of the parish staff, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta and Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited at the blessing of the Catholic Out of School Hours Care centre at St Michael’s Primary, Baulkham Hills. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta
None of the founders had had any experience in setting up childcare and were very relieved when the school showed support for the venture. “We’ve always had a great relationship with the school,” said Jude. “In fact, we were overwhelmed with their support, such as being given a telephone and building to operate in rent-free.”
Current President of the Parent’s Committee, Jolene McFarland, is very happy that the centre will continue to be run for the benefit of children, rather than having commercial profit as the main aim.
“We’d be lost without them,” she said.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv presided over the blessing which was attended by Fr Chinonye Akamadu, Assistant Priest at the Parish of Baulkham Hills, representing Fr Wim Hoekstra, members of the parish, centre staff, special guests and of course the students aged 5 to 12 who attend the centre.
Students help Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, read prayers during the blessing of the Catholic Out of School Hours Care centre at St Michael’s Primary, Baulkham Hills. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta
“I’m in awe of the things that have been accomplished here,” said Bishop Vincent, referring to the centre’s simple beginnings which have now grown into an established and successful venture.
“We, (the Diocese), will continue to support the families which send their children to use this service, so the children can grow according to God’s plan,” he said.
Mr Anthony Goonan, Chief Executive Officer of CDPSL, acknowledged all that had contributed to the wonderful service to the families and children, saying that “the centre was built on the shoulders of giants.”
As for the users of the centre, Jolene’s children Will and Evie assured me, “The staff make sure everyone has fun”, with Evie adding she most enjoyed the organised ball games.