St Brendan’s faith in action

Home > News and Events > 2020 > August > St Brendan’s faith in action

24 August 2020

Fr Hien Vu blessing one of the care packages.At the start of July, when nine towers across Flemington and North Melbourne were locked down for five days after tenants contracted COVID-19, the Catholic community was quick to offer support.

Now one month on, as wider Melbourne is under Stage 4 restrictions, that support shows no signs of wavering. The Catholic community continues to rally around St Brendan’s School, Flemington, to support the families of its students in the Flemington housing towers.

‘Father Hien came to us and said that he and Archbishop Comensoli would like to buy students indoor plants to care for’, said Kelly Moore, Deputy Principal at St Brendan’s School.

Given the tower apartments don’t have backyards, it was a good way to bring a piece of nature indoors, she reasoned.

These plants were one part of the donations St Brendan’s has received to create care packages for affected families since the start of July.

‘Donors were people from the wider school community, but also people unconnected who had seen the story in the media and wanted to help’, said Kelly.

‘Care packages included board games, cards and letters, baked treats, beauty products, rosary bracelets, and masks and hand sanitiser. Our out of school hours program Youth Leadership Victoria also provided Woolworths shopping vouchers.’

‘One consequence of the lockdown is a far more engaged school community that actively looks out for each other’s needs,’ Kelly said. ‘We began hosting virtual support meetings, which have been really helpful for the families. We have really high engagement.’

The virtual parent information and support session – known as Parent CaFE – sees around 80 parents attend each week. ‘It’s more than we expected’, Kelly said. ‘And it’s not just our families in the towers. We’re getting people from all over our community making the time to check in.’

These sessions have become a place where parents share strategies about raising children while the city is under Stage 4 restrictions.

‘It helps parents express their thoughts and concerns during this time and is a positive place where we can celebrate our community and the skills everyone has to offer.’

Families from all over the St Brendan’s community of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds are choosing to engage more actively with their school at this time.

‘Everybody just really wants to help; everyone wants to be in it together’, Kelly said. ‘It’s amazing.’

And sometimes the most effective assistance is emotional as well as material. Kelly described an online meeting where one group of parents reassured another – who were themselves tower residents – that, despite some unflattering portrayals in the media during July, they were still appreciated members of the school community.

‘Parents in our community have been very supportive of one another.’

For some parents, particularly those without family networks in Australia, the support provided by St Brendan’s during lockdown has transformed it from being simply a school to something more akin to a family.

‘At the start of the term when people were allowed to come in, one parent came in to pick up her child’s materials for home school’, Kelly said. ‘With her mask and gloves on, she said: “I don’t have family here. You are my family.” She thanked us and she opened her arms like she just wanted to give us all a big hug.’

This is an extract of an article that was originally published on the Melbourne Catholic website on 19 August 2020.