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Draw Near Project aids Council for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD)

By Vivian D’Almeida

Close to the end of June, Our Lady of Lourdes (Nollamara) Primary School and Parish were invited by the West Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office (WACMRO) to join and participate in the Draw Near Project.

Deacon Greg Lowe ran a Draw Near Faith Retreat for staff and parish representatives. Photo: Supplied.

WACMRO’s Draw Near Project was successful, and the Archdiocesan agency intends to carry out a similar project in 2022. Photo: Supplied.

This was run over the period of the third term of the school year. Both school and parish were eager to participate and on 6 August an in-principle agreement was signed by all parties.

The Project involved, among other things, the following:

  • Supporting and hosting faith formation and social reality masterclasses for staff, parents, and parishioners.
  • Collecting food and hygiene care packages by the school and parish respectively and
  • Organising and celebrating the completion of the project in a thanksgiving Mass.

The project was enthusiastically embraced by Parish Priest, Fr Stanislaw Bendkowski, (Fr Stan, to his parishioners), Principal Steve Blake, their respective teams and councils.

In due course, the project was launched receiving great response from the school and parish communities. By the end of the school term, the school had collected enough food items for 27 food care packages and the parish had collected enough hygiene products for 58 hygiene care packages.

On Friday, 24 September, representatives from the Parish, together with staff from the school joined together to participate in the Draw Near Faith Retreat which incorporated a session on the social reality facing asylees (asylum seekers).

The highly organised teachers under the direction of the leadership team of Steve Blake, Jo Vivante and Matthew Gray, commenced to bag their collections into food packs. These were then presented to the Council for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD), where a grateful Esther Deng thanked the communities.

On Sunday, 26 September, the Parish celebrated Multicultural week with a mass attended by their magnificent choir. In the homily, Deacon Greg Lowe, connected the readings of the day to the work just completed by the community. He commended the congregation for their ability to serve ‘the brothers and sisters of Christ’.

Staff of Our Lady of Lourdes and Parish Priest, Fr Stan pose along with the food and hygiene packs collected by the school and Parish. Photo: Supplied.

Fr Stan said that it was great to be taking care of such a worthwhile project and his parishioners responded magnificently. “It is impossible to single out a few people for special mention as credit goes to the entire community for their wonderful contribution to the project,” he said.

Steve Blake looked at the project as a great opportunity to add value to the Make Jesus Real program for the students, parents and staff of the school. He said, “It was a very practical and tangible way to bring the community together and live our Making Jesus Real ethos. Through Christian service, it invited all stakeholders in the school community to think of the plight of those not as well off as we are.”

Deacon Greg Lowe, Director of WACMRO said the partnership and shared leadership displayed by Principal Steve Blake and Parish Priest Fr Stan took the project to another level.

“They provided opportunities for everyone to participate by creating a sense of community. And that made all the difference,” Deacon Lowe said.

As for WACMRO, they look back at a term with a sense of thankfulness for a collective community that responded so well to the call of Jesus to take care of ‘the least of my brethren.’ At the same time, they look forward to doing this again in 2022 and help a new faith community ‘draw near’ to their brothers and sisters in Christ.