Homily: Blessing of Assisi Kindergarten Strathfieldsaye

Assisi Kindergarten Strathfieldsaye
9th June, 2017

Psalms are so dear to Christian tradition, and this second part of Psalm 85 which is our focus today, describes a new world in which God's love and his faithfulness; and justice and peace embrace each other. Loyalty or truth sprouts up as if in a new springtime; and justice, appears from heaven to begin its journey in the midst of humanity.

The Psalmist explains that all the virtues, at first expelled from the earth by sin, now re-enter history and meet, drawing the map of a world of peace. Mercy, truth, justice and peace become the four cardinal points of this geography of the spirit. An appropriate reading selected for our reflection today, when our world yearns for peace – especially for peaceful lives for our young.

This psalm embodies both the name of Assisi and purpose of a Kindergarten, because this is a community pre-school that will support the learning of all students regardless of race, religion, gender, creed, disability, and socio economic status. Its aim is to support the needs of all children by welcoming all to attend. We express gratitude to the State Government for the substantial grant of $650,000 as part of the Children’s Facilities Capital Program to assist in building a new Early Learning Centre for the Strathfieldsaye region;  and to St Therese’s another financial partner, who is supporting the construction, governance and coordination of the Assisi Kindergarten.
The word kindergarten which I think we all know, literally means "garden for the children", is a preschool educational approach, traditionally based on playing, singing, practical activities such as drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from home to school. At first such institutions were created in the late 18th century in Bavaria and Strasbourg.  To serve children whose parents both worked out of the home. The term was coined by the German Friedrich Fröbel, whose approach globally influenced early-years education.

Today, the term is used in many countries to describe a variety of educational institutions and learning spaces for children ranging from two to seven years of age, based on a variety of teaching methods.

Now the site of many a pilgrimage, Assisi in Italy, is linked with its native son, St. Francis. The gentle saint founded the Franciscan order, one of the largest in the Catholic Church. He is a patron saint of Italy, whom Pope Gregory IX canonized on 16 July 1228. He later became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment, and it became customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October.

He is remembered by many, even non-Christians, as a lover of nature and the natural environment, but in particular for his love of birds and animals. There are a number of books for small children that feature the life of Francis of Assisi, speaking to ‘sister bird’ and ‘brother bear’ etc, which I am reliably informed, leads children into the valuable areas of imagination and enchantment, whilst enjoying the wonderful stories developed and handed down through the ages.

Because traditions, legends and inspiration regarding St Francis of Assisi are so prolific, I can see the possibility of the youngsters here in the kindergarten of Assisi, happily drawing animals and birds, as their learning, loyalty and love are developed in this happy, peaceful environment.

And so we pray in the words of the psalmist, that
O Lord you will look down and you will bless us,
So that Assisi Kindergarten will produce wonderful children
set to follow throughout their lives, the paths of mercy, truth, justice and peace.