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Catholic kindergarten making Jesus known to children turns 50

Canossa Kindy staff, mum and children

Kindy joy: Canossian Sister Belen Aguila and director Maryann Dziedzic with former pupil mum Kathleen Horwath, baby Quentin and her sons Charlie and William who are now at Canossa Kindy. Photo: Emilie Ng

A CATHOLIC kindergarten in Brisbane that has “given God” to children from the past three generations has turned 50.

Canossa Kindy was opened by the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Brisbane in 1967, and has since taught hundreds of children from the Coorparoo area and beyond.

Some of the children who are enrolled at the kindy are grandchildren or children of past pupils.

In the past eager mothers hoping to enrol their children at the kindergarten would stand outside in a line extending around the block as early as 4am.

Many of these families returned for the Canossa Kindy 50th anniversary celebrations last month.

The celebrations included a Mass with retired priest Fr Wally Dethlefs.

The kindy is a not-for-profit service and survives off income from parent fees – which are at $45 a day per child – and some funding from the Queensland Government.

Canossian Sister Belen Aguila, who has been at the kindergarten for 34 years, remembers every single child who has come through the door and regards them as her own.

“People that have passed here, I remember,” Sr Aguila said.

“I might not remember the names sometimes especially if they stay here for one year, but I will never forget them.

“I see them in shopping centres, in the area here.”

Sr Aguila said Canossa Kindy was “no babysitting place” and had no intention of being “a business”.

“Quite a few people say it’s different because we say prayer, we tell them Bible stories every day, we sing songs to God, we teach them to be good to each other, to love each other and care for each other,” Sr Aguila said.

“Those things you don’t find anywhere else.

“We give them God.”

According to Sr Aguila, Canossa Kindy complemented what parents were already doing to teach children about morals, God and loving their neighbour.

“We are not taking over the home but it’s the second home,” she said.

“What the parents give we cannot give but we can give what we should be giving them, the education for the young children.”

Town planner and mother-of-three Kathleen Horwath is one of Sr Aguila’s “children” from the 1990s.

She now has two of her children, Charlie and William, at Canossa Kindy for five days a fortnight, and is waiting to enrol her youngest, baby Quentin.

“I’ve had Charlie who was in a childcare centre and it just wasn’t right, and since he’s come to Canossa he’s really calmed down and he talks about God, knows right and wrong,” Mrs Horwath said.

Her children are also spending time with the kindergarten’s director and their mum’s original kindy teacher Maryann Dziedzic.

“I think I made (Maryann) feel a bit old when I came back,” Mrs Horwath said.

As a working mum, Mrs Horwath said leaving children at a childcare centre was not ideal but Canossa Kindy was “a family”.

“I don’t want to have to leave my children when I go to work but when I do I want to know that they’re with people who genuinely care and don’t just see it as a job,” she said.

“It’s hard because both parents have to work these days but the biggest thing I think is these childcare centres don’t have what Canossa has; they’re a business but there’s never a feeling of Canossa being a business.

“It’s the same values that we at home are trying to instil and that even Sister can try and instil in them a little bit better, and that’s a good thing.

“I often say, ‘What would Sister say if she saw you doing that?’ It’s a family.”

Mrs Dziedzic, who started as an early education teacher at Canossa Kindy in 1986, said the traditional Three R’s model was secondary to teaching them Christian values.

“It’s about teaching the children love, empathy, care, kindness,” she said.

“We as the staff feel that if you can teach that, the children have got everything.  “If they can do all those things, the learning part comes naturally.”

Canossa Kindergarten takes enrolments after the Easter break every year or through consultations with Mrs Dziedzic.

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