The Southern Cross : May 2012
May 2012 Page 15 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross feature | It's been described as the "United Nations" of the north-eastern suburbs and a school blessed with not one religious charism but three, including that of the Catholic Church's 257th pontiff! This year, St Pius X School in Windsor Gardens celebrates its 50th anniversary. Rebecca DiGirolamo reports on the school's evolution from a chicken farm to a modern-day school steeped in Catholic traditions. Steeped in tradition FAMILY TIES: (L-R) St Pius X School principal James Meiksans with the Ferraretto family -- Year 4 student Sofia, her mother and old scholar Tania and her sister Year 1 student Mia -- at the new school hall named after Saint Eugene De Mazenod, founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Photo: Nat Rogers PIONEERS: The founding Brigidine Sisters (L-R) Mothers Roch, Giuseppe, Bosco, Vincent, Pius and Catherine. 1962: First pupil enrolled at St Pius X School, which opened in March 1962. Just under a decade after it opened, St Pius X School was still using a chicken farm incubation room as a classroom for Receptions. Despite the meager bessa- block setting of one of the youngest north-eastern Adelaide schools of the time, parents flocked to St Pius X School and decades later are enrolling their grandchildren there. Such is the welcoming pull of the primary school, says St Pius X School Education Support Officer (ESO) Nancy McDonnell. Mrs McDonnell has a 42-year-long association with the school which began with the enrolment of her son Glen in 1970. Three years later she enrolled daughter Anita, who is also working as an ESO at the school today. Mrs McDonnell started working at the school as a teacher's aide in 1974. "The biggest changes have been the remarkable transformation from our humble, enthusiastic beginning to the very modern, IT-savvy school that we have today," she says. More than 50 years ago the suburb of Windsor Gardens was largely open fields slowly being developed into mainly Housing Trust estates following rapid immigration to Australia in the 1940s and '50s. The Hillcrest Parish was growing at a fast pace too and many of its young families needed a local Catholic school to educate their children. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who had taken over the Hillcrest Parish (now Dernancourt Parish), began searching for suitable land for a parish school. They found a chicken farm on Windsor Grove and converted the incubating room into a school hall around 1960. But they still needed to recruit an order of nuns willing to run the school. In 1962, the Mother Provincial of the Brigidine Sisters in Victoria agreed to send Mothers Roch, Giuseppe, Vincent, Bosco and Catherine to run the Windsor Gardens School. The sisters opened the school in March with 170 students. The Oblates and Brigidines agreed the school's namesake would be Saint Pius X -- the 257th Pope of the Catholic Church, serving from 1903 to 1914. He was the first Pope since Pope Pius V to be canonised. "One of the challenges of our school is to be faithful to the three charisms -- the Brigidines, the Oblates and St Pius X," says principal James Meiksans. While the school has more than doubled in size since opening 50 years ago, it remains committed to its past. In the courtyard, points out Mr Meiksans, sits a bonsai oak tree. The oak is a symbol of the Order of St Brigid (Brigidines) established in Ireland in 1807. And just past the courtyard is the very modern school hall, built last year. The hall is named after Saint Eugene De Mazenod -- founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1816. "While there have been so many changes to the school, in terms of resources and technology, the one thing that remains strong and is quite evident to me every day is the community spirit of the school and our sense of compassion and respect," says Mr Meiksans. He says the school community of 440 students and their families represents dozens of different nationalities and cultures and is known for its support of students with special learning needs. "If there is one word I would use to describe this school, it would be inclusion -- we are a very inclusive place." Past student Tania Ferraretto did not hesitate to enroll her daughters Sofia and Mia at St Pius X. She attended the school from 1976 to 1982 and has witnessed firsthand the external changes of the school, which she says has remained true to its principal core values of justice, responsibility, loyalty, compassion, integrity and mutual respect. "I think the school has really maintained its family feel and its sense of community," says Mrs Ferraretto. "I also like that it is a multicultural school." As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, St Pius X will be holding: • ABackToStPiusXDayonMay6,from 2pm to 5pm, at the school; • Anniversary dinner dance, August 18 at the Marche Club • Family Fun Sports Day in November (date to be advised) For more information contact the school on 8261 4466 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.