St Mary’s chaplain retires
SAINT Mary’s Myrtleford Primary School students paid Barbara Nannipieri a signal honour before Christmas – they stopped a game of basketball during recess to gather about the much-loved chaplain for a photograph.
The children’s acknowledgement and a special mass marked Mrs Nannipieri’s retirement at the end of a four-decade school career.
She started teaching in 1977 and four years later took a job in the Catholic education system.
She worked as a preparatory teacher with Presentation Sisters as successive principals and was on staff when the church relaxed the requirements for nuns to wear a traditional habit which signified their religious order.
“I was made to feel so welcome,” Mrs Nannipieri said.
“There were a lot of sisters teaching across the campus and there was a great sense of inclusion.”
She describes her young students’ emerging understanding of words and of the moments in which they read their first sentences as highlights of her career.
The Catholic system later changed and began recruiting lay principals.
One of these was Colleen Wilkins, who a decade ago invited Mrs Nannipieri to take up the school chaplaincy – part of what is now the federal government’s national school chaplaincy and student welfare program.
“I was charged to take care of the needs of the children and I was humbled by the trust placed in me and the respect shown me,” she said.
Current principal Ashley Marsh said Mrs Nannipieri had been “fantastic” and her departure from the staff would be “a real loss for the school”.
“Barbara is one of those people who can help everyone, regardless of what might be going on with them or with their families,” he said.
“Sometimes a kid just wants someone to talk to.
“Barbara has been that person and we have been so fortunate to have her with us.”
Mrs Nannipieri said she had tried in her chaplaincy and welfare role to encourage children to move beyond what was comfortable and to foster in them a keen awareness of human dignity and social justice.
The St Mary’s School community, staff and Mrs Wilkins were among 60 people who attended a surprise dinner at Lupo’s in recognition of Mrs Nannipieri’s service.
She was also recognised for her work by the Catholic diocese of Sandhurst.
Anne Keplin is to take up the role of school chaplain.
FAREWELL: St Mary’s Myrtleford retiring chaplain Barbara Nannipieri and principal Ashley Marsh with many of the young students who have come to know and admire her.