Focus 2007

Melbourne Centre - AUL15-05-2007

Project: Thien An (Gift of God) Education Centre, Savio Vicuña Youth Centre
Date of foundation: February 4th 2007
Place: Brunswick, Melbourne Australia
Province: Australia-Pacific (AUL)


A beautiful new building has just been constructed, starting an exciting project at St. Margaret Mary's, Brunswick. Following the desire of Fr. Frank Moloney, SDB Provincial, to turn St. Margaret Mary's into an outreach centre, especially for Vietnamese people, Fr. Anthony Quang, SDB, with the help of Sr. Marguerite Nguyen, FMA, initiated a daring project to convert an old, abandoned factory into an educational centre, called "Thien An", meaning God's gift.

Within only a few months, almost like a miracle, the construction work was granted a permit. Another small miracle was the completion on time of the major parts of the building, so that the school could start as planned. The project saw many brilliant minds and golden hearts, all who selflessly volunteered their talents, time, and energy into the construction of the building as well as preparing for the teaching programs.

Sr. Marguerite Nguyen, FMA, who had been gathering and coordinating many volunteer tutors for months, was entrusted with the position of Principal of the new school. The school saw a great success with about 170 students initially enrolled, a number which has grown to 200 by April. It operates a tutoring program of Maths and English on Saturdays, and run Vietnamese classes on Sundays, from Prep to Year 10 - all for free! While the tutoring program aims to help Vietnamese children who are disadvantaged because their parents cannot speak English to help them with their studies, the Vietnamese program aims to help them learn their mother tongue and the Vietnamese culture.


The Salesian Youth Club, also known as the Savio Vicuña Youth Club, was created out of the need to cater for the children from Thien An Educational Centre. It is an initiative of Fr. Anthony Quang Nguyen, SDB, and Sr. Thuy-Linh Nguyen, FMA, and is affiliated with St. Margaret Mary’s, 51 Mitchell St, North Brunswick, where Fr. Anthony is the Parish Priest. The Club embraces the Salesian spirituality and charism, with the hallmark of the Preventive System, and takes as its patron saints Dominic Savio and Laura Vicuña. The Club’s motto is “Savio - love God, Vicuña - love one another”.

In the first meeting of the Club on 25 November 2006, the objectives of the Club were set out as:
1. To provide a good and educative environment to children that nurtures and helps them become good citizens and good Christians
2. To support the parish wherever possible in its various activities
3. To train young people to take on roles that involve responsibilities and leadership

The Club has about 100 children aged from 5 to 16, and 17 leaders and junior leaders. Every Sunday from 3:30 until 5:00pm, they gather in the church hall after the Vietnamese classes and before mass to have activities like playing games together, practising concert items or liturgical dances, having religious education including sacramental programs, having singing lessons, learning to be with a community, and so on.

The Club participates intimately in the life of the parish, and infuses the parish with its youthful vigour. It organises altar servers for masses and has a program to train new altar servers. Every month there is a Children’s mass, and the Club organises the children to lead or participate in various liturgical activities such as readings, prayers of the faithful, offeratory, singing and dancing. The Club’s Children Choirs sing and play music in every Children’s mass, while other children do liturgical movements or dances.

In order to encourage them to develop their skills and talents and reinforce their involvement in community life, the Club is organising two art competition projects - a “Badge Design Competition”, which is currently running, and a “Greeting Card Design” competition, which will run about mid year. There will also be concerts on special occasions throughout the year, and camps including leadership training camps done according to the Salesian charism.

Currently the Club is networking with the local government for more opportunities to develop itself, and to train its leaders in community engagement. It also hopes to be able to participate in the exciting upcoming World Youth Day event.
At the moment the Club is mainly for Vietnamese children, who attend the Vietnamese school before mass. It is hoped that this model could be extended to other ethnic groups as well, to spread the Salesian charism that is no doubt still loved by many young people of today.