In Sydney’s west is a little-known hive of activity called the Don Bosco Youth and Recreation Centre at St Marys. And presiding over the centre since its inception 19 years ago is Br Stan Rossato SDB, Salesian brother and energetic dynamo.
His very presence and joyful approach inspires the young people and families that he works with to embrace life and enjoy the many facilities the centre has to offer.
Br Stan was born on 18 November 1950 in Melbourne to Tim and Aurelia Rossato and is the eldest of six children. He attended the parish primary school of St Anthony’s in Noble Park and completed his secondary schooling at Salesian College in Chadstone. Young Stan grew up at the centre of the Salesian community and it was a great influence in his everyday life. After graduating from high school, he entered the novitiate at Lysterfield. He studied and completed his degree in teaching, but it was the working aspect of the life in the novitiate that most appealed to him, giving him the opportunity to work on the farm. Br Stan was professed a Salesian brother in 1968.
His first posting was to Boystown in Engadine, where he remained for six years; a time he describes as challenging as he struggled to find his feet in the classroom environment.
In the late 1970s he was reappointed to Rupertswood as sportsmaster and coordinator of boarders; a role much more suited to his active spirit and a time he enjoyed very much. While still at Rupertswood he began studies in agriculture and later was in charge of managing the farm, remaining at the school for a total of 15 years.
His next posting was to Don Bosco at St Marys, and some would say that Br Stan finally found the correct niche for one with his lively personality. “Very early on, I realised I didn’t want to be a teacher,” Br Stan said. “But, 21 years later I came to Don Bosco.”
The centre, which opened in 1992, aims to fulfil the mission of Don Bosco with the priest, brothers and sisters of this religious order giving generously of their time and talents to help troubled or disadvantaged young people and their families, by offering an assisted recreation facility ‘TO COME AND HAVE FUN and freedom’ in a place which will keep them busy and happy in a secure and safe environment.
Primarily an after school ‘drop in’ centre with buildings and grounds filled with games and recreation equipment (trampolines, pool tables, basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer, etc), the underpinning philosophy is based on the belief that if young people are provided with opportunities to participate in interesting and enjoyable activities, they will build up their confidence and self-esteem and learn to relate more easily with both their peers and the adults in their lives.
It is a preventative and formative philosophy that aims to encourage them to use their leisure time in creative and positive ways. “If they are having fun, then that is what it is all about,” Br Stan said. And slowly the word is getting around about the good work of the centre, with councils around the world seeking to model their own facilities on the facility at St Marys.
The centre is also a venue for retreats and reflection days with many schools from the Sydney metropolitan area and around Australia utilising the facility on a regular basis. On weekends and during the day it is booked out up to 12 months in advance for birthday parties for people of all ages to ‘relive their childhood’ (preschoolers through to octogenarians!). It is also a regular meeting place for special needs groups that hire it for social and sporting events.
Br Stan describes the centre as a hive of activity where the action is non-stop with up to 2000 children visiting the centre every week. And if he had one wish it would be for more space to expand the facilities. “Every day is different. No two days are the same. Every second day is a highlight and it is the young people who make it so,” Br Stan said.
For Br Stan the difference he can make to the lives of young people on a daily basis is a much better contribution than his time spent in a classroom. “I enjoy being here,” he says with a genuine love and enthusiasm for the centre reflected in his voice. “After a couple of days’ leave, I am looking forward to coming back as it is a part of my life.”
Source: Catholic Outlook