Building relations in the Year of the Consecrated

Fabio Lai and Brother NicholasWhen a Principal says they have the best school in Australia, most of us would smile politely. But when Brother Nicholas Harsas fsp says it, he means it.

Principal of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School Fairfield Brother Nicholas said he wants to give his students great pride in their school. “So I have parents who come to the school wanting to enrol their children saying ‘we heard it’s the best school in Australia’,” said Brother Nicholas with a grin.

Good leadership needs to be relational, I have high expectations and let my staff know they can achieve anything

– Br Nicholas Harsas

Pope Francis has declared this year the Year for Consecrated Life and Brother Nicholas is the only remaining religious principal of a Sydney Archdiocesan primary school (Brother Christopher Peel cfc is Principal of St Marys Cathedral College Years 3-12).

Principal of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School Fairfield for six years, he also spends a lot of time building the school community with 660 students from a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. “My objective is to serve God and spread the Gospel message through education,” he said.

Brother Nicholas, a Patrician Brother, has spent all of his religious life as a teacher. Our Lady of the Rosary is his third school. Prior, he was at St Therese Catholic Primary School at Sadlier and before that Patrician Brothers Fairfield, his first school.

Brother Nicholas benchmarks his success as a leader by having regular meetings with his teachers about their classes and their students’ achievements.

“Good leadership needs to be relational, I have high expectations and let my staff know they can achieve anything,” he said.

His leadership role is a collaborative team effort where he builds relationships from helping arrange social functions to simply being on the playground. Even though most principals have delegated the task, he holds the school assembly each morning and leads the school in prayer.

“I still consider myself a teacher, even though I’ve been a Principal for 20 years,” he said. “I teach children that Jesus loves them.”

Another important part of his leadership is maintaining a close relationship with the adjacent parish and he writes for the church bulletin each week. Brother Nicholas also builds relationships beyond his school and parish.

Fabio Lai was a student of Brother Nicholas’ at Patrician Brothers Fairfield in Year 5 and is now a lifelong friend and sends his two older children Chelsea (Year 3) and Alex (Year 1) to Our Lady of the Rosary.

My objective is to serve God and spread the Gospel message through education

– Br Nicholas Harsas

Both Fabio and Brother Nicholas were both new to Patrician Brothers Fairfield in 1994. Brother Nicholas had also just been professed and said when he first arrived at the school his plan was to be inclusive and welcoming. Mr Lai said he was shy on his first day but he felt very comfortable and trusting of Brother Nicholas.

“He’s such a genuine person. I asked to stay in his class when I first arrived at the school, even though I was supposed to go to another class,” said Mr Lai.

“He’s always there, he genuinely cares, he’s like a second father, he gives me advice with family matters, work and he has built a good community here… he even helps us write speeches if we have to give one.”

Mr Lai said Brother Nicholas is there for all his past pupils and is often asked to give marriage preparation classes or advice for others on becoming a Catholic. “My mum thinks the world of him,” said Mr Lai. “Family get-togethers, Christmas parties, even small gatherings, Brother Nicholas will always be there.”

“As a religious and having relationships with the past students and their families is very life giving for me,” said Brother Nicholas.

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