by KATHLEEN CASEY
CHRISTCHURCH — An educational gem was blessed by Bishop Barry Jones on December 6 in Christchurch, the fulfilment of a dream for Rashan Rayen.
Mrs Rayen, a Montessori teacher, and husband Jayanthe, from Sri Lanka, have built and set up Sancta Maria Montessori Pre-School. Thought to be only the second Catholic Montessori school in the country, the facility will open in February, catering for 38 pre-schoolers.

Rashan Rayen with Finnian Smiley, an Irish child attendee at her school.

The Rayens emigrated here five years ago and, after two years, approached Bishop Jones for help with a location. A small disused church was offered, but earthquakes put a stop to that.
A second option also fell through. Undeterred, Mr and Mrs Rayen sold land they owned in Sri Lanka and built a small school in Curletts Rd, Upper Riccarton.
Maria Montessori was a Catholic and adamant that the faith needed to be imparted to children when they are young, Mrs Rayen said. Along with the low-level kitchen, stands a model, pint-sized sanctuary with all that goes on a church altar and a row of vestments, all of which the children can learn about and handle. It was in the 1960s, Mrs Rayen said, that the Catholic teaching was taken out of Montessori education.
“It’s been a hard road, but it has all been possible only through the grace of God,” she said.

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