Cleanliness and the cleaning that goes with it are often taken for granted. The organization and work behind it in the Piarist parish, in the kindergarten, and the primary school and after-school care centre require significant effort. In this interview, the long-time office manager of the Piarist Order Province in Austria, Andrea Gutschik, talks about her experiences with cleanliness. 

The Piarists run a kindergarten, children’s groups, an after-school care centre, a primary school, and a parish at the Maria Treu site. They organize the cleaning. What challenges do you face here?

We have been working with the same cleaning company for many years. Not all cleaning is the same. My standards for hygiene are relatively high. It is essential to communicate clearly what you want and what is important to you. I often checked and didn’t let up if, for example, the toilet cleaning wasn’t thorough enough. Feedback is then often unpleasant, and that can lead to anger on both sides. Hygiene standards are a big challenge. There are guidelines that we have to follow and that are also controlled by the market office. Once or twice a year, these inspections are carried out without prior notice in the after-school care centre and kindergarten, and the school kitchen.

How does the cooperation with the cleaning companies work? 

The cooperation with our cleaning company in Maria Treu has improved over the years. The staff already knows me well, and they know what I value. Due to frequent staff changes at the cleaning company, there is always something to do. Without control, an inevitable inaccuracy set in after a while.

After festivities, such as the “Josefstadt Parish Fair”, there is no problem with cleaning. What goes on in the background when it comes to cleaning?

Especially after the “Josefstadt Parish Fair” and other significant events, the inner courtyard, the Calasanzcenter, the kitchen, the toilets, and sometimes the parish center’s side rooms are used by a lot of people. The pollution is correspondingly high, which is a great challenge for our cleaning staff. Especially on the following Mondays, our cleaning staff needs a lot of time to clean the rooms. Everything has to be clean again by noon at the latest when the after-school program starts.

Since November 2020, the after-school group has had lunch in the parish centre. This means that the after-school care centre uses the kitchen for lunch. Therefore, we also do the daily (Monday to Friday) cleaning there.

The parish rents and uses the Calasanzcenter and is responsible for the cleanliness in this area. However, we use the synergy that we (parish and Order) hire the same cleaning company, and partly the same cleaners are employed.

What do you associate with the Piarist Order?

The Piarists in Austria have become more international in the past 20 years. My daughters went to school in St. Thekla (Vienna), so I have known Father Pius and Father Ignasi for many years. Likewise, in September 2021, my eldest grandson will start primary school at St. Thekla.

In the beginning, I was in a small room with the administrator of the Piarist Province, Mr. Thomas Pawel. I had a tiny desk and no telephone of my own. I took over a handwritten income/expenditure account from the Fathers. The school fees were registered in a book. There were our teachers in the primary school, but only a few staff in the house.

Later, the new students (first from India) brought a breath of fresh air into the house. In the meantime, the Order has many employees in the after-school and kindergarten, and other areas. Every year new Fathers or students come, and the Order continues to develop. The General Delegate, Father Jean de Dieu, has many international contacts. Currently, we are expecting four priests from Africa.

Our administrative team and the leadership team work very well together. I think it needs a stable and continuous working basis to be able to develop further. Then positive change is possible. The Piarists have a long history. We will continue to grow in these volatile and challenging times.

Lukas Zimmermann