Among yourselves practice charity, charity, charity

In celebration of the Feast Day of St Eugene de Mazenod we would like to share a story of friendship and connection between an Oblate Deacon and two Rosies volunteers.  

Rosies QLD has a long and treasured history with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Catholic missionary community of priests and brothers, from its inception as a youth focused drop-in centre in the seaside town of Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula, expanding into Queensland, operating independently from Victoria and now in its current iteration, the Oblates have been there every step of the way.  

Many of Rosies QLD volunteers and supporters view their support of Rosies as an act of putting faith into action and celebrating our relationship with our founders plays a significant role. Often visiting Oblates or seminary students join our volunteer teams on outreach to not only connect with patrons and volunteers but to honour the ethos that the Order was established on. Their founder, St Eugene de Mazenod’s core missionary work focused on the poor, the abandoned, the overlooked youth and prisoners – something that is as relevant now as it was in 1826 when the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were born. 

Anne Dunn and Cathy Barber have been a fixture of the Rosies involvement in the Safer Schoolies Initiative since 2018, but it was at the annual Commitment Mass in 2022 that they forged a friendship that would have lasting effects.  

It was at this Mass that then Rosies Chaplain Father Joe Antony OMI introduced them to a visiting seminarian from Melbourne, Brother Luan. “We promised Fr Joe that we would look after him, Anne and I sort of took him under our wing,” Cathy said. 

Anne continued, “When he came down of a nighttime there was a language barrier and he was sort of by himself, he spoke good English, but Schoolies can be overwhelming so the three of us would stick together. He was very good with the young people, aware of their needs and built a great rapport with them.” 

The trio would roam the designated “Rosies area” offering water and support to School Leavers. “We would go out on the beach with the water bladders and the cups, we’d take Luan with us…on the night of the silent disco there was just this incredible line And we were walking up and down with the water and he was saying, you know, ‘Water, free water, come and get your water!’ just getting in amongst it. There were a couple of people there that chatted to him that were from Vietnam as well so that was really nice. We had lots of fun together,” Cathy recalled.  

Br Luan had been visiting many of the Rosies outreach locations with Fr Joe to experience the difference between the Rosies outreach in Melbourne and Queensland. “I had been to many different locations with Fr Joe, but I wasn’t sure what to expect at Schoolies. I was shy and wasn’t sure what to do but Cathy and Anne saw me and welcomed me.” 

“They knew how to welcome a newcomer and they helped me to know what to do at outreach and what I should say to the people there. They were so friendly.” 

“When Schoolies was over I knew, I would return to Melbourne, but I wanted to keep in contact with my new friends, they said we could chat over the phone or on Facebook Messenger,” he said.  

Br Luan had formed a strong bond with the two women and when he returned to Queensland for training in the Burpengary parish, he reached out to them. “I was at the parish in Burpengary learning from their priest and I couldn’t get out to see them but wanted to let them know I was visiting. I was surprised when they offered to come and see me. They live quite far away but they came to Mass, and we went to lunch after.” 

“When we heard he was visiting my husband Michael and I drove down from Warwick to attend Mass with him and then we stayed over with Cathy on the Sunshine Coast,” said Anne. 

“It was a lovely excuse to catch up and we thought it was great that he called, we had kept in touch over Messenger, but it was nice to see him again,” Cathy said.  

Anne recalled another visit when Br Luan visited the Toowoomba branch during the Christmas season, “It wasn’t my outreach, but I asked if I could join in because Br Luan was visiting – he was wonderful, such a humble man. He was playing soccer with all the kids and handing out presents. It was great fun.” 

Again, Br Luan returned to his study in Melbourne and in February of this year his diaconate ordination was scheduled. “I sent them the invitation, but I didn’t think they would come, it’s very far so I thought if they can’t come, they can just pray for me. I was surprised when they said they would come.” 

“We got the invitation, and we talked it over and decided we would go. It’s very special, sort of like for people with weddings and that that’s their special day for the priest, this is their special day. It’s just so important to be there and support him,’ Cathy said.    

He wasn’t sure if his family would be able to come and we just wanted to be there for him, to share it with him and be part of his family for him. Of course we wore our Rosies shirts,” Anne said.  

“I was so happy that they came, I was not expecting it and they didn’t fly. They drove all that way to be with me,” Deacon Luan said.  

He continued, “They helped me a lot when I was in Queensland. I have been in the Order for many years, but this (Rosies) was a new mission and they helped me a lot, they shared their experience of how to talk to the people, they taught me, they guided me. What I learned through Anne and Cathy at outreach will help me when I become a priest one day. I learned from them how I should go out and talk to the people and make them feel welcome if they are new to the church. I can do what they did for me for others.”  

Thankfully, Deacon Luan’s mother and brothers attended his diaconate, and while he was with them, Cathy and Anne decided to outreach Melbourne style.  

“After Luan’s Mass we asked if we could outreach, and I attended the Wednesday night and Anne came with me on the Friday. It was very different to the way we outreach but still focused on community and friendship,” Cathy said.  

“Yes, it was completely different than Queensland but great to reach out with them and work with a different lot of volunteers and reach out to different patrons. We wanted to do it because it was there – if you are in Rosies you’re not just a part of one area, everywhere is your area,” Anne said.  

“What made it even better was that a whole bunch of young people showed up on Friday and we were chatting, and I asked where they were from and they said, “Iona in Brisbane” and I was shocked! There had been a special Mass at St Patricks’, and all the Oblate schools were in Melbourne so these boys thought they would come to outreach. And then Fr Joe and Damian from Mazenod College in WA were there with their students as well – it was a lovely reunion on outreach. It made it very special,” Cathy said.  

Before heading back home, Cathy took a quick trip with her daughter to the little town where it all began. “We were heading down the Mornington Peninsula and we went past Rosebud, and I knew we had to stop. I took a photo on the pier, and it was good to see where it all started. That just sort of adds a little bit to the connection and everything too, because then you’ve got that part of history and when we are doing our (school and community) presentations and we talk about Rosebud, I can think oh! I’ve been there.” 

On the 21st May every year the Oblates and their associated communities celebrate the Feast of their founder, St Eugene de Mazenod, remembering the day he passed into eternal life in 1861. In his final moments, his last words to his Oblates were, “Among yourselves practice charity, charity, charity; and outside zeal for the salvation of souls.” This last will and testament has inspired Oblate missionaries for the last 163 years and is has also been instilled into the Rosies mission, as can be seen by the example of the story above and the countless stories of our many beloved volunteers and patrons.