22 February 2017 : A newsletter of the Australian Jesuits

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Around the Works

A family affair


Of the many volunteers behind this Saturday's Maytime Fair at Xavier College in Kew, these two women have perhaps the longest connection to the event.


In fact, you could almost consider Mary Brabenec and Liz Fitzgerald part of Jesuit Mission's ‘First Family'.


‘Our uncle, Lou Lachal, was the Jesuit priest who headed up the very first group that went to India', says Mary. ‘He was our mother's brother. The very first fundraising function for India was at a house party held at our home in Barkers Rd Hawthorn.'


Their mother was involved in fundraising for the Jesuits in India for many years. She was part of the group that started the Maytime Fair committee, and often hosted fundraising activities from their family home. It was just one of the many ways that supporting the missions became part of their lives as children.


‘I can remember my mother saying she was worried what they would eat', says Liz. ‘We used to send food parcels to them of condensed milk in tubes and things. We'd have to sew them into old bedsheets, which they would unpick and use as bandages.'


‘We used to take the labels off cans of beans and put them on cans of beer and send beer to them', Mary adds.


Now in their sixties, and having raised families of their own, both women continue to volunteer and support the Jesuits in India, gathering and storing donations for the bric-a-brac stall each year at the Maytime Fair.


Over the course of each year, they collect items for sale from friends and family, anything that might find a happy buyer. The stall has a clothing section, an arts section, a music and CD section, as well as items such as jewellery and cosmetics.


The fact that the Maytime Fair is just before Mother's Day is usually a boon for sales.


‘Kids come and say they want to get a present for Mother's Day', says Liz. ‘We have lovely hand cream from pharmacies. Last year we had a lovely violin. We've had lovely cosmetics and hand cream, vases, ornaments and plates.'


‘Uni students come and get knives and forks, or coffee cups, for their share houses', she adds.


Both sisters have visited Hazaribag - Liz in 1969, and Mary in 1973 - and have seen the remarkable things the Jesuits have done there. Knowing the difference they are making is what keeps them involved.


‘You have to see what they achieved. It's just remarkable', says Mary. ‘The thousands of Indian kids - particularly kids without the advantages - who've been educated and have a life thanks to the Jesuits.'


Mary says that living in a middle class suburb, she has many friends who say it would be much easier just to write a cheque. But then, she says, what will happen with all the other items that people donate in the hope of making a difference to a child's life? Last year, their bric-a-brac stall made $9,500 for Jesuit Mission's work overseas.


‘I know the difference that five dollars makes to one kid in India', she says. ‘People have stuff that they want to pass on. You want it to do good. We're that link between the child it goes to and the donor.'


Special message


Hazaribag Provincial Father Thomas Venad has sent a special message to Jesuit Mission staff and volunteers ahead of this Saturday's Maytime Fair at Xavier College in Kew.


‘We Hazaribag Jesuits are gratefully aware of how for over half a century you have supported us with your dedicated labour, prayers and encouragement', said Fr Venad.


‘The Lord has blessed our work in Hazaribag abundantly, and we pray that he will similarly continue to bless you, our co-workers, this week and in the year to come.'


The 59th Maytime Fair will take place on Saturday 1 May at Xavier College in Kew. Running from 9am to 5pm, the fair will include food and wine stalls, amusements, a car raffle, live bands, a fashion parade as well as fun activities for the whole family.


All proceeds will support Jesuit Mission's work in countries such as India, East Timor, and Cambodia.


For more on Jesuit Mission, go to www.jesuitmission.org.au.



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