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Brisbane youth group a walking blessing for COVID-hit poor in India

Helping hand: Divine Word Missionaries Father Anuranjan Dungdung, director of Vikas Deepti, (far right) with children who received education packs paid for with money from the Maximilian Kolbe parish. The parish donated more than $7000 to the ministry which cares for disabled children and children of leprosy patients. Photo: Supplied

YOUNG Catholics from the Kingston-Marsden parish are walking on air after raising more than $7000 for some of India’s most vulnerable citizens by trekking through the Logan suburbs.

Members of the Maxmilian Kolbe parish youth group set a challenge to raise money for two organisations run by Catholic religious congregations in India by each walking 50km over 21 days.

The parish raised $7000 which was divided among two ministries, Vikas Deepti, a home in Odisha in India’s east for 200 disabled children run by the Divine Word Missionaries, who also educate around 40 children of leprosy patients, and St Teresa’s Hospital in Hyderabad, operated by the Sisters of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Australian-born Servant of God Mary Glowrey, who is in the running to be one of Australia’s next saints, joined the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and practiced medicine as a nun in India.

Last week health authorities in India reported their total number of COVID-19 cases topped three million, leading the world in new infection rates.

Maximilian Kolbe youth leader Diana Faaitete said the parish’s young Catholics normally sleep rough on their church carpark at the peak of winter, but due to COVID-19, the annual parish sleepout event was cancelled.

Instead, 15 youth group members and several parishioners walked more than 1000km in total between July 10 and 31, raising close to $5800 for their Indian brothers and sisters.

The Presentation Sisters also donated an extra $1500 towards the cause bringing the parish’s total funds raised to over $7000, or 375,000 rupees.

The funds raised have provided 40 nurses with personal protective equipment kits so they can provide care to COVID patients, 50 families with groceries for one month, and 40 children of leprosy patients with masks, food and hygiene supplies.

The money will also assist with the education of children at Vikas Deepti by providing them with stationery, school uniforms and school bags.

A further 200 migrants in the Hyderabad diocese will be given groceries and sanitisers paid for by the parish’s fundraising.

Walking blessing: Desiree Masaga, Maryanna Leniu and Daniella Faateetee took part in the Maximilian Kolbe parish’s 50km walk challenge. The parish raised more than $7000 for two Catholic ministries in India supporting people during the pandemic.

Miss Faaitete said the youth group were not expecting the support they received during their campaign.

“When we first planned it out, we really were only aiming for hopefully $3000 or $4000 so we can at least support one of the projects,” Miss Faaitete said.

“To end up with $7000 was just amazing especially with COVID at the moment and people out of jobs, we really weren’t expecting it.”

Miss Faaitete said the youth group were ultimately inspired by Jesus’ call to love thy neighbour.

“We were just really inspired with heaps of events throughout the Bible, and we just wanted to be more like Jesus, more Christ-like,” Miss Faaitete said.

“The last few years with all our other Sleepouts, we were helping out within Australia, but especially during this pandemic we wanted to give to our neighbours in need especially in India.”

Miss Faaitete, 23, said some youth leaders including herself walked a total of 70km each.

Even Maximilian Kolbe parish priest, Divine Word Missionaries Father Sunil Paul Nagothu, took up the walking challenge, clocking up a staggering 100km over three weeks.

Protected: Sisters of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and staff at St Teresa’s Hospital in Hyderabad with the personal protective equipment paid for with donations from the Maximilian Kolbe parish. Photo: Supplied.

Fr Nagothu, who is originally from India, said the parish adopted their youth group’s idea as a parish outreach project to celebrate the community’s 40th anniversary in October.

The parish is in the heart of locations visited by confirmed coronavirus cases following the announcement that six more people tested positive on August 21.

Fr Nagothu said the parish took precautionary measures and cancelled weekend Masses on August 22 and 23, and instead streaming the Masses on Facebook.

The parish will resume weekend Masses for August 29 and 30.

He advised parishioners to get tested if they had visited any venues listed by the Queensland Government last week.

“If anyone has been to the hotspots and shopping malls, please go and get tested or watch out for symptoms,” Fr Nagothu said.

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