COMMUNITY Leader of the Year award winner Danny Higgins said he draws his strength from Christ’s example as he ministers to those who suffer from poor mental health.
“That comes directly from Christ,” the Knight-Hospitaller of the Order of Malta who does chaplaincy work in hospitals said.
“Every story in the Gospels is about Christ challenging the norm of the day and going to people who everybody else had written off – the leper, the tax collector, the examples are just all the way through the Gospel.
“I take that very much to heart.
“It’s one of the reasons why mental health has always been an important thing for me, because if you’re going to find people who are poor and sick, the mental health area is where you’ll find them.”
Mr Higgins said he was stunned when he was announced the winner of his category at The Community Leader Awards 2019 held at Australian Catholic University Banyo campus on November 14.
He said the other two candidates had remarkable accolades too.
“I’m thrilled for my organisation (the Order of Malta),” he said.
He said the 900-year-old history of the order was based on recognising the less fortunate were “Christ to us”.
Volunteer of the Year Donna Power said she felt overwhelmed with her win.
Mrs Power, who runs Project Kindy which helps provide food and education for more than 700 young children in rural Malawi, said she was “genuinely surprised” and “really, really happy”.
“These are the only awards in the whole of Brisbane that don’t have any ego, this is like, everyone should win – it’s so nice,” she said.
“You don’t have to, as a paper, have awards but you’re highlighting what the mission of our church is in this time.”
She said Project Kindy, which she runs from her own home, was a story of “how this beautiful global church can be so grassroots”.
“We’ve got the miracle of the Internet, so why can’t people in the (suburbs) of Brisbane meet up with people in the village in rural Malawi?”
Her message was simple – “have the poor in your heart”.
“It feels really good to be working for the common good and to be helping build God’s Kingdom, little tiny brick by little tiny brick.
“But to have the support of the Catholic community in doing that means the world to me personally.”
Mrs Power’s husband Fraser Power was also a finalist for Professional of the Year award.
She said her husband always supported and encouraged her in Project Kindy.
“He just encourages my soul… he just lights me up,” she said.
“He just sees to the heart of people and he’s all about looking after the vulnerable.”
Professional of the Year Robert Falzon was unable to attend the event because he was doing ministry work in Adelaide diocese, but said the award belonged to the hard-working volunteers of MenALIVE.
“The first feeling was, I was really humbled,” Mr Falzon said.
“This is a terrific award, this is a terrific thing to be acknowledged for but it belongs to the hard workers in MenALIVE and not me.
“The second (feeling) was just the sense of gratitude.
“I really felt like, ‘Wow, this is really great that the work of the last 16 years has been acknowledged’.”
Mr Falzon said in one sense you could not do that kind of ministry work because you liked it, you did it because “you know who you’re serving”.
“The harvest master has very few labourers,” he said.
“And, so we are very acutely aware, we serve the harvest master – we serve the Lord, we serve Jesus.
“The faith is important; you can’t do this work without that, it’s just an empty bell donging.”
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MenALIVE required its volunteers to have a personal prayer life and a personal faith life that was both meaningful and daily.
“If you don’t know who you’re working for, you don’t work well, do you?” Mr Falzon said.
“If you work for a large corporation and the boss is never present or never available, you go, ‘Oh, I’m just working for a corporation (where) nobody cares’.
“But we serve and work for a church who has a very personal boss whose name is Jesus.
“The Church only exists to introduce people to Jesus.
“That’s the reason it exists, to introduce and to create and cultivate a relationship with God.”
Mr Falzon’s ministry began with a question –where were all the men in churches?
But, over the course of his ministry, more questions arose – where were all the men in marriage? Where were all the men in parenting?
His ministry was built on ensuring men had a compelling reason to participate in their faith.
“It’s certainly what drives us, the life application,” he said.
“We don’t approach Church – even though apologetics is important, theology is important, catechesis is important – we don’t approach our ministry in that regard, we approach it where they (men) live.”
With 50 volunteers nationwide and close to one event each week, the ministry was booming.
School Leader of the Year Sue Williams said she was humbled to be nominated, knowing how many other people were doing great work too.
“I think all these wonderful people are doing extraordinary things, I listen to other people’s stories tonight and blown away by what they’re doing,” she said.
“We’re all contributing in some way; I think it’s nice to share that story.
“The Catholic Church has a fantastic story.”
She said her school, Holy Spirit, New Farm, had a great relationship with the parish.
Mrs Williams, who is a member of the Bracken Ridge parish, said the Church was a great support to the students of the school.
She said the school community loved New Farm parish priest Scalabrinian Father Martin Ignacio Gutierrez.
“We’re part of something bigger than just us,” she said.
“We’re not just this little school in New Farm.”
Young Leader of the Year Vivien Dolar said the event was a nice send off as she prepares to leave Brisbane for her hometown of Melbourne after five years as a missionary here.
Ms Dolar was a campus missionary at Queensland University of Technology and helped to lead QUT Freedom ministry.
There she focused on bringing young people closer to God and evangelising the university.
“What a privilege,” she said.
Ms Dolar said she would love to be involved in ministry, especially young adult ministry, when she returned to Melbourne.
Her favourite part about young adults ministry was building relationships with people.
“Just journeying with people, (it is) such a privilege to have a front seat in people’s faith journeys,” she said.
“It’s a really fantastic, wonderful honour.”
The Catholic Leader managing editor Matt Emerick offered his thanks to all nominees, nominators, sponsors and supporters.
“We cannot do it without your help and hard work,” he said.