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Home for Christmas

House opening

Big day: At the opening of “Yuvardee” are (from left) Holy Spirit Sisters provincial leader Sr Sarita Kurikattil, Peter, Graeme, Holy Spirit Sister Bernadette Edgecombe, Kieran and Franciscan Father Anthoni Selvaraj.

SUNSHINE Coast retirees Maureen and Bevan Gallagher could not have wished for a better Christmas gift – their 38-year-old son Kieran, who has “profound and multiple disabilities”, is happy in his own home for the first time in his life.

The couple, members of the Stella Maris Parish at Maroochydore, had both had health scares as they head into old age and their number-one worry was “What is going to happen to Kieran?”

He needs 24-hour care and, as with other parents of dependent children with disabilities, the Gallaghers’ greatest concern was who was going to provide that care once they were no longer able to.

That worry is gone, because Kieran, along with two other men with disabilities, is living in his own home receiving all the care he needs.

“Yuvardee”, which means “home” in the language of the local Gubbi Gubbi people, was opened in the heart of Maroochydore on November 13. For the Gallaghers, it’s as if all their Christmases have come at once.

“It’s extraordinary,” Bevan said. “It’s given us the opportunity for peace of mind.” Maureen said that peace of mind was what it was all about.

“Apart from that feeling for us, Kieran now lives in a house with people his own age – he’s not stuck with us oldies.

“That’s amazing for him.”

It’s been a gift made possible by the generous efforts of many, including the Holy Spirit Sisters; Franciscan friars; Stella Maris Parish, Maroochydore; family and friends; and others who are strangers to the Gallaghers.

The Yuvardee story centres on the Holy Spirit Sisters’ concern for Maureen, Bevan and Kieran, with whom they have had a close association for more than 40 years, dating back to the time when the sisters and the Gallaghers came together in the same parish – St Flannan’s at Zillmere in Brisbane.

In more recent years, after Maureen had had breast cancer and Bevan then had had heart surgery, the Holy Spirit Sisters asked them what were their plans for when they were no longer able to care for Kieran.

“Our response was that ageing parents like us were encouraged to apply to the Housing Department for a house and when one became available, the State Government would provide the funding for the day-to-day care,” the Gallaghers said.

“The sisters then said that they would like to help by providing the house.

“We were overwhelmed by this most unexpected response.”

Maureen said Kieran “had his name down for a Housing Department house for five years … along with how many thousands, I don’t know”.

“That’s when the Holy Spirit Sisters said they would provide the house.”

The sisters bought the land and had the house purpose-built to provide supported accommodation for people with disabilities.

Since that decision, the Gallaghers have had a flood of support from many directions.

The Franciscans funded the furnishing of the house, retailers offered good deals on purchases, Maroochydore parish raised $30,000 through a concert and barbecue to help buy a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, and the Gallaghers’ other son Damien, with 30 other people in Melbourne, raised $5000.

“There are countless other examples of generosity and support that we could cite,” Maureen said.

“It’s such a happy, positive story.”

With funding from the State Government, Centacare Community Services provides day-to-day care for Kieran and his housemates Peter and Graeme.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, during a pastoral visit to Maroochydore parish a few weeks before the opening of Yuvardee, took time to bless the house.

Maureen and Bevan said the impact of having Kieran move into his own house had been “beyond our expectations”.

“We were advised we’d have to be careful – someone said, ‘You may need counselling, because you may have a type of grieving’,” Bevan said. But Maureen said they hadn’t needed it.

“I think it’s because we’ve been on this journey for three years since the sisters took the decision,” she said. “We’ve had so much support from so many people from so many groups that we’ve coped with it very well.

“Us coping well comes down to the fact that Kieran’s happy and contented. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”

The Gallaghers said they and the families of Graeme and Peter “will be forever grateful to the Holy Spirit Sisters for their extraordinarily generous and compassionate response to an urgent need in our society”.

Provincial leader of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters of Australia and Fiji Sr Sarita Kurikattil said it was “a joy to be part of this project”.

House blessing: Archbishop Mark Coleridge (left) visits Kieran Gallagher (seated) and Kieranís parents Bevan and Maureen at ìYuvardeeî.

“It’s given us a new lease of life, to know that Kieran is there and is there for life,” she said.

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