ONE of the founders of Queensland’s Rosies has told how “the heartache” of farewelling the homeless each year after Schoolies Week led the ministry to widen its focus.
Sandra Hazel told a March 9 gathering at Iona College, celebrating Rosies 25th anniversary, that initially the homeless had gathered to watch the organisation’s ministry to young people around Gold Coast entertainment venues.
“I think they were checking us out to see if we could be trusted,” she said.
“Eventually these homeless people joined the young people at the vans to have a coffee and chat with volunteers.
“However, when Schoolies Week was over, we were aware of the faces of the homeless watching, knowing we wouldn’t be back for another 12 months.
“It was heartbreaking for us.”
Mrs Hazel’s comments linked with those of other Rosies leaders and volunteers to form a chain of powerful and positive statements during a day of celebrations centred around an Opening Mass in Iona College’s Our Lady Help of Christians Chapel.
Former Governor of Queensland, now Rosies patron Leneen Forde, Bishop Joseph Oudeman, Rosies chaplain Oblate Father Pat Dwyer, and students from Catholic colleges in Brisbane, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast were among those attending the celebration.
Rosies’ mission, based at Iona College, on Brisbane’s bayside, has expanded as far afield as Warwick in the west and Mareeba in the north.
It has 12 centres and more than 700 volunteers, with students from more than 30 colleges all over Queensland venturing into the street to carry out the mission.
Rosies supports not only the homeless but also people in prison and in the court system.
Bishop Oudeman, in his homily during the anniversary Mass, outlined the essential power of the Gospel in driving Rosies vision.
He quoted the ministry’s motto, St Eugene of Mazenod’s saying: “Learn what you are in the eyes of God”.
“Rosies gives us the chance to come learn what we are in the eyes of the poor,” he said.
The bishop highlighted the significance of the ministry’s full title – Rosies Friends on the Street.
“One of the greatest dogmas of the Catholic Church – and indeed the Gospel – is that when we love, and love and serve another we are loving and serving Jesus Christ Himself.
“That’s how close God is to us … whenever we serve others He is there; we are doing God’s work when we love and serve His people.”
Bishop Oudeman, in conclusion, said “we are now preparing for the next 25 years when Rosies will continue to offer what the world needs: practical warm love”.
At the close of Mass, the organisation’s general manager Bob Boardman commented on the powerful experience volunteers had every time they went out.
“We are so grateful for the power of this love we can show to our friends in the street and each other,” he said.
Mrs Hazel, recently awarded the title of Honorary Oblate for her services to the order, recalled Rosies had started “in the bowels of Iona in the RE resource centre” when she was Dean of Faith and Mission at the college.
This followed a conversation she had had with Oblate Father Paul Costello after an “unfortunate episode” in the early days of Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast.
“These were the bad old days of Schoolies,” she said.
“Naïve young people were hanging around hotels … in danger of exploitation by criminals and being badly beaten by bouncers on steroids.
“Fr Paul had an idea about starting a support service along the lines of the original Rosies Oblate Youth Mission in Victoria.”
Mrs Hazel’s connections with youth groups including Antioch were to prove a fruitful source of volunteers in the 18-25 years age group.
“Now we look back amazed and proud of how it all grew from this start,” she said.
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