SPEECH AT THE MARONITES ON MISSION AUSTRALIA CHARITY DINNER BY CHARBEL AZZI, DIRECTOR AND LEGAL COUNSEL ON 19 MAY 2017.
Good Evening, thank you for joining us here at the Maronites on Mission Charity Dinner. If I could first please acknowledge our dignitaries:
- His Excellency Bishop Antoine- Charbel Tarabay, Maronite Bishop of Australia.
- Fr Superior of St Charbel’s, Fr Louis El Ferkh.
- The Honorable David Clarke MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Justice representing the Honorable Gladys Berejiklian MP, Premier for NSW, and his wife, Mrs Marissa Clarke.
- Ms Sophie Cotsis, MP, member for Canterbury, shadow Minister for Women, Ageing, Multiculturalism and Disability Services.
- Mr Damien Tudehope, MP, member for Epping and his wife Mrs Dianne Tudehope
- Mr John Faker, Mayor of Burwood.
- Mr Khal Asfour, former Mayor of Bankstown, and his wife Mrs Sally Asfour.
- And all the way from Philippines to join us here tonight from the Missionaries of the Poor, Fr Lawrence Mendoza and Fr Rawel Gumalay.
Welcome to Maronites on Mission Australia!
Was there any greater person in the last century than Mother Theresa? Any person that had so little possessions and so little importance, but yet enriched and changed the lives of so many people and glorified God like no other. She will be remembered, particularly as a saint, in all centuries and generations to come. We here at Maronites on Mission are called to emulate her example of fulfilling Christ’s call to Charity in the Gospel.
Our mission is to build a charity that represents the Maronite community in Australia. A charity that we can all be proud of and involved in, not just today, but in future generations. A charity that your children can be a part of and one day lead. It’s to do Christ’s work on Earth, to be his hands and feet reaching out and touching the poor and needy for the better whether through helping the homeless via our food runs, helping struggling families through our home visits, helping the poorest of the poor in the slums of the Philippines, or desperate refugees in Syria and Iraq or persecuted Christians in Egypt and the wider middle east.
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ The righteous said, ‘Lord, when did we do this?’ And the King replied, ‘when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me!’
And to the unjust cast away into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his Demons, the King says, ‘for I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you refused to help me.’” Matthew 25: 35-45.
What Maronites on Mission is trying to do is to actually live out Christ’s call to charity and love.
So how do we do this?
We have established 6 food outreach destinations which we attend every week including Wentworth Park in Glebe and Belmore Park in Central on Tuesdays from St Joseph’s Croydon, Martin Place and Woolloomooloo on Thursdays from St Charbel’s Punchbowl, Prince Alfred Park in Parramatta on Sundays and our soup kitchen in Redfern, collectively all providing over 17,000 meals and conversations in Sydney per year. Through our home visits program, we make 260 home visits per year providing not only groceries, housework assistance and other necessities but also support and companionship.
Mother Theresa once said, “the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved”. Many of our elderly in nursing homes are alone and not visited by family and friends. We visit them to talk with them, to sing songs and play music and entertain them with joy and love especially at Christmas and Easter.
Internationally, we have visited the Philippines on an annual basis since 2013. Under the guidance of Fr Lawrence and the Missionaries of the Poor, we have helped build 6 homes for those without shelter, we provide over 5000 food packs per year, and over 800 dental treatments and over 1000 medical treatments per year.
In Iraq, with the assistance of the international French Charity SOS Chretiens d’Orient we built a sports ground for children of displaced refugees livings in camps. In Beirut, we established an ongoing soup kitchen with Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity. In Syria, we assisted the Church and its Christian community who have suffered severe persecution by ISIS.
In our upcoming year, we have some very exciting initiatives. At the end of this month, MOM shall along with our Bishop, undertake a mission to Egypt to visit and assist the Church and community that was devastated by the recent Easter terrorist bombings, we also have our annual Philippines mission and some new exciting initiatives for our homeland, Lebanon. Please stay tuned on Facebook for further details.
We are a grass roots organization, made up of ordinary people whether they be rich or poor, young or old, lawyers, builders, housewives, academics or students. We have all come together to serve the poor and those in need in our community. It is incredible to see the amount of work performed by so many incredible volunteers. None of our volunteers are paid. It is only through their dedication and charity that we can continue our work. Whether it be the lovely ladies preparing the meals in the youth house at St Charbel’s Church, or the many young people on our food runs in rain, hail or shine, whether its our doctors, nurses, teachers and builders that travel half way around the world at their own expense for our international missions, and of course the many coordinators and members of the board who do so much work behind the scenes to ensure the viability of MOM. These volunteers are without a doubt, the life blood of Maronites on Mission.
Not only have we no paid employees, we also have no consistent or reliable source of funding. It is only through the generosity and charity of our sponsors and donors that we can do the work Christ has asked us to do. As Mother Theresa notes: At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
Here I must give special mention to all of our sponsors but in particular Canterbury Leagues Club who have been so generous to us since 2013 by providing funding of over $100,000, providing food for our food runs once a month and also sending their employees on the food run. Thank you George and Arthur Coorey, and also Peter McMahon, who are here representing the Club. Please extend our thanks to the rest of the Board.
We also give special thanks to our Diamond Sponsor, Merc Capital, who is lead by Tony Merhi, who we heard from earlier, and our Platinum sponsors, The App Shop, Form Group NSW, the Australian Legal Practice, Dr Antwan & Sanaa Barich and Lionheart Lawyers. We also thank all of our Gold, Silver and Bronze sponsors who are listed in our event program booklet and displayed on the screen here tonight as well as our website and social media following the evening.
We of course thank our Bishop for his wise counsel, support and guidance of which we are highly grateful. We thank our chairman, Fr Louis El Ferkh, for his support and allowing us to use the Youth House to store supplies, prepare our meals and launch our missions. We also thank our chaplains’ Fr Maroun Azzi from St Joseph Corydon and Fr Tanious Ghoussain from St Charbel Punchbowl.
Please let me finish by noting an important point. Our work of charity not only helps the poor and people we serve, but equally important, it also helps our volunteers. In fact, we the volunteers benefit more than the poor that we serve. After being involved in our work, many of us volunteers have had a greater appreciation for their lives and for what is important in life. Many have changed their careers or goals in life. As our beloved Fr Tanious once said, “we give bread to the poor, but they gave us the kingdom of heaven in return.”
Director, Legal Counsel
Maronites on Mission Australia