In my life I want to become better and do a little good. (Frédéric Ozanam)
The first entry that Ministry students wrote into their 2017 College Calendar was the annual sleep-out for a cause. It is impressive that thirty Villanova students along with twenty-four students from both Loreto and Lourdes Hill Colleges gave up their Better Homes and Gardens night to attend the sixth Villanova College Homelessness Conference. The Villanova students then slept rough on the Quadrangle.
The first part of the evening involved drinking chocolate-flavoured milk and talking around the van of the Rosies Street Ministry. We also donated several blankets, sleeping bags and warm clothes, as well as copious supplies of tea, coffee, milk and Milo. The point is not the hot drinks, as Sarah and Gareth from Rosies explained, but more the conversation. Many of the Rosies patrons crave the human company more so than the food and drink. Sarah also shared with us that she feels she has become part of a “street” community after volunteering for Rosies for the past four years.
The second speakers were Kellie and Laurence from the Ozcare Hostel in South Brisbane. Finding himself homeless at the age of seventeen after living in foster care, Laurence at first looked at other people in a cold, mistrustful way. Remarkably, he now sees the many challenges he faces as a way to develop a strong mental attitude, channelling his inner “Rocky.” He shared his story of living on the street and in hostels in such a humble way and reminded us all how much we can do by choosing a positive and outward-looking attitude each day.
The third speaker was Anthony, a long-time friend of Villanova. Anthony reminded us of the simple story of Frédéric Ozanam who as a 19-year-old student in post-revolutionary Paris (1831) could not close his eyes to the poverty he faced on his walk to university every day. Further challenged by a fellow student who said, “Hey Ozanam, what are you Christians doing for the poor?” he joined seven friends who were all determined to take action. They started very simply, by giving food and firewood to a widow in need. This simple, direct and humble approach remains the hallmark of the St Vincent de Paul Society, both worldwide and at Villanova College.
The students were then challenged to “work for the bowl.” If they packed 75 care and hygiene packs for the patrons of Rosies, the residents of OzCare and Share the Dignity who provide for women in domestic violence shelters they would then earn the “prize” of a bowl of soup or noodles. Expectations were exceeded and we produced approximately one hundred care packs.
The conversation was also significant and perhaps some ideas will surface which honour the spirit of Frédérick Ozanam. One question raised was “How can Villa men be both gentle and brave?” We all felt that listening to the girls’ experiences at parties would help us grow that bit stronger in standing up against aggressive and sexist behaviour.
As with all sleep-outs, the focus on the latter part of the evening was the fire and I was reminded of the strong metaphor with which Mr Mark Stower began his time at Villanova. He spoke of the importance of the hot coals of our faith. These must be kept burning to keep our unique culture alive at Villanova. It is getting harder to keep the flame burning in a wider culture, led by sections of the media, which sometimes belittle faith. On nights like the sleep-out, there is a strong and practical faith that by putting my body into discomfort, I will see and learn more than by just thinking in a chair.
From material on this website about this topic at Villanova in a previous year, click here.