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Fitness and faith go hand in hand for Hills family

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Adelaide Hills parishioner Fernando Farrugia is putting his fitness to the test by running in an ultra-marathon this month in support of his daughters’ participation in the Ignite Conference in Brisbane.

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Georgia and Arabella Farrugia are among 10 members of the Adelaide Hills parish youth group, Awaken Youth, who are planning to attend the conference. They have received strong support from the parish and St Catherine’s School in Stirling, with $3000 raised so far for their trip.

Ignite Conference is a four-day annual gathering of high school students, young adults, ministry leaders, families, teachers, priests and Religious from around the country.

When Georgia, 14, and Arabella, 12, told Mr Farrugia that they wanted to go to Ignite, it coincided with an invitation from a friend to run in the Yurrebilla ultra-marathon on September 22.

“It was pretty obvious to me that both events needed to be one focus for me,” said the Mercedes College Middle Years REC teacher.

“I thought I’d do my bit to help the group attend this amazing faith experience.

“Retreats and Catholic conferences, like the Ignite Conference, create an opportunity and environment for us to hear God speak to us.

“I remember the amazing faith experience I had at a World Youth Day and I want the same opportunity for my daughters.

“It is also an opportunity for Arabella and Georgia to remember that they are not alone in their faith. Sometimes it can feel very lonely being Catholic in today’s world.”

The Ignite Conference theme is ‘New Again’ and Mr Farrugia said his hope was that the experience would help his daughters to “re-calibrate their spiritual compass and bring God back to the centre of their lives”.

“There is so much we can focus on in this world, like school, ourselves, holidays, deadlines, but Catholic conferences help us align ourselves with the one and true top priority that we should all share, honouring God.”

The 56km ultra-marathon will be the longest run Mr Farrugia has attempted, his previous runs being half marathons. The trail winds its way through a series of national parks and conservation reserves under the Mt Lofty summit on the western face of the Adelaide Hills.

Fernando Farrugia with twins Phoebe (left) and Harriet at the Parkrun.

He is not the only one in his family who is keen on running. His two youngest daughters, five-year-old twins Harriet and Phoebe, have been involved in the Mt Barker Parkrun since they turned four and completed their 100th run on August 31. The St Catherine’s Reception students are believed to be the youngest twins in the world to reach 100 runs for Parkrun.

“Running definitely is a family affair,” Mr Farrugia said.

“All seven of us (my wife and five daughters) have been running 5km in the Mt Barker Parkrun every Saturday morning since 2016, often inspired to all get out of bed by Verity, our enthusiastic and encouraging nine-year-old daughter. We love the opportunity to be active, be outdoors and the community involvement too.”

Mr Farrugia likened his faith journey to a marathon. “It is something that needs to be nurtured throughout the entirety of our lives,” he said.

“Personally, my running time is also my prayer time. Because I find myself in amazing bushland environments, often alone, it ends up being a time where it is just me and God.

“Sometimes I will simply thank God for the amazing opportunities he has given me in my life and my mind goes to all of those people who have asked for prayers. At other times I find solace in praying the Rosary whilst I run.”

For more information on Awaken Youth, contact Jess Sasche on 0413 915 800 or at awakenyouth.hills@gmail.com.

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