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Faith and food on Pat's menu

Local

For more than 30 years, Pat Syrus has been living her faith by cooking up a storm for members of her parish and the wider Kingswood community.

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From homemade sausage rolls, to delicious slices and cakes, the octogenarian is the ‘go to’ person when the need for catering arises.

As a member of the Emmaus ‘Care Group’ since the 1980s, Pat is part of a small team which provides a low cost, mouth-watering lunch for about 35 people every month. Most of those who attend are residents at the nearby Kingswood Hostel, which cares for individuals requiring some additional support, as well as people living in nursing homes in the parish.

Pat said over the years she has “learned so much” about the hostel residents and their unique talents, which include writing poetry and painting.

“What we are doing is reaching out to people with special needs in our local community,” she said.

“One thing that shows is that they really love and care for each other, they are a family and they provide a good example for us.”

Besides her baking efforts, Pat (pictured) also buys all the groceries and ingredients needed for the lunch, which is no mean feat given she no longer drives. At age 84, she takes it all in her stride, pulling her trolley just over 1km to the Mitcham shopping centre and then back again with the supplies.

“I don’t feel 84 and am still very active and can do things,” she said, adding she didn’t think her efforts were anything out of the ordinary.

“People do a lot more than I do. When I read The Southern Cross and I see what these people are doing, I really don’t do much at all.”

While the lunch is a great feed for those who attend – with sausage rolls, sandwiches, salads, cakes and “as much tea and coffee you can drink” – it is so much more as it serves to bring together members of the parish, the school and the local community.

As Pat is quick to point out, a real “team effort” is involved.

The Care Group comprises Shirley, who is in charge of decorations and floral arrangements, Susan and Trish, who help in the kitchen, and Margaret, Lyn and Karen who assist with service.

Year 5 students from St Joseph’s School, under the guidance of Sr Jasmine Lawrence CP, also get involved by helping with the set up.

Parish priest Fr Michael Brennan and Fr Bob Wilkinson celebrate the 12pm Mass on the day of the lunch and often they get residents from the hostel to participate by bringing the gifts to the altar.

At each lunch there is always a roll call of attendees who have celebrated their birthday that month and they are acknowledged with a prayer and a small gift. Easter and Christmas are also special times for celebration, as are events such as the Melbourne Cup.

It’s a great day out and the Care Group ensures it’s affordable for everyone.

“We still only charge $2 and we have never altered it in 30 years,” Pat said.

“I think they enjoy everything we bake, because a lot of older people don’t bake anymore.”

The Care Group also gets involved in providing refreshments for funerals and other events in the parish, supports the winter and Christmas collections for the needy, and for many years has collected food, toiletries and toys which have been donated to the Noarlunga-Seaford parish.

“We do it because we enjoy it…there is a great rapport in the kitchen and at the lunch. We are a very welcoming group and I think we’re a very welcoming church. We have so many caring people there … and we have a lot of laughs!”

Pat has been a member of the parish since she and late husband Faustas moved to Kingswood from Radium Hill (a uranium mine near Broken Hill) in 1962.

The couple were blessed with five boys, all of whom attended the nearby St Joseph’s School, where Pat also later worked as a relief teacher.

The family was always active in parish and school life and before the church hall was built there would often be functions held at their home.

“Everybody (in the parish) knows me,” Pat laughed.

“Faustas used to say, you’re like (radio station) 5KA – I talk to everyone.”

Since Faustas passed away five years ago, Pat has continued her strong involvement in the parish not only in the Care Group but as an extraordinary minister giving communion to the sick and elderly in her community, and as a member of the CWL, archive committee and book club.

“I just thank God for my blessings. I feel all my life I have been surrounded by love – loving parents, loving husband, loving children and their families, loving siblings and their families, and loving friends.”

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