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Giving back central to Ron’s faith


Sundays are a big day for Ron Knolder of Glenelg. He’s usually up at 6am putting on a roast or cooking corned beef and vegetables and preparing a lavish picnic lunch for a group of his friends.

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At 11.30am he is at Our Lady of Victories Church, collecting 10 elderly people after Mass and driving them in a bus to an afternoon outing.

It could be a visit to a beautiful location in the Adelaide Hills, a trip down south to the wine region or a local landmark like a recent tour of Carrick Hill. There is always a stop on the way where the group enjoys a picnic complete with tables and tablecloths, a delicious main meal, wine, coffee and cake – and good company.

Ron and partner Gary have been running the St Dom’s Sunday Drive for the past four years, conducting about 140 trips to more than 45 different destinations. There are 64 parishioners signed up with the program, who are rostered to attend events depending on their interests and the location being visited.

But the Sunday commitments don’t end there, as by 4.30pm Ron is back at the church, preparing for the 5pm Mass where he serves as the sacristan, rostered reader or commentator.

It’s a hectic day involving a lot of preparation but Ron loves every minute of it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We have great satisfaction …  people say aren’t you good for doing it, but we love this, we enjoy it,” Ron told The Southern Cross.

“We are out in the sunshine amongst friends and what else would you be doing but sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon watching the footy on TV!

“The parish is our family and the community of Glenelg is just a big village. We can’t go anywhere without being spoken to five or six times.”

Describing himself as a “people’s person”, in January Ron was named the City of Holdfast Bay’s Citizen of the Year acknowledging his extensive work not only with the Church but the wider community, where he has volunteered for many years with the council’s home maintenance program for the elderly.

A parishioner at Glenelg since he moved to the area in 1987, Ron said it wasn’t until he retired after working for Woolworths for 40 years that he started to become more active in parish life.

With the encouragement of the then parish priest Fr Anthony Kain he took the time to discern “what I wanted to do” and how he could contribute.

The result was joining the Parish Pastoral Council for five years and he has been serving as a sacristan for the past decade. He is passionate and dedicated to this role, serving at more than 200 funerals and weddings over the years. He arrives about an hour early, sometimes using an iron to remove the candle wax from the carpet to ensure the church is looking at its best.

He has taken over responsibility for the flowers in the church, sourcing fresh arrangements to celebrate the Christmas and Easter seasons.

When Alpha was launched he hosted gatherings in his home, providing dinner for the nearly 40 participants.

Recently he was involved in organising a massive garage sale run by the parish and held in St Mary’s Memorial Hall. The event raised $7000 to support Circle of Friends 111 and its work with refugees living in the north eastern suburbs who are doing it tough at the moment.

And if any odd jobs need doing around the parish, Ron is often the first person called to see if he can help.

While he is kept busier than many retirees – also helping his two adult daughters and four grandchildren however he can – the 68 year old said being able to give back to the Church was very important to him.

“My faith is fundamental,” he explained. “I love the church. I love the fact that Christ is in my life.

“The four constants in my life have been family, faith, community and people.

“Mum and Dad’s philosophy was that if you give, you get. If you give yourself, your time, your energy, your resources then you will get something back out of it … you need to be busy and see happiness and joy around you.”

Born to a devout Catholic mother and a Dad who converted later in life, Ron said although his family struggled financially he and his five siblings never felt like they missed out on anything and faith was central to their life.

“Dad was particularly devoted to the Sacred Heart and Mum nurtured a love of Mary in us children. In those days you would pray to Mary and she would fix everything and so I thought I would leave my Intermediate certificate up to her and it went badly,” he laughed.

While he considered a vocation in the priesthood he believed he “wasn’t intelligent enough” but others close to him did go down this path. His late sister Marilyn was an OLSH Sister for 52 years, one of his brothers joined the Passionists for a time before becoming a teacher, and his best friend became a Christian Brother.

Eight years ago his own faith received a boost when he spent three months in Limpopo, South Africa, supporting community programs run by the OLSH Sisters. Before leaving on his “mission” he was blessed in front of the congregation at Glenelg.

“It was one of the moments in life when something happens and I had this tremendous feeling of warmth and conversion to the power of the Holy Spirit,” Ron recalled.

While in Africa he utilised his home handyman skills to complete about 100 jobs and believed the Holy Spirit was “guiding” him all the way.

“It was a great time,” he said.

“I worked with some Zimbabwean refugees. We set up gardens, thatched houses, we restored monasteries and convents, did electrical, plumbing and cement work.

“I made some great friendships.”

Back at Glenelg, Ron has made newcomers to the parish feel welcomed and loved. As one parish volunteer attested: “I don’t know what I would have done without him.”


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