Fr Denis Andrew: marathons and fatherhood

Competitive running has been a near life-long passion for the Carmelite priest.
Fr Denis Andrew OCarm and his nephew Michael Zammit raised $10,000 when they ran in the 2011 Dili peace marathon. Image: supplied.

By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook, March 2017

Fr Denis Andrew OCarm has completed 18 marathons and still loves a good walk. Highlights from this pastime include the Camino of Santiago, England’s Coast to Coast and Offa’s Dyke on the Welsh border.

Perseverance is a prized virtue in the Carmelite Fathers, of which Fr Denis was Australian Provincial.

St Teresa of Avila, Spanish mystic, writer and reformer of the Carmelite order, was renowned for her perseverance in contemplation: “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer,” she wrote.

“Finding God in quiet is centre of what we do,” Fr Denis said. “The Carmelite saints: St John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila, St Therese of Lisieux, their record and experience of God have stood the test of time.”

Fr Denis has been in the Carmelite community at Wentworthville three times, from 1981-86, as Parish Priest from 2005-10 and this year has returned as Parish Priest.

Fr Denis first discovered a passion for walking in the Australian bush from Wentworthville parishioner Thomas Coogan. Tom turned out to be a father figure for Fr Denis.

“My father died quite young,” Fr Denis said. He was three years old at the time of his father’s death and had always been searching for a father figure.

Thomas Coogan was a devoted parishioner, receiving a Diocesan Medal of Honour, and had his Requiem Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Wentworthville.

The overseas treks were done with a group of male parishioners from Park Orchards-Warrandyte Parish in Melbourne. They were serious walkers going to some remote wilderness areas.

He said trekking was a lesson in how to be a male. “When things don’t work and you see the men negotiate a solution; just being together and walking together.”

Michael Zammit performed eye tests in East Timor where the Australian Carmelites have a mission. Image: supplied.

Competitive running has also been a near life-long passion. Through parishioners at Wentworthville Parish he became a member of Girraween Athletics Club and ran with them for six years.

The Carmelites in East Timor belong to the Australian Province of the Carmelites. It is a constant challenge to raise money for the formation and support of Carmelites in East Timor along with humanitarian projects.

Fr Denis and his nephew, Michael Zammit, had the idea to raise funds by running in the Dili peace marathon in 2011. This is an event supported by the international community to help bring peace and healing to the country.

“It was hot,” Fr Denis said. “And quite different to what you’re used to in marathons, with people cooking their breakfast on fires lit on the side of the road.” Their efforts raised $10,000 for the Carmelite mission.

Michael Zammit is an optometrist and took the opportunity to test the eyes of all the Carmelite students in East Timor and provide some glasses.

The East Timor Carmelites have close to 90 inquiries each year, accepting a total of eight candidates each year.

They undertake some of their formation at Yarra Theological Union at Box Hill in Melbourne. Fr Denis was born in Melbourne and also studied at Yarra Theological Union.

Fr Denis loves reading and Avenue Bookstore in Melbourne is one of his favourite haunts. He said he reads novels to “open you up to other people’s lives”.

His connections to Melbourne and Western Sydney show in his sporting loyalties. Fr Denis supports Essendon, the Greater Western Sydney Giants, Parramatta Eels and the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Read about Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in the March issue of Catholic Outlook: Wentworthville Parish community shares Carmelite charism

Posted on 28 March 2017.

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