Making a difference across the world

Bridget Phyland and Diane Bugeja
Bridget (l) and Diane (r)

This year team JM has two runners from the international Jesuit family making their way to London to run the marathon in memory of Fr Victor-Luke Odhiambo SJ and to raise money to realise his educational legacy in South Sudan.

Diane Bugeja from Malta is a serious runner who, prior to starting marathon training, ran around 11km five times a week. “I now follow a training plan and run around 75km a week, which will peak in March. Training is going well so far and I cannot complain. I'm used to waking up early in the morning for my daily run, so it's been relatively easy, although I hate running in the rain and wind ... which is what most of January has been so far in Malta!  I'll be attempting the London Big Half in March as part of my training plan and I'm looking forward to that!”

Diane attended a Jesuit school and has remained friends with Fr Patrick Magro SJ, former Maltese Provincial, who joined team JM dressed as a womble for the hottest London Marathon on record last year.

“My Jesuit education has instilled in me the fundamental principles of helping others and of caring for the poor and marginalized, whilst allowing me to develop as a person and as a student,” commented Diane.  “I chose to run for JM because I believe in the cause I am fundraising for and I truly appreciate the efforts that the Jesuits make on a daily basis in order to make a difference in people's lives across the world. I had the pleasure of speaking to my Jesuit friends to hear directly from them the difficulties they experience on their missions but, more importantly, the joy they bring to the people in under-developed areas who are missing the basic things we take for granted in our daily lives.”

Diane visited London last weekend to run the Vitality Big Half marathon as part of her training and completed in an hour 47 minutes. She said “I’m very happy with my time considering the wind! I really enjoyed the experience and it was definitely a good prep for the marathon in terms of the adrenaline rush and being with so many talented runners with the crowd cheering you on. Very much looking forward to the big day now!”

Bridget Phyland is travelling all the way from Melbourne Australia to take part in her first marathon. 

It all started with a conversation with a colleague who had signed up to run the London Marathon for a charity. 

“It sounded like a great way to see London,” said Bridget, “so I started looking for charities where I had a connection and I couldn’t believe it when I saw that the Jesuits had a team.  My family has always had a strong connection with the Jesuits.  I grew up in a Jesuit parish in Hawthorne, Melbourne and I went to a Jesuit primary school.  Every year our parish collaborates with Xavier College on a big event to raise money for Jesuit Missions Australia.  The parish was very involved in the Jesuit mission to East Timor and with ministries in India. Jesuits used to visit regularly from overseas and I have always been aware that the Jesuit family is a great community and network of effort worldwide.  Jesuit social justice projects, like refugee housing, were part of the fabric our community.

Unlike Diane, Bridget is not a regular runner so is building up from scratch.  Of course her training is taking place in the heat of the Australian summer. “Last weekend I did 19km along the beach.  It was 35 degrees.  There were lots of people sunbathing while I was running, and I remembered how last summer it was me sunbathing while watching others run.”

“I am most looking forward to meeting the other JM team members – the feeling of coming together to run in memory of Fr Victor-Luke makes it that extra bit special.  The cause resonates with everyone – the importance of education in enabling people to improve their own lives and those of others, especially in such a troubled place as South Sudan.  It is always in the back of my mind that the running is not just for me - when it is bigger than yourself it helps you to push through with the training.”

Bridget will be turning to her parish for support with the fundraising.  “My parish is celebrating its 150th anniversary and we are very aware that 150 years ago money was raised by mainly Irish immigrants to build our church.  We have all benefited and now we are ready to give back.”

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