Parish life

It’s Fairs to say we love her! An interview with Frances Fairs

August 15, 2019
Frances Fairs teaching CCD in the classroom. Photo by Daniel Hopper.

“I know who you are! I remember you from our cocktail party, but I’m sure we have spoken a number of times about all sorts of things including online shopping and comfortable shoes.” And so, the tone is set for a very friendly, relaxed and long interview with Frances.

I must admit that I knew her more from reputation. Frances’ name was always being mentioned when discussions were being had about our lay leaders, our female role models, or when examples were given about the great work being done in our parishes. Well, I was about to find out why.

Frances is currently the Shoalhaven region’s catechist coordinator, regional youth coordinator, a member of the Parish Pastoral Council, a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, a Plenary Council 2020 animator and an Alpha and Youth Alpha leader. She is also a keen runner, loves cooking, and is mum to four children under 14 years of age.

So, how did you become so involved in Church life?

I have a tendency to say “yes”. I think this is an exciting way to live. I moved to Nowra with my husband, Gavin (who is in the Navy), not long after going on maternity leave from my job in Melbourne as a high school maths and physics teacher.

When we arrived in the Shoalhaven, a place where I didn’t know anyone, it was a great joy to get involved—baby in tow. I helped organise a young adults group (my first group of friends in Nowra!) and volunteered as a catechist. I have volunteered for the Church most of my adult life, starting-up groups and volunteering as a leader of children’s liturgy and as a catechist.

Volunteering is underrated. You meet the best people and the work is deeply fulfilling. Our parish priest, Monsignor Patrick Faherty, offered me a paid role as a coordinator after my fourth child turned one. My involvement in Church life has steadily increased each year.

Why did you become involved?

Early on, I felt a responsibility to contribute. I had encountered Jesus in a profound way in my early 20s and started to see everything, including my faith, as something that could help others. It changed the direction that my life was heading as I was embarking on a military career in engineering and had not even considered becoming a teacher, let alone volunteering for the Church!

What are some changes that you are proud of that have happened under your “watch”?

Leading our first parish Alpha* comes to mind. I feel strongly that our Church must be outward looking, and Alpha is a means for evangelising and changing our culture from inward looking (maintenance) to outward looking (mission). Also, I’m proud of developing, along with other key leaders, our parish Strategic Focus which is to better engage the parents and families seeking the sacraments in our church. It’s very exciting! We are a large parish made up of six communities and we are all sharing ideas and implementing changes with the same goal of reaching out and evangelising.

What are you passionate about?

I want our Church to better live out its mission. We can be better! This drives a lot of what I do, but is not my fundamental passion. I’m most passionate about sharing our faith. My faith is a great source of joy and hope in my life, even in the sad times, and I want others to have that too. There are so many negative messages in society and it is easy to get swept up in it all. The love and mercy of God is greater than anything. The Gospel is life-giving and countercultural. It takes courage for our young people to stand up for our faith, but they do—young people are inspirational!

A “God” moment?

I’ve had some big moments with God along my journey that have had a lasting effect on me, but it’s the many smaller moments with God which have developed my personal relationship with him. Each moment, large or small, has helped me. God loves me as he loves you. I know that when I come to him in heartfelt prayer, he is there guiding, comforting and leading me. God is good!

Your “claim to fame” moment?

I don’t have one, but I think that my children Caitlin (13), Bridget (12), Henry (10) and Xavier (6) will be my claim to fame in the future. They are lovely and generous people.

Something that people may not know about you?

I’m a keen runner. That’s not to say I’m winning any races. My daughters and I compete in our local cross-country competition. I also love to cook homestyle meals. It’s relaxing, especially when I have the kitchen to myself!

Debbie Gates is the director of development and community engagement for the Diocese of Wollongong.

This article first appeared in Journey Magazine Winter 2019. Click here to read the whole magazine.

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