Knights at the service of advocates and friends

13 Jun 2012

By Robert Hiini

Grand Master of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing with friends of PAS. Photo: Supplied.

The global head of the Knights of Malta spent time with intellectually disabled people and their advocates when he visited Perth late last month.

The Grand Master of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing and a number of office holders, Australian Knights and their wives, enjoyed Mass and a meal at Personal Advocacy Service’s (PAS) centre in Morley.

Fra Festing was greeted as “your majesty” at the door. He and his travelling companions were not royalty but PAS regular Adam offered the guests a warm welcome nonetheless.

It was perhaps an indication, PAS staff told The Record, of how people with intellectual disabilities pick up on the sacred, sensing the importance of the visit.

“PAS is a marvellous example of the sort of work the Order of Malta should be supporting and promoting,” Fra Festing said during the lunch, adding he was “full of admiration for the extremely good service being provided by PAS”.

The Knights of Malta’s history in care runs long and deep, operating as a continuation of the order of St John of Jerusalem, founded around 1050AD to serve sick pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Following the loss of Christian-held territories of the Holy Land, the Order operated from Rhodes from1320 to 1523 and later from Malta (1530-1798) over which it was sovereign.

Now based in Rome, the lay religious order’s contemporary work is done among the elderly, those with disabilities, refugees, children, the homeless and those with a terminal illness.

The origins of PAS are more recent but no less steeped in care. PAS was established in 1989 to address the personal and spiritual needs of people with intellectual disabilities (the ‘friends of PAS’) and help them live full lives in their local communities.

The organisation has groups in parishes throughout Perth, typically consisting of six people with intellectual disabilities, individually paired up with their own volunteer advocate. The groups are usually overseen by two group leaders.

Over lunch, the Order of Malta visitors heard of the difficulties parents and their adult offspring experienced in their early days of attending church; the yearning of parents for their intellectually disabled children to be included in Sunday Mass.

The visitors witnessed how people with intellectual disabilities could be fully immersed in the Mass with a few simple adaptations to the liturgy.

Fr Michael Moore was the Mass celebrant. For more information about Personal Advocacy Services, contact 9275 5388 or