Ancient order takes a novel approach to serving those in need

By Catherine Sheehan

Tasmanian members of the ancient Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem have undertaken a novel initiative, working with Vinnies to bring the pleasure of reading to those in need.

The Order recently began providing a ‘Novel Crate Library’ for both Loui’s Vans run by the St Vincent de Paul Society, which serve Tasmania’s south. Each van is equipped with a box of 30 novels, available when food is being distributed.

Clients of Loui’s Vans are free to simply borrow a book or keep it, and the Order replenishes the supply of books as required.

Member of the Order and Sandy Bay parishioner, Dallas Williams, said the libraries offered some leisure to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to read.

“Being able to provide a novel or two provides a very easy leisure activity for someone, it’s free and it could be ongoing,” Mr Williams said.

“It encourages people to connect with the van to receive the books. It encourages people to read themselves, to give themselves more confidence in that aspect.”

Loui’s Van Support Officer, Ashley Holbrook, said the books had been readily welcomed.

“The books are a huge success and will be extended to include children’s books in the Bridgewater area,” he said.

Around 400 novels have been donated to the Order by individuals and organisations.

Mr Williams said the Order of St Lazarus was able to make valuable contributions to the community through its capacity to raise funds and facilitate initiatives to support people.

“It does it in a quiet service manner, which means that it can go into support areas without the worry of impacting negatively on someone’s dignity,” he said.

“It can go with a Christian notion of service, and it can go knowing that it has the capacity within its membership to tap into a whole range of various professional, social, community organizations within societies.”

The Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem was established in 1098, as a Catholic military order founded by crusaders in Jerusalem to care for those suffering from leprosy.

Today, the Order has 7000 members—both men and women—in 39 jurisdictions around the world, including about 30 members in Tasmania.

The Order is non-denominational, with members committed to the Christian spirit of service, seeking to assist those suffering from mental and physical health difficulties, and those lacking the means to live with dignity.

The Tasmanian Commandery focusses on raising funds for palliative care at Calvary Hospital and Royal Hobart Hospital.

Membership of the Order is by invitation only, however, expressions of interest are welcomed.

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