Home' Aurora : Aurora September 2013 Contents 16
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
BY NATALEE MULTARI
We are seated around an old wooden
table on the back deck of the Fleming
residence in Hamilton South. To my right,
Harry Fleming, a friendly, welcoming
Grandad with an active and long-standing
commitment to his parish. To my left,
Frenchman Cyrille Percie du Sert, a shy yet
ambitious 18 year-old Engineering student
who is visiting Harry.
The link between this unlikely pair,
separated by geography, language and
years, began five years ago, through grace,
rather than chance.
During 'Days in the Diocese' in 2008,
Harry and his late wife, Margaret, made a
last-minute decision to host pilgrims who
were visiting Newcastle before heading to
Sydney's World Youth Day (WYD).
The Flemings were assigned two 18
year-old French girls who had just finished
school and were close friends, Anne-Céline
Trambouze and Cécile Persie du Sert.
Cécile is Cyrille's older sister.
Harry lovingly says of Margaret, "She was
well known in the community as a friendly
person who worked tirelessly to help others
in need." Not surprisingly, Anne-Celine
and Cecile became more than visitors at
the Fleming household, they became like
daughters to Margaret.
Anne-Celine from Commelle Vernay on the
Loire and Cécile Persie du Sert from Epinal
on the Moselle River, felt at home with their
host parents and often opted to stay in
for Margaret's home-cooked meals rather
than joining the rest of the pilgrims for a
During their stay, the girls met the
extended Fleming family, including Harry
and Margaret's five children and thirteen
grandchildren. "The girls just became part
of our family," remembers Harry.
Despite their visit lasting just over a week,
the girls stayed in touch with the Flemings,
sending postcards from their travels
through the years. Harry has kept copies
of the girls' emails which kept him updated
on their studies and adventures around the
globe. The girls would write in French and
the Flemings would reply in English. This
way, both parties were able to help each
other improve their language skills.
Fast forward one year: Harry and Margaret
had been on holiday in New Zealand when
Margaret passed away suddenly. The
five Fleming offspring immediately flew to
New Zealand to be with Harry and they
all attended Sunday Mass at St Mary's
Basilica, Invercargill. Margaret had been
taken to Invercargill after her death on the
Milford Sound road. That Sunday afternoon,
Margaret's funeral service took place in
the Basilica. What the Fleming family will
never forget is the number of parishioners,
including the organist, who returned for
the service and brought refreshments
in a show of support and sympathy for
The heartbreaking news eventually reached
France, and both French families wrote
touching letters to Harry. Anne-Céline's
mother, Nicole, said that she cried as if it
was one of her own family. Sadly, Nicole
herself died suddenly around Christmas
The loss of a loved one is never easy, but
Harry nevertheless continues to appreciate
what he calls "the kindness of strangers"
who have crossed paths with him on his
journey, especially over the past five years.
Today, we are looking at photographs
from 2008 of Margaret, Anne-Céline and
Cécile, and Cyrille points out that the dining
room hasn't changed at all. We laugh, but
we can't help but remember, one special
person is missing from the home.
Since Cyrille's arrival in August, Harry has
openheartedly extended the hospitality
that he and Margaret offered to Anne-
Céline and Cecile in 2008, welcoming
Cecile's younger brother into his home for
Cyrille has left behind Europe's summer,
choosing instead to spend his summer
vacation embracing the winter chills of
Newcastle. Although his intentions were to
improve his English, he has embraced the
Novocastrian lifestyle as well. Harry says
Cyrille has "been surfing and bike riding
around Merewether, and caught the train
to Sydney and the Blue Mountains to visit
some of Australia's most popular sites".
"I have found the people that I have met in
Newcastle to be really helpful and friendly.
I have enjoyed especially the good times
shared with Harry's children, grandchildren
and their friends," said Cyrille. Harry's family
has particularly savoured Cyrille's cooking,
and daughter, Annemarie, is sure that the
family links will be maintained when Cyrille
With the celebrations of WYD Rio deemed
a success, this remarkable relationship
between families arising from WYD2008 is
a witness to the graces involved in such an
extraordinary event -- not just for younger
Catholics, but the young at heart as well.
Cyrille and Harry at Merewether Ocean Baths. Photo courtesy of Priscilla Scanlon.
SEASONS OF GRACE
Natalee Multari reports on an encounter with two gentlemen forever linked through
Sydney's World Youth Day 2008.
St Joseph's Aberdeen students Henry Barnett, Mady Cox and Tiffany Lawton with teacher
Rachael Lambert (right), visual arts teacher Zoe Betts and artist-in-residence Richard Campbell
(centre) of the Dunghutti community, Kempsey, alongside the completed artwork that will take
pride of place in the entrance way to the school. Photo courtesy of The Scone Advocate.
(l-r) Helen Belcher, Kate Bartlett, Patricia
Banister, Louise Roach and Melissa Fenech
attended "Wisdom at the Gate", a colloquium
of the Council for Australian Catholic Women
held at Mary MacKillop Place.
(l-r) Kyle Pengilly, Mitchell Bird and Finn
Rayment of St Joseph's Campus Lochinvar
participated in a Forensic Science Day at St
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