Joel Webber is a 23 year old boxer, gym instructor, life saver and sports massage therapist resident in Adelaide, South Australia. On November 22, 2016, Joel left Australia for a two and a half month mission experience with the Columbans in Santiago, Chile. Joel brought the mission of Adelaide’s ’12 Stars Boxing Club’ to the Columban parish of San Matias, located in an impoverished area of Santiago. He would show a different face of the Church. His boxing coach is Deacon Anthony Hill, of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
Below is an account of his 10 weeks as reported in The Far East Magazine published by the Missionary Society of St Columban.
Joel Webber trains at the 12 Stars Boxing Club – (a John Paul 2 Foundation 4 Sport sports club) in Adelaide, Australia. He has had two fights for the club and remains undefeated. As a young practicing Catholic, Joel frequently asked Coach Deacon Anthony about doing some form of mission work overseas in areas of great need. He felt the call to bring the mission of the ’12 Stars Boxing Club’ to an overseas setting.
Deacon Anthony got in touch with the Columbans who then arranged for Joel to have a short term mission experience in the Columban parish of San Matias in Santiago, Chile. For several months leading up to his mission trip, Joel studied the Spanish language and participated in workshops on Columban mission in Chile.
Joel arrived in Santiago just before the St Columban’s Day celebrations on November 23, 2016. He says that the following months he spent in the parish of San Matias were among the best experiences of his whole life. It was life transforming.
Joel boarded with a family in the area of the Holy Family Chapel, which became his home chapel in San Matias parish. He says that Sunday Masses in Chile seem a lot more vibrant and alive than in Australia, having a strong sense of community and participation.
During the summer school holidays in January Joel participated in the parish Summer Camp programme for children each morning along with Columbans, parents and teachers. This involved participating in sessions of prayer and faith formation, character building, games, paintings, handicrafts and personal development. He accompanied the children on excursions to places such as the Zoo.
Each afternoon Joel ran two boxing classes for children and adolescents at the Holy Family Chapel. A lot of preparation went into preparing them. They were held in one of the chapel’s meeting rooms. The first class ran from 5:00pm to 6:00pm and the second class from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Fifteen young people between the ages of nine and 17 participated.
True to Joel’s formation at Adelaide’s ‘12 Stars Boxing Club’, he took a special interest in his students, helping them to grow not only in fitness but mentoring them at the same time in self discipline, respect for others, community service and in faith in God. According to Columban Fr Michael Hoban, the parents of the young boxers and the Holy Family Chapel community in general were very impressed by Joel’s dedication, faith, professionalism and hard work. He was able to show them a different face of the Church.