Noah inspires parish to fly high

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Dominic and Jessica Herring with their son Noah, aged two, and daughter Rita, aged four, hope a parish food van named in his honour will help raise awareness of his condition. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Dominic and Jessica Herring with their son Noah, aged two, and daughter Rita, aged four, hope a parish food van named in his honour will help raise awareness of his condition. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Little Noah Herring has done more in just 14 months than some people do in a lifetime.

Despite not being able to talk, see or walk, the courageous little boy has not only united his large family but also brought his Sydney parish and the St Charles Ryde school community together in faith, prayer and love.

Completely unaware of the impact he’s had, the toddler with an infectious smile and impossibly long eyelashes, has helped evangelise Ryde-Gladesville’s St Charles Borromeo parish in a way many priests might pray for.

Born with an incredibly rare terminal disease with a life expectancy of just two years, his parents say Catholics and non-Catholics alike have come together to support them through prayers, donations and fundraising.

“When we first had Noah, so many people who weren’t part of the church came to the church, it was such a life changing experience for us,” mum Jessica said.

“At the end of the day it’s not just a food truck, there’s a reason and meaning behind it.”

“We were able to see how Noah impacted our community, there was so much love for our son before they even knew him … it was just amazing and we are so grateful for it. He’s only been with us for 14 months, but he has already taught us in that short time to appreciate what you have and that’s what we do every day.”

Believed to be the only person in Australia with Gangliosidosis – a condition that progressively destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord – Jessica, the former assistant principal at St Charles Primary School, Ryde, and husband Dominic, a handyman, said seeing people from all walks of life come together and live out the true meaning of Christianity was a real blessing.

She said Noah had taught so many people including big sister Rita, aged four, that friends, family and faith are all you need when faced with life’s challenges.

And they hope he will continue to bring the community together for many years to come with the opening of Noah’s Ark café, a food truck in the parish grounds named in his honour.

Aimed at providing a place where people can gather, Dominic said the van was as much about leaving a legacy for Noah as thanking the community for all of their incredible support. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Aimed at providing a place where people can gather, Dominic said the van was as much about leaving a legacy for Noah as thanking the community for all of their incredible support. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Aimed at providing a place where people can gather, Dominic said the van was as much about leaving a legacy for Noah as thanking the community for all of their incredible support.

“From the time Noah was born we have been surrounded by so much love, people have made donations, held fundraisers and have continued to support us by going above and beyond to help us get this van up and running he said.

“At the end of the day it’s not just a food truck, there’s a reason and meaning behind it.

“One day I came out of Mass and felt so at peace I just wanted to sit, enjoy a coffee and think about life but there was nowhere near the Church to do it. So I thought why not open one?

“We wanted to have something to remember our son by and raise awareness for his condition as well as to say thank you to the community for all their help.

“It really has been so humbling to see Catholics from our parish and non-Catholics come together as one at the Church to support us.

“Our son will live on through Noah’s Ark café, and because we are on church grounds what can go wrong?”

“Through it all we hope to show people that even through your lowest times God is still present and that you can’t give up. Our faith has remained strong and in our darkest times we have found comfort in God’s love and grace.

“There has been lots of sadness and there is more to come, but when that day does come we know Noah will be in a better place at God’s right hand. We live every day as if it may be his last and enjoy Noah for who he is.

“Our son will live on through Noah’s Ark café, and because we are on church grounds what can go wrong?”

Noah was born with the ultra-rare condition gangliosidosis, or simply GM1 Type 1, it presents in infancy and is characterised by poor muscle tone, an enlarged liver and spleen, seizures, developmental regression and loss of vision and hearing with no available treatment.

Parish priest of Ryde-Gladesville Parish Fr Greg Morgan with the Herring family. Their son’s terminal condition has united the parish in faith and service while a food van on the grounds of the St Charles Borromeo church is the family’s way to give back to the community. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Parish priest of Ryde-Gladesville Parish Fr Greg Morgan with the Herring family. Their son’s terminal condition has united the parish in faith and service while a food van on the grounds of the St Charles Borromeo church is the family’s way to give back to the community. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

The last reported case in Australia occurred more than 10 years ago, so very little is known about the condition apart from its bleak prognosis.

Noah undergoes regular therapies including physio, occupational, speech, music and hydrotherapy.

He is a regular at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead visiting his paediatrician, metabolic doctors, heart specialists, sleep specialists and the Palliative Care team.

He has had countless hospital visits over the last 14 months, including a prolonged stay after he caught COVID, however through it all his parents say he carries on without complaint.

“His smile and random laughs bring joy to all, and everyone who meets him is touched by his beauty, his placid disposition and his very long eyelashes!”

“No matter what machine is placed on him or what test is conducted, he truly has good spirits and never complains,” Jessica said.

“His smile and random laughs bring joy to all, and everyone who meets him is touched by his beauty, his placid disposition and his very long eyelashes!

“Noah has meant the world to us. He has made our beautiful family complete.

He has taught us to take each day as it comes and we continue to create lifelong memories for our children to cherish and enjoy.”

Noah’s Ark Café is awaiting final council approval and hopes to be open by the end of February.