Catholic Care provides listening ear for those in need in local community
As we continue to adapt to the challenges of this third year of the COVID pandemic, we are reminded of the importance to assist and support one another, even in the smallest of ways.
During the various lockdowns, we have come to understand a little of what it is like to feel isolated – from family, friends, co-workers and members of our faith communities.
There are many people within our own Diocese who do not have family, friends or a support network to turn to for connection and comfort.
Fortunately, staff in our Catholic Care Western Sydney and Blue Mountains Community Drop-In Centres are working hard to reach people in need and reduce social isolation and loneliness in our community.
For the past eight years, Catholic Care’s Springwood Drop-In Centre has been assisting locals like Peter and Robyn Lewis, who first turned to Catholic Care in desperate need of support and community.
“In 2013, I was very unwell,” Peter explained. “I continued to work, even though I was ill. But when the bushfires came to the Blue Mountains, everything we owned was destroyed, and it escalated the serious problems I had with my health.”
“Twelve months later, I was lucky enough to receive a double lung transplant, but by the time I came out of hospital, we were effectively homeless while our house was being rebuilt.”
In 2014, Peter and Robyn had to move out of their neighbourhood during the rebuilding process and moved closer to the hospital for his recovery. They had lost their neighbours and the stability of their town, as well as their beloved family home.
During this time, Peter started to become anxious and was not coping well mentally and realised that he needed help.
That’s when he came across the Springwood Drop-In Centre, which Catholic Care established to support the multitude of people and families impacted by the bushfires. It was here that Peter started talking with a counsellor.
“I was seeing Michelle, and she helped tremendously. She gave me tools to use when I get stressed and experience anxiety. I apply them as best I can, and they help me a lot.”
When the Blue Mountains and other parts of the state were ravaged by bushfires during the 2019-2020 summer, watching the fire-front approach caused numerous flashbacks for Peter. Thanks to the support of our Catholic Care counsellors, he was once again able to manage his anxiety attacks and reduce his stress levels.
“I’m very appreciative of what Catholic Care has done for me. They helped me cope better with my life and I can always go in or call there to talk to somebody if I need to.
“They listen, that’s the main thing, because it’s hard to relate with other people, even within your own family, when they really don’t know what you’re going through.”
Throughout the pandemic, Peter has still been able to talk with Michelle whenever he’s needed help.
“I had to talk with her over the phone because we couldn’t go in there [the centre]. I really did miss the face-to-face support. It just means so much. But a phone call, well, it’s still helpful. And when I’m away travelling, I can keep in touch,” Peter said.
Robyn added, “he would go down into the backyard and sit in his favourite spot and still have his session, which was good for him.”
While many social services have moved online since the pandemic, Catholic Care is expanding their drop-in centre activities, giving people more opportunities to safely gather for vital social interaction.
“Our Community Drop-In Centres are a lifeline for a lot of people, particularly those who are lonely and isolated or find it hard to connect with other people,” Catholic Care Manager, Community Engagement, Celia Vagg explained.
“They’re safe places where people can come to and connect with us and our volunteers, over time, at their own pace. Our overarching organisational value is ‘we embrace every journey with gratitude and love’.
“Every person comes with a different background, a different story and a different reason why they struggle or have challenges.
“And we can make the time to be there for them. We’re privileged to be able to do that, and it’s only through generous community donations and volunteer support that this is possible.”
God calls us all to show unconditional love to our neighbours with acts of Christian compassion, just as the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable stopped to help a man who had been robbed, beaten and then ignored by other passers-by who refused to help.
It was while reflecting on the story of the Good Samaritan that Pope Francis remarked that its purpose is to be teach us that “compassion is the benchmark of Christianity”.
With the suicide rate for the Blue Mountains region reaching 1.3 times the NSW average, Catholic Care needs to put more staff on to support mental health and wellbeing initiatives.
“When Catholic Care started in Springwood, we said to the community, ‘we’re new to the Blue Mountains, but we’re not going anywhere’,” Celia said.
“I think that made a huge difference to people and their attitudes towards us.
“We are still here and we’ll keep supporting and doing what we can for the community, regardless of what happens.”
With your support of Parramatta Catholic Foundation’s Bishop’s Good Samaritan Appeal, you can help Catholic Care to continue the vital support given to people like Peter and Robyn, whenever they need it, across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
Peter said, “when I needed someone to talk to when I was suffering, Catholic Care were there for me.
“They always show compassion, and that’s exactly what I needed.”
With your compassionate help, we can provide welcoming places for everyone in our community to come for support, information, acceptance, or simply to connect with others.
To donate to the Bishop’s Good Samaritan Appeal, please call (02) 8838 3482 or visit yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/appeal-neighbours
If you’d like to volunteer and help Catholic Care support lonely and isolated seniors, please call Celia Vagg – Manager, Community Engagement on (02) 8843 2500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org