Parramatta hosts Clergy Healthcare conference

By Mark Buhagiar, 9 April 2019
Attendees at the Clergy Healthcare Network Conference 2019 in Parramatta. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.


The Diocese of Parramatta’s Clergy Health and Wellbeing team hosted the Australia and New Zealand Clergy Healthcare Coordinators conference in Parramatta from 13 to 15 March.

Bishop Vincent welcomed 30 delegates to the conference, which provided professional development for clergy healthcare coordinators, as well as a forum to discuss the issues and challenges facing them in their respective roles.

“Attendees confirmed that it was once again a timely and rewarding opportunity to gather together, ask questions and share experiences,” said Dr Mark Buhagiar, Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing, Diocese of Parramatta, who facilitated the conference. “It was also an essential networking opportunity for the majority of coordinators who work in isolation within their own diocese.”

Speakers included Dr Mark Buhagiar, Dr Megan Brock RSJ, Sister of St Joseph and registered psychologist, Fr Chris de Souza, Vicar General and Episcopal Vicar for Education and Formation, Diocese of Parramatta, Fr Wim Hoekstra, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, Diocese of Parramatta, Geoff Officer, Chief of Operations & Finance, Diocese of Parramatta, Mercy Splitt, Hoarding and Squalor Manager, Catholic Healthcare, and Fr Michael O’Callaghan, retired priest, Diocese of Parramatta.

Bishop Vincent addresses attendees at the Clergy Healthcare Network Conference 2019 in Parramatta. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

Attendees were also treated to a tour of St Patrick’s Cathedral by Fr Peter Williams, Vicar General, Diocese of Parramatta, who regaled them with the history of the grounds and buildings.

Since the diocese was established in 1986, care for the clergy has gradually evolved from what was the ad hoc basis on which it commenced. An arrangement with Catholic Healthcare was initially entered into in the 1990s, which eventually progressed to the direct employment of a healthcare coordinator by the Diocese. In 2006 the Clergy Support Foundation was established, which continues in financially supporting retired priests and deacons of the Diocese.

Following a broad review in 2016 a head of clergy health, Dr Mark Buhagiar, was appointed along with two nurses, Ellen Small and Virginia Jackson, who work closely with Fr Wim Hoekstra in his role as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy.

This team approach has ensured that clergy health and wellbeing is able to be addressed in its entirety; from when men entered the seminary, through their preparation to ordination, their life as priests with its call to ongoing formation, and then to retirement, possible residential care and death.

The health and wellbeing team keenly and capably coordinate 1:1 assistance for clergy in a broad range of areas, which include: medical appointments, hospital admissions and discharge, development of personalised fitness programs, pharmaceutical reviews, cooking classes, transition to retirement support, funeral planning, advocacy, computer skill development (basic, excel, advanced), preparation of legal documents (wills, power of attorney and enduring guardianship), decluttering, access to support services including in-home support, and assistance with holiday planning/arrangements.

There are 19 Parramatta clergy who are currently retired – two bishops, 15 priests and two deacons.

All of whom are grateful for the support the people of the diocese provide to them when they make a donation to the Clergy Support Foundation. All donations of $2 and more are fully tax deductible.

To make a donation, please visit, contact the foundation on 02 9639 0598 or mail your donations to: Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Clergy Support Foundation, PO Box 1501, Baulkham Hills, NSW, 1755


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