Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, asks us to live more fully, more creatively and more at the periphery. By this, he means reaching out to those on the margins such as asylum seekers, the homeless, Indigenous people, LGBTQI+ people or victims of injustice.
CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains (WSBM) has taken up Bishop Vincent’s challenge. They have launched a new plan for looking at how, over the next three years, they can take the organisation beyond its comfort zone, take some risks and venture into the deep to care and walk beside those people who need help on life’s journey.
CatholicCare aims to connect people and families with their communities in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, so they can live with joy and purpose.
“Purpose gives us hope, reason and drives our desire for wellbeing,” says Peter Loughnane, Executive Director of CatholicCare WSBM.
“Many of our clients come to us with nowhere to sleep at night and no means of putting food on the table,” he says. Once those needs have been dealt with, he says, the aim is to put the words of Pope Francis into practice. Pope Francis, says Peter, “sees the world as a field hospital, a place that heals their wounds first, and then accompanies them on a journey towards a dignified life.”
CatholicCare WSBM plans to integrate into the community so people in need know about their services. The agency then aims to become a partner with the client, and journey beside them as they decide on their goals and work towards achieving them.
“Purpose and joy put people on the path to helping themselves,” says Peter. “We’ll fill the gaps in the current mix of community services and walk beside people to achieve their goals.”
Services operate across the whole of the Diocese of Parramatta.
“We plan to work with other services, engage with communities including parishes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and refugee communities. In particular, we will increase our services in the area of aged care and disability services,” says Peter.
How will the agency know they have succeeded?
“For every goal we have set, we have also planned how we will measure it,” says Peter. “We’ve got many objectives such as helping more marginalised and diverse people and increasing the number of community-led projects we initiate.”
Peter also emphasises not just what they will do, but how they will do it.
“We embrace every journey with gratitude and love.
“This value is fundamental to our work and the way we work together: with an open mind and heart; with integrity and respect; with patience and passion and with resilience and belief.”
Carer’s help transform mum’s life
Domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, mental trauma, homelessness, stealing to support a habit, police, court appearances … Katie’s* life had spiralled way out of control.
Somehow, she found the strength to reach out for help, and CatholicCare’s Aboriginal Catholic Services in Western Sydney, she says, has been there for her every day since.
“I had to change my life around,” she said. “I feel so comfortable speaking with the counsellor. She gave me amazing words, and reminded me of the values of my grandparents, of what I want in my life and how I can raise my kids. I might have a good cry, and she is always there to sit and listen.
“Without that support, and knowing my needs, I probably would have tripped along the way to where I am now.”
Katie is now studying at TAFE and says she’s “getting back to being a mum, a normal mum.”
“They have never left me,” she said of CatholicCare. “They have stuck through it all with me. They have done an amazing job.”
*Not her real name.
This article was originally featured in the Lent and Easter/Autumn 2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.