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Catholic Outreach programs a win-win for volunteer and receiver


Catholic Outreach Director, Peter Mc Minn and Catholic Outreach Officer, Betty Thompson are pictured outside their office
in the Catholic Pastoral Centre, Highgate. PHOTO: Marco Ceccarelli

By Marco Ceccarelli

As part of the 2015 LifeLink Winter Appeal, the eRecord is this month taking a closer look at the work undertaken by organisations such Identitywa, Centrecare, Catholic Ministry for People who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired, Daydawn, Emmaus Community, Emmanuel Centre, Centacare Employment & Training, Djooraminda, The Shopfront and Catholic Outreach.

LifeLink is the overarching organisation that provides ongoing funding support for agencies that deliver professional services and caring support to thousands of people in need throughout Western Australia each year.

This week, eRecord journalist Marco Ceccarelli spoke with Director of Catholic Outreach, Peter Mc Minn, and Outreach Officer, Betty Thompson, about the implementation and promotion of parish-based pastoral care programs throughout the Archdiocese of Perth.

When, in 1998, he was asked whether he had ever thought of taking on the job as Executive Officer at Catholic Outreach, Peter Mc Minn simply answered: “You must be joking, I am an accountant, not a social worker!”

Seventeen years later, Mr Mc Minn is still at the helm of an agency that runs quality pastoral care programs across 25 parishes in the Archdiocese of Perth.

As a newly designated addition to the LifeLink community, Catholic Outreach has never been in a better position to inform the community about the services it offers and the benefits that come with setting up pastoral care programs in parishes.

Mr Mc Minn’s statements on the importance of volunteer work explain why Catholic Outreach is needed as much in society today as it was 25 years ago.

“Although the demographics and economy have significantly changed in Perth since the program was first set up in the early 1990s, not everyone is affluent and doing well.

“There are a lot of people still in need and we have many of the agencies within the Archdiocese reporting more people needing help.

“People will often want to reach out to those in need within their community. What we offer is a structure in which people can do this. Catholic Outreach allows volunteers to feel secure because they’re part of a well-run agency. If you have a well-structured program, people will want to come back,” Mr Mc Minn said.

Set up in 1990 to assist parishioners in carrying out charitable endeavours, Catholic Outreach Care Programs offer short-term emergency care and are restricted to non-professional tasks such as visiting, transport, emergency meals, home help and more.

With 120 local co-ordinators and hundreds of volunteers in service, each parish running a Catholic Outreach Program benefits from approximately half a dozen co-ordinators who, in turn, assess the jobs required and instruct the volunteers.

Volunteers have the flexibility of offering their services according to their schedules and capabilities, with the option of giving more or less at any time they choose to do so.

“Once parishioners are invited to volunteer to do tasks that they’re comfortable with, they can recommit every one to two years. We recognise that people’s circumstances change, meaning they may be able to do more or less.

“Whatever their circumstances, co-ordinators usually find that volunteers get so much out of what they do that, when a recommitment comes along, they say yes, they want to be more involved,” Mr Mc Minn said.

Catholic Outreach also facilitates interaction with other professional services provided by the Archdiocese and, if needed, will correspond with government or other services to ensure that people receive the appropriate care they need.

The agency’s services are offered to anybody, Catholic or not, who is loosely within the boundaries of a parish with a Care Program.

Among those who seek Catholic Outreach’s help are groups and individuals who, in Ms Thompson’s words, “fall through the cracks” of government programs.

“There are certain segments of society that, occasionally, our social services system does not handle. The elderly are usually well cared for, yet if there is a person who is not 65 and needs to go to hospital regularly for chemotherapy, Catholic Outreach can help.

“Migrants may be another case. If they don’t qualify for many services, all that is left is to go to the local church. There is a gap between what the need is and what is available - we try to fill it,” Ms Thompson said.

Among those who benefit from Catholic Outreach is retired nurse and medical consultant, Kathleen. Since the death of her husband, Kathleen has enjoyed the services of Benedictcare, the pastoral care program in her Applecross parish.

“In the past years, I’ve had several surgeries. Complications from my last surgery in December ended in me having to spend two months in hospital, requiring rehabilitation from my cardiac arrest… with the support I received from Benedictcare, I am able to continue living independently and in my own home, something which means a great deal to me.”

Remarkably, numerous co-ordinators and volunteers are among those whose quality of life is significantly enhanced by their service within Catholic Outreach.

Glen Gomes, of the John Paul Care Program in the Willetton parish, recently expressed what he received from his volunteering.

“As a shift worker, I am available during the day to help drive people where they need to go, which is when they need it most. I have to say that my life has been enriched doing something for others,” Mr Gomes said.

Catholic Outreach’s vision for the future is to see parishes understand what pastoral programs are as well as inform people about the services that Catholic Outreach can offer.

“Once they have that knowledge, people may decide to run things differently, through another program perhaps; that’s fine, as long as they can recognise the importance of having a program that facilitates the charitable work of parishioners,” Mr Mc Minn concluded.

To introduce a Pastoral Care Program in your parish and find out more about Catholic Outreach, visit

Your support for the 2015 LifeLink Winter Appeal means that the work of organisations like Catholic Outreach can continue to work with those most in need.

The aim this year is to raise more than $300,000 – a figure that is greatly needed to help agencies and organisations that assist those in need in a variety of situations – whether it be in the form of practical emergency assistance or long-term support.

To donate to LifeLink, go to