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In the early 1980s, the Archdiocese of Perth had in place a broad range of agencies providing a cross section of resources for parishes, parishioners and the wider community. However, over a period of years, a number of Parish Priests drew attention to the fact that there was no resource available to help Priests and parishes to provide basic care and welfare assistance at short notice to people needing such help.

Eventually, this resulted in the Archdiocese of Perth’s, Catholic Community Care Commission adapting a parish based care program which had been operating in the Archdiocese of Melbourne for use in Perth. “Catholic Outreach” was established and came into existence in August 1990. Tony McAlinden, who had been principally involved in discerning the need for such an entity, was employed as the inaugural Executive Officer.

In 1993 Catholic Outreach became an agency of the Archdiocese of Perth in its own right. A constitution was prepared and adopted setting out the objectives and broad aim of Catholic Outreach, establishing a Committee of Management, its composition and role, and formalising the role and duties of the Executive Officer. Membership of the Committee was to comprise “parish priests and others closely involved in parishes and parish care programs”. In accordance with the constitution that limits the tenure of members to normally three years but providing for members to be appointed for a second term, there have been a number of changes. As originally intended, this has resulted in the Committee being refreshed with new ideas and initiatives. The motto “Ordinary people helping other ordinary people with ordinary tasks” was adopted. The constitution of Catholic Outreach was reviewed in 2005 and minor changes were made and implemented in 2006. Amongst other things the term “committee of management” was replaced with the term “board”.

Over the ensuing years since its creation, the number of individual Pastoral Care Programs, as they had become known, steadily grew and reached in excess of 35 by 1998. Each parish program adopted a unique name identifying it with the particular parish. The bulk of the funding to run the Catholic Outreach Office was provided by the Archdiocese. However, additional monies were obtained occasionally through holding film screenings at a suburban theatre as fund raising events. These continued for a number of years until support gradually diminished.

One of major initiatives undertaken by Tony McAlinden was the development of a hand book for use by parishes as a resource in assisting them to operate their pastoral care program. The hand book was very comprehensive and amongst other things set out the role of the Parish Priest, Coordinators and Volunteers. The hand book has since been enhanced and is available on the Catholic Outreach website.

Ill health forced Tony McAlinden to retire in December 1998. Early in the following year, Peter Mc Minn was appointed to continue the excellent work of Catholic Outreach.

The number of new care programs in existence throughout the Archdiocese continued to grow albeit more slowly. Statistics collected for the calendar year 2004 revealed that parish care programs had responded to close to 10,000 calls for help of various types. By this time, the number of Coordinators and Volunteers was significant enabling Catholic Outreach to host regular seminars, conferences and short retreats. These events were held at a number of locations, the most notable being the Maranatha Institute, the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Highgate and the St John of God Retreat Centre at Shoalwater.

In the latter half of 2006, it was noted that a number of parish care programs were experiencing difficulties in attracting both new Coordinators and Volunteers. A small number of programs ceased to exist during 2006/7. In response, the Board embarked on a review which identified a lack of succession planning and changing life styles (work pressures/people being more “time poor”) as the two major things impacting on care programs.

As a consequence, the principal focus of the Coordinators Conference held in April 2008 was recruiting volunteers and retaining/recognising volunteers. Dr Judy Esmond, a leading expert in gaining, sustaining and retaining volunteers was the key note speaker.

In early 2006, the Board members met to put in place a strategic plan for Catholic Outreach looking 5 years ahead. One of the goals was to set up a website for the agency. This matter was progressed in the second half of 2007 when a submission was made to Lotterywest seeking a grant of $21,277 to cover the design/creation and hosting of the website as well as the purchase of a laptop computer and data projector. The latter equipment was sought to obviate the need to borrow such items for use in meetings etc hosted by Catholic Outreach. The application to Lotterywest was successful.

Following a review by the Board in 2008 of the history and development of the Catholic Outreach letterhead, logo, motto and value statement a new motto “Care Concern Service” was adopted.

With the continuing increase in interest from Parishes wanting to offer bereavement support Coordinators seminars titled ‘Bereavement Support Group Workshop’ (2005 I Delight in You Retreat) and ‘Ambiguous Loss and Grief’ (2009 workshop) were organised. In 2010 a short education course (consisting of a series of three workshops) titled ‘Walking with the Bereaved’ was presented in conjunction with the Maranatha Institute of Adult Faith Education.

In 2011 an inaugural Mandate was received from Archbishop Barry James Hickey which clearly expressed the Mission and Purpose of Catholic Outreach. Later in the year a revised Constitution was executed by Archbishop Hickey which amongst other things replaced the term ‘Board’ with ‘Committee of Management’ and ‘Executive Officer’ with ‘Director’.

The Catholic Outreach website continues to be an important source of visits by a cross section of people and the Coordinators ‘secure’ section is very effective in the communication of information and a resource for parish care programs.

Initiatives to develop, implement and support parish care programs continued throughout the year including a letter sent to all parish priests offering the services of Catholic Outreach and inviting them to participate in a short survey. Two new programs were launched at the Claremont and Mount Lawley parishes.

A Coordinators Conference entitled “Live in the present moment” and a Coordinators Spring Gathering “Do you know someone who has dementia?” were held during the year.

During 2012 a number of Coordinators Gatherings were held including a Mental Health Training Day, presentations on ‘Healthy Meals’ and ‘Speak Out About Diabetes’, and ‘Encountering Jesus in the Gospels’.

Three new Care Programs in the Nedlands, Kalamunda and Margaret River parishes commenced operations during the year.

During a Strategic Planning Review in February 2013 undertaken by the Committee of Management it was agreed to offer parishes assistance on a more ‘hands on’ basis in the promotion, establishment and maintenance of their Care Programs to help Coordinators and Volunteers feel that they are supported in their roles and are part of the wider Catholic Outreach community.

This resulted in a number of initiatives including rebranding Catholic Outreach to include a positioning statement ‘helping you help others’ in its Care Concern Service motto, the development of website templates for parish use, the production of various forms for individual parishes and an update of the Catholic Outreach website to include templates, additional referral information for Coordinators and the inclusion of anti-spam software.

Coordinators Gatherings featuring presentations on the Fiona Stanley Hospital Project and the ‘Year of Faith’ were held during the year.

Production of a DVD, which can be used by parishes for the promotion of Pastoral Care Programs and the recruitment of Volunteers, was initiated for a 2014 launch.

The year 2014 saw the successful completion of a two year project to incorporate into our website a DVD which was produced for us by the Archdiocese of Perth Communications & Media Office. This very exciting initiative serves as a very useful tool for parishes for the promotion of Pastoral Care Programs and the recruitment of Coordinators and Volunteers. An inaugural Marketing Plan has also been developed and will be a focus for our activities in 2015.

Coordinators Lenten Retreat – To be the Face of Christ to all we meet in the world and Regional Morning Tea – Are you thinking of Downsizing? presented by Senior Housing Centre were held during the year.

An update of training material for Coordinators and Volunteers ‘Personal & Professional Boundaries’ DVD produced by Catholic Community Services NSW/ACT was incorporated.

At the beginning of 2015 the Committee of Management was pleased to accept an invitation to join the LifeLink organisation which was established by the Archdiocese of Perth in 1994 to provide for the ongoing financial and promotional support of agencies established or assisted by the Church. The association with LifeLink has significantly raised the profile of Catholic Outreach in parishes and the community and the work it undertakes.

LifeLinks (official newsletter of LifeLink issue No. 20) was dedicated to the work undertaken by Catholic Outreach and Parish pastoral care programs.

In July and November articles, Catholic Outreach Programs a Win-Win Situation for Volunteer and Receiver and Catholic Outreach set to expand pastoral care programs appeared in the eRecord.

A short DVD explaining the role of Parish Pastoral Care Coordinators was completed during the year. This DVD complements the overview DVD, How Care Programs Operate, produced by the Archdiocese of Perth Communications & Media Office in 2014.

Coordinators Gathering based on Pope Francis’ the Spirituality of Laudato Si on Care for Our Common Home – Affirming, Experiencing and Celebrating was held during the year.

During 2016 an increase in the level of interest in the work of pastoral care programs due to the ‘Year of Mercy’ and ongoing promotion through our association with LifeLink was experienced.

A new website, launched in November, has been themed for easy access by parishes, coordinators and volunteers as well as incorporating interesting and contemporary news stories about the work of care programs. A facility has also been setup to provide e-newsletters through the Archdiocese of Perth Communications Office.

Regional Coordinators Morning Tea was held with guest speaker from Cancer Council of WA .

Several articles appeared in the eRecord including June – LifeLink Winter Appeal, Catholic Outreach continues to offer a helping hand and a friendly chat, August – Loyal Willetton parishioner Ted O’Callaghan turns 100 and December – New website set to boost connectivity for Catholic Outreach.