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The Coordinator’s primary role is to take calls for assistance, discern what action to take, (sometimes by visiting the person asking for help) organise a volunteer to do the task and to assess whether any further help should be offered.

Guidelines for Taking Calls

  • Make a note of all requests IMMEDIATELY – don’t rely on memory! If a task is forgotten, it is likely to attract bad publicity.
  • Treat requests for help as business – even if it is your best friend. It is hard for most of us to ask for help so treating requests as business will defuse an uncomfortable situation. Ensure that requests are followed through with some action.
  • Ask your volunteer to contact you when the task is completed as this allows you to assess on-going needs.
  • Keep a record of your phone calls.
  • Confidentiality is essential.
  • Read the guidelines for Coordinators and Volunteers periodically.
  • Help build a high profile for your Parish Pastoral Care Program.
  • Your aim should be to make your commitment as a Pastoral Care Coordinator your top priority.
  • If the Pastoral Care Program is unable to assist a caller, refer the person to one of the Agencies in your referral list or discuss it with the Catholic Outreach Director.
  • If communicating with government departments or other organisations, find out the name of the person taking the call. This information may be of use at a later date, especially when a follow up is required.

Volunteers Lists

The Parish Priest should have a complete list of volunteers, with any special tasks that they have volunteered for.

Emergency and Short Term Services

Although the Pastoral Care Program is usually promoted as providing services for emergency and short term clients, some cases are not “one-offs” and are on-going. There needs to be some flexibility in this regard and each case should be assessed on its merits.

The service is also available to the wider community, depending on the circumstances, and not only to those who are parishioners.

Disability Action and Inclusion

As a Catholic agency, Catholic Outreach believes that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. We believe that we are all part of the body of Christ. This belief should influence our thinking in regards to people living with disabilities and encourage us to support and work towards assisting people living with disabilities in their journey of life.

Coordinators should be mindful that many clients present with disabilities in areas such as mobility, manipulation, vision, hearing, cognition and mental health.  Furthermore, loneliness, isolation, depression and language barriers can be challenges for many clients. Multiple disabilities are not uncommon.

If Coordinators have contact with clients for whom disability access and inclusion is a consideration, the Coordinators might seek advice from the Director, Catholic Outreach, and agencies with expertise in this area, e.g. Disability Services Commission, National Association for Translators and Interpreters, local disability service providers.

Coordinators and volunteers should not attempt specialist intervention. When in doubt the best option is to support the client to access an appropriate, professional provider.

Observance of Various Cultures

A point to be emphasised during visitation – especially in the case of the bereaved – is the cultural background of the people concerned. Different cultures have different grieving processes and funeral customs and these should be respected. People in distress are super sensitive and can be easily hurt or offended, therefore great care and sensitivity is required. If you are unsure how to approach a situation, don’t hesitate to contact the Catholic Outreach Director.

This sensitivity would also apply in the case of visiting the sick, or carrying out any other tasks.

Reimbursement of Expenses

In some cases funds may be provided by the Parish for the reimbursement of expenses incurred by Volunteers and Coordinators, e.g. petrol, telephone calls etc.


Good communication is essential for a vibrant active Pastoral Care Program.

Coordinators should develop a program which will facilitate good communication with parishioners and other groups within the Parish (e.g. Legion of Mary, St Vincent de Paul, Catholic Women’s League, Majellans, Eucharistic Ministers etc.)

A Communication Program to disseminate information could incorporate:-

  • Notices in the Parish Bulletin
  • Newsletters
  • Thank you functions for volunteers (eg. Morning tea, wine & cheese evening)
  • Brochures advertising the Pastoral Care Program

How to Find People Who Need Help

  • The Parish Priest should have a list of those housebound through age, sickness or disability
  • The Parish Priest could notify Coordinators when there is a death in the Parish
  • Regularly meet with Parish Pastoral Workers and Social Workers
  • Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist could be a source of referral as they visit parishioners who are sick or incapacitated
  • The St Vincent de Paul Society know of people in need, e.g. financially distressed, lonely, isolated, who may be in need of the services of the caring group; e.g. Visitation, Handyman, Transport etc.
  • Social Workers and Chaplains of hospitals or homes for the aged would know of people receiving visits or those soon to be discharged who might require transport or emergency home help
  • Community Health Nurses and Community Home Care Workers are frequently aware of people in need and could provide an initial contact
  • Local Doctors and Pharmacists are frequently in a good position to refer people in need
  • Principals and Social Workers of schools in the area would know of newcomers and teachers are often the first to detect problems in a family
  • Migrant Chaplains could be a source of referral if they are made aware of the services provided by the Pastoral Care Program.  If there is a large ethnic group in your area, a person of the same nationality could act as a go between
  • A secure box could be left in the Church in which parishioners could place the names and addresses of people who need visitation or other assistance
  • Leaving the Pastoral Program’s brochure or card with carefully selected people or welfare agencies could result in referrals
  • Word of mouth advertising
  • Welcome pack for new parishioners including brochure
  • Updating the Parish Census or a needs survey is a good way to identify people requiring help in your area

Selecting and Recruiting New Coordinators

The role of the Pastoral Care Coordinator is critical to the ongoing long term success of the Pastoral Care Program.

It is important to plan for the introduction and induction of additional Coordinators each year.

When this process is not carried out Coordinators eventually become stale or at worst burn out and the program ceases to be active.

Ideally new Coordinators will join the Program annually which will allow for some of the longer term Coordinators to retire or take a minor role if they wish.

Pastoral Care Programs should aim to have at least six active Coordinators who meet regularly. The group of Coordinators should be large enough to enable the Pastoral Care Program to operate when some of the Coordinators are on holidays or sick.

A successful Pastoral Care Coordination team will consist of Coordinators who represent all aspects of parish life, (e.g. parish school, significant ethnic communities, retirement or nursing homes etc).

Direct recruiting of potential Coordinators by the Parish Priest or the Coordinators team is often the most successful way to introduce new Coordinators to the program.


Parish insurance includes Personal Accident and Public Liability cover for voluntary workers who are authorised by the Parish Priest to perform duties on behalf of the Parish. It is important therefore for each volunteer in the Care Program to complete an Insurance form. In the event of an incident the Director of Catholic Outreach and the Parish Priest should be informed. The Director will advise you what further information, if any, is required by the insurer.