If volunteering is all about sowing seeds of kindness, then gardening volunteers Elisabeth and Neil Macpherson have cultivated entire crops of compassion and care over the nearly 30 years they have been involved with John Paul Care.
Also volunteering for the church laundry and emergency meals, the Macphersons became involved because they wanted to set an example of community involvement for their six children and for others.
“We are cradle Catholics, and Scout leaders, and encouraged by both organisations to help other people, so we do.”
“When Pope Francis highlights the importance of volunteering, he shows that little acts of kindness can go a long way.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Catholic Outreach Director, Marietta Russo.
“What might appear to be a small act of kindness can be really significant to the person in need.”
Established in 1990, Catholic Outreach is a social service agency of the Archdiocese of Perth which sets up and supports Parish Pastoral Care Programs like John Paul Care, which assist people in the community in need of short-term emergency help.
“For the past 31 years, volunteers have been the lifeblood of the Parish Pastoral Care Programs. They generously share their time and talents,” Marietta added.
John Paul Care has been a part of Willetton Parish since the early 1990s.
“The aim of John Paul Care is to imitate Jesus Christ, to serve one another,” observes Coordinator, Rosa Pasquale.
“We are fortunate to have so many volunteers at my Parish. It’s a beautiful and humble service that we offer to those in need.
“Our parishioners know that no matter what happens to them, no matter what they’re going through, they can take comfort in knowing that there’s someone in our Parish who cares and will be there for them,” Ms Pasquale added.
Although John Paul Care is focussed on offering short-term local relief, sometimes volunteers form a real connection with a care recipient.
“We broke the rules when confronted with a gardening request for someone in much need in 2000 and continued with that and other assistance for them for 20 years until 2020 when the person passed away.
“There is plenty of assistance for elderly people and young people, but little for seriously ill 30-year-olds, as in this case.”
The Macphersons point out that the benefits of volunteering for John Paul Care are not only for the Care Recipients.
They find great satisfaction in being useful and helping someone who cannot necessarily reciprocate.
“We have provided emergency meals, and recently received feedback years later about how much that small gesture helped at the time from one of our children’s classmates who received it,” Elisabeth and Neil explained.
“Volunteering keeps us grounded and appreciative, there’s always someone worse off who needs assistance.”
The Macphersons acknowledged they recognise that a Parish Pastoral Care Program “builds healthy communities which is good for all of us”.
“It is more than just carrying out a task, it’s also about social interaction. The cup of tea is often the most important part of the task!” they said.