Boastful Volunteering

21 Dec 2020

By Eric Leslie Martin

By Eric Martin

Volunteers from Catholic Outreach in action. Photo: Archdiocese of Perth.

Nearly every strategy of the Archdiocesan Plan 2016-2021 calls for greater engagement and interaction with parishes, empowering the Church to achieve its objectives at the grassroots level in cooperation with parish representatives and local priests – it is the backbone of Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB’s vision for ‘returning the Church to Christ and returning Christ to the Church.’

And in 2020, despite the impact of COVID-19 (with its virtual shut-down of all Church activity throughout the middle of the year) Catholic Social Services Western Australia (CSSWA) has forged ahead with the Catholic Volunteer Hub, an initiative that looks set to dramatically increase the potential for ordinary Catholics to get involved with performing the Good Works of the Church.

“As Catholics, the Sacraments can sometimes take precedence in our thinking, over and above the call to be ‘a good and faithful servant’ by ‘loving one another as I have loved you,’ yet it’s just as important that we help to win others for Christ through our acts of Christian charity and service – for their sake even more than ours,” shared Steve McDermott, Director of CSSWA.

“The whole Body of Christ, not just the head, must be empowered to fulfill the mission of the Gospel if we are to realise genuine growth within the Church.”

For example, at The Shopfront, Director Damien Walsh is the only full-time staff member, assisted by one part-time employee, with a huge and invaluable contribution made by some 26 volunteers working 2.5 hours on average.

Similarly, Daydawn Director Mark Reidy shared that “volunteers are at the heart of our mission at Daydawn.”

“We currently have one full-time staff member, three part-time people and a current team of 14 volunteers – we would not be running without our dedicated team of Volunteers!” Mr Reidy said.

The Catholic Volunteer Hub creates an opportunity for adults who are seeking to volunteer in a parish setting or for an agency, inviting everyone to participate in performing the Good Works of the Church and realise the objectives outlined in the Archdiocesan Plan 2016 – 2021.

Each section of the Plan requires the development and deployment of effectively trained and motivated volunteers, both to accomplish the work required and to support the structure of the Church and her parishes through the effective management of lay talent and succession planning.

All of the following elements of the Archdiocesan Strategic Plan call for the effective leveraging of ‘lay talent’, both directly and indirectly, to successfully achieve these goals:

  • Section 2.2.2 ‘Effective Communications’ calls for offices to establish protocols for internal and external communications, specifically through training Parish Staff and volunteers on database, website and ecommerce protocols as well as the production of parish ‘Bulletin Bits’.
  • Section 2.2.3 ‘Support for Clergy’ advocates the strengthening and improvement of administrative support for priests through seminars and workshops for key personnel, as well as establishing structures for cooperation between parishes for administration and accounting requirements.
  • Section 2.2.4 ‘Strengthening and Revitalising Parishes’ calls for the formation, development and implementation of Parish Pastoral Action Plans, as well as greater levels of cooperation on initiatives between schools and parishes.
  • Section 2.2.5 ‘Adult Faith Formation’ asks for the provision of structures for parish collaboration in Adult Faith Formation and Parish Renewal Initiatives at a zone or regional level and the appointment of Parish representatives. Specifically, it calls for an Adult Faith Formation contact person to be appointed in each parish and to build on existing links and relationships between parishes, agencies and the Archdiocese.
  • Section 2.2.6 ‘Outreach to those in Need’ calls for greater use of parish-based hubs to create improved and collaborative services, recognising that diocesan social services are resource-stressed (especially in terms of human resources), thereby restricting their ability to deliver and grow services.
  • Section 2.2.7 ‘Archdiocesan Growth and Development’ demands that effective support structures are in place for parish priests by developing appropriate administrative support – including shared personnel.

And the benefits of volunteering with the Church are not just limited to the organisation, it is the volunteers themselves who stand to benefit greatly from their involvement.

“One aspect of the Volunteering Hub that may surprise is that it is open to persons who would like to volunteer in a Catholic agency or parish whether they are baptised or not – with the permission of the agency or parish, of course,” Mr McDermott said.

“This ‘openness to persons of good will’ is part of what Pope Francis would call the ‘social friendship’ aspect of the Hub,” he explained. 

“After all, wasn’t it “social friendship” that allowed the Good Samaritan of the parable (Luke 10, 25-37) ‘to interrupt his journey, change his plans, and unexpectedly come to the aid of an injured person who needed his help’”.

Though the Catholic Volunteer Hub is still in its developmental phase, those interested in volunteering should contact Catholic Social Services Western Australia for more details.