Centacare celebrates 25 years of service and care

On 26th of September 1988, Bishop Patrick Dougherty blessed and officially launched a ‘one year pilot scheme in the sphere of the Catholic Church’s provision of a counselling service for children, adolescents, and families for the Bathurst part of the Diocese’. This ‘pilot project’ was Centacare.

In his statement he said “how wonderful it would be were the Catholic Church ever to see its way to extending psychological counselling (welfare) services to all the needy families and children of the whole Diocese!” He wondered whether or not ‘this pastoral dream could be a reality”. From its small and tentative beginning in Rankin Street Bathurst, under the strong and determined leadership of Sr Mary Comer, Centacare took shape to become the official welfare arm of the Church in our Diocese.

Centacare began with a budget of $17,000 and a priceless vision. The financial support came from the Catholic Education Office and the Diocese. The vision was, and still is, grounded in the Gospel: Jesus came into this world so that everyone can have life and have it in fullness. Centacare’s vision is for a society in which there is full recognition of the rights and responsibilities of all, a society that values families and human relationships and promotes the dignity,
equality and participation of all its citizens, especially the vulnerable
and the disadvantaged.

Centacare had its share of growing pains and its infancy was tough. The demand for the service was huge and as the solo counsellor, Sister Mary had a busy time managing the fledgling organisation and the clinical work. Centacare received its first Federal Government grant in 1991 - for marriage counselling and then for marriage education, allowing more staff to be employed. Since then, Centacare has prepared over 3,000 couples for marriage and offered relationship and counselling to thousands across the Diocese.

Centacare moved to the Chancery building on the corner of Keppel and George streets in 1992, as the growing organisation was running out of space. In 2002, Centacare opened the Dubbo regional office and inn 2006, the head office in Bathurst moved to the refurbished old St. Mary’s School building on William Street.

In 2006 when Sister Mary was elected Congregational Leader of the Perthville Josephites, Ms Vivienne Llewellyn was appointed Director. She retired towards the end of 2008. Both Mary and Vivienne lived the values and principles which emerge from the Gospel and Catholic social teaching and guided a team of committed professionals; who always knew that what they did wasn’t just another job, but that they were part of a mission. Much is owed to these two great leaders. Vivienne passed away on 12th June 2012, a day after she was official conferred the OAM award. It was a befitting acknowledgement of her immense contribution to the community and welfare sector spanning over more than three decades in many roles.

Now, with over ten offices and many outreach services across the Diocese, the ‘pastoral dream’ is more of a reality. In the 2012-13 financial year alone, 2,152 people across our Diocese received counselling and relationship education from Centacare. In addition to this, hundreds of Aboriginal people have been assisted through the Indigenous-specific programme in Bathurst, Orange, Wellington, Gilgandra, and Coonabarabran.

Over the years, the Advisory Board has played a key role in the governance of Centacare. The organisation is indebted to the Board members who so generously give their time and take an active role in guiding Centacare. Past members include Paul Crennan (Chair), Father Paul Devitt, Andrew Crowley, Patrick Cooper, Rhonda Gleeson and Hugh O’Reilly (ex officio member as Diocesan Finance Administrator). The current members  are Paul Favero (Chair), Fathers Mark McGuigan and Joe Dooley, Linda Densmore, Anthony Tonna, Alan Paul, Kath Skinner, Mary McCarthy. Patrick Cooper re-joined the Board recently, following his appointment as DFA.

Centacare’s relationship and collaboration with Catholic Education Office, from its very inception, has grown stronger, particularly over recent years. As two arms of the Diocese, both organisations work closely in the pastoral care of our school communities.

Centacare is also appreciative of the Catholic Development Fund’s generous support over the years.

We are grateful to Bishop Michael for his guidance and support and for the unshakable commitment of our Diocese to the welfare of our families and communities. Centacare also receives the support from the clergy across the Diocese, even though our presence is limited in some of the parishes.

Every year, Centacare receives about $10,000 in donations from parishioners across the Diocese, through the Centacare Sunday collection. This is confirmation of the fact that the mission of Centacare is the mission of the Church and by giving to this mission, we all become part of it. I thank everyone in the Diocese who, directly or indirectly, has been part of the Centacare mission and solicit your prayerful support.

Robert George
Centacare Sunday
15th September 2013

Centacare’s 25 years of service

I join many people in giving thanks to God for 25 years service of Centacare Bathurst.

From small beginnings, those who have worked for and guided Centacare, have made a substantial contribution to our mission to proclaim the Gospel in acts of service and justice.

Pope Francis has said that he seeks a Church of the poor and for the poor. I pray that this spirit of sharing life with our brothers and sisters in trouble and in need will mark our community of faith, including Centacare.

The current Director, Mr Robert George, has rightly paid tribute to the work of his predecessors, Sister Mary Comer and Ms Vivienne Llewellyn. I would like to express similar appreciation to Robert for his great blend of professionalism and faith in leading Centacare.

+ Michael McKenna
Bishop of Bathurst

There is a feature article, with more photos, on Centacare in the current Observer Magazine


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