2017 has been another year of planning for what could be and making it happen, in ways that serve people, respect the environment and build on the patrimony of the church in the region.
Property staff are exercising God-given gifts and vision in creating centres that enhance lives − through St Nick’s early education centres, affordable and supported housing, schools and parish facilities.
The first St Nick’s Early Education Centre opened at Newcastle West in May 2016 and since then, centres at Singleton, Cardiff and Lochinvar will begin offering parents of pre-schoolers sound, age- and stage-appropriate learning opportunities in environments that are warmly welcoming and created with sustainability as a focus.
It’s not just about the little ones though!
Catholic schools throughout the diocese are practising what they preach in terms of environmental education encompassing recycling, planting trees and gardens, managing power supplies wisely and using tanks to capture rainwater.
These principles will only be enhanced at the schools in development: St Aloysius Primary and St Bede’s Catholic College at Chisholm, St Mary’s Catholic College at Gateshead and Catherine McAuley Catholic College at Medowie.
The thrust of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ – On Care for our Common Home, is unequivocal. “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded….All of us can co-operate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” (n13)
In terms of what Pope Francis calls “the sufferings of the excluded”, and at a time when belt-tightening would be understandable, the diocese is marshalling its resources to respond to the demand for affordable housing. These developments can fly under the radar, although their street names betray their origins.
At Mount Hutton, the Assisi Affordable Housing development provides 25 well-equipped three-bedroom homes for couples and families on limited incomes, while at Booragul, the Manresa Affordable Housing development (names which echo Pope Francis’ commitment), include 18 one- and two-bedroom dwellings.
The Little Hunter Street Affordable Housing development at Maitland, comprising nine double storey townhouses, has been a boon to residents for whom the financial support of reduced market rent can make a huge difference in their ability to get ahead and to maintain optimism.
As Head of Assets, Property and Housing, Ray Bowen, whose background is in commercial development, says, “The diocese is using both newly-acquired and existing assets to provide facilities and services which enrich the lives of as many sectors of the community as possible. We will continue to do so, with the support of the parishes and wider community.”