During school I was involved in Mini Vinnies, St Vincent de Paul, Development and Relief Agency (DARA) Van and the environmental team. Being a follower of Christ, it has always been part of my mission to be of service to others. After completing school, I wanted to continue my involvement in social justice activities as well as play an active role in my parish whilst promoting vital values such as respect, compassion, forgiveness and trust, which are fundamental to Catholicism. Keeping all this in mind, I thought participating in the 2020 Pastoral Placement Program would be the perfect opportunity to serve the community and simultaneously build a closer connection with God.
Meeting like-minded, faithful individuals has been such an enriching, inspiring experience. I feel as though God chose each one of us because of our gifts and talents to work together (“Many parts make one body” Corinthians 12:12) to make a difference in the world by following Jesus’s example.
My first placement was with CatholicCare and I worked alongside agencies such as Oz Harvest and DARA. Each Friday, Isaac Fogarty and I collaborated with John Sandy at the Catholic Schools Office to distribute items delivered by Oz Harvest to families in need. Eliminating hunger and food waste through the redistribution of quality surplus food underpins Catholic values of being of service to the disadvantaged and marginalised in the community. It was such a rewarding, spiritually nourishing experience to see people being able to feed their families as well as preventing mass food waste and enhancing sustainability in the community.
We also had the amazing opportunity to work on the DARA Van at Maitland. This weekly community kitchen is run by volunteers who selflessly give up their Friday night to support and subsequently empower vulnerable people in the local community. During my placement, I got to help make and serve garlic bread, salad and hot lasagne as well as a dessert of chocolate cake and ice-cream to those who attended the Maitland Community Hall. Chatting to the locals who attended was such an eye-opening experience to the reality that some individuals live with. It also helped me appreciate things I take for granted in my life. Following in Christ’s footsteps helping the homeless, socially isolated and financially stressed helped me build my faith and to “Give thanks in all circumstances”. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Transitioning to the online forum for the Pastoral Placement Program has been a challenging, yet enjoyable experience so far. Our team have been able to have weekly Zoom liturgies, meetings, complete an SRE course and participate in an Alpha Youth online course.
Even though COVID-19 has hindered social contact within parishes and communities, it has allowed for spiritual and personal growth by reflecting on the most important things in life such as family, love, connectedness, resilience and faith. God is always with us, especially though the hard times, when our most important lessons are often learnt.