Loretta MacDonald has been volunteering with Centacare pastoral ministry every week for more than a decade. She is just one of 300 volunteers who reach out to those in need in the local community.
With her 15 years’ experience working with people with mental illness, Loretta’s advice is simple: “the most important thing we can do is just listen to people and let them know that they matter.”
Catholic Psychiatric Care is one of Centacare’s pastoral ministries which provides a centre for people with mental illness. The volunteers who staff the centre also visit people in hospitals and hostels across Brisbane each instilled with the same focus to care for the person not the illness.
Loretta has many encounters that teach her the virtue of patience and listening. She recalls making her rounds at the hospital one day and encountering a man who had struggled to manage his illness for more than 30 years. She has never forgotten their conversation.
“David would need time in hospital to get back in control, and when I met him he was reluctant to open up. He was tired of people telling his story, he was hurt by something. I think David realised I was actually interested in him and not his illness. I wasn’t yet another person who was trying to “fix” him – eventually he told me that he was only eight years old when he was first diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses. Over the years he had lost connection with his family and friends, and he shared with me his pain from feeling isolated and alone. Afterwards you could see the relief in his face that he had been heard.” Loretta admits, “Listening is one of the simplest but most important things we can do for people – this is how I live my faith.”
Centacare volunteers reach out to those who struggle to belong or who are a long way from family and friends. Over the last twelve months, these volunteers touched the lives of almost 90 000 people in South East Queensland.
“The people I visit challenge me. I have never heard a single one ask ‘why me?’. Their acceptance of the challenges they face inspires me”
“And I am often humbled by people like David and privileged that they let me into their lives – this is the Church in action.”
You can support for Loretta and the hundreds of other volunteers who serve those marginalised within our society. Your donation to Centacare is used to maintain our centres as well as train volunteers and to provide them with the support and resources that are vital to their work.
Donations keep these ministries alive. If you would like to take action to support Centacare with a tax deductible gift please donate any time online www.catholicfoundation.org.au or call 07 3324 3200.