One response in Brisbane archdiocese is the establishment of parish child-care centres in partnership with Centacare Brisbane. PAUL DOBBYN reports.
A “WOMB to tomb” pastoral vision has led to the creation of Capalaba’s new 75-place St Luke’s Parish Catholic Child Care Centre, according to parish priest Fr Peter McCarthy.
St Luke’s new five-room facility, located next to the parish church in Degen Road, in the Redlands suburb near Brisbane, is also something of a trail-blazer being one of the first to be constructed in partnership with Centacare Brisbane.
It shares this distinction with Upper Coomera, Ashmore and Hervey Bay and next year three more such centres will be built.
The creation of such centres recognises Queensland’s extraordinary growth over the past decade, where many young families have arrived from southern states without their traditional support groups of extended families and their friends.
But, as Brisbane Centacare’s Child Care Services director Myolene Carrick notes, the Church’s role in caring for children and their families has always been part of the Catholic tradition and the centre is “a modern response to bridging a significant gap in pastoral care”.
Fr McCarthy said the project, four years in planning, had been initiated at a deans’ meeting which he attended as Dean of Redland/Bayside.
“As soon as the concept of Centacare building and operating a childcare centre on parish land was raised at this meeting, I saw a great opportunity,” he said.
“It very much fitted in with my vision of ‘womb to tomb’ pastoral care.
“There was also the strong belief that we, as the Catholic archdiocese of Brisbane, can provide quality childcare.”
Fr McCarthy said he was also impressed that the endeavour was clearly “not about dollars being the bottom line” but rather “the dignity of each and every human being”.
“I immediately put up my hand to be involved.”
The decision to proceed with the child-care centre had been “a shot in the arm” for the 21-year-old St Luke’s parish, Fr McCarthy said.
“The centre is already proving to be another way to reach out to young families within the parish,” he said.
“It’s about giving people who come to us and knock on our door a positive and practical experience of Church.”
Ms Carrick said Centacare saw the provision of child-care centres as a way to fill an important gap in the Church’s pastoral care program.
“Quite often after a child is presented to be baptised, Church representatives will not be contacted by the family until the child is enrolled to start school,” she said.
“The Catholic Church, throughout its two-thousand-year history, has always taught that families are the cornerstone of society.
“Centacare sees such child-care centres as a significant way the Church can support young families in very close partnerships.”
The parish priest will also have an important part to play in this partnership, Ms Carrick said.
“Fr Peter will be able to drop in and talk to the older children and maybe join in for such prayers as grace at meals.”
The 18-member staff will attend to the educational and care needs of the children whose ages will range from six weeks to pre-school.
“These highly trained and dedicated staff will be the child-care centre’s anchor,” Ms Carrick said. “Their role is vital.
“A lot of research indicates the importance of a child’s early years – especially birth to three years.
“This is the time when children start to form relationships and lay the foundations for later learning and development.”
Various constructive ways of supporting families are also planned – such as the provision of nutritious meals through the day.
“This will mean that working parents may not have to worry about preparing their main meal at night,” she said.
St Luke’s child-care centre has been purpose-built, the architect’s brief being “to create very much a child-centred environment with energy but also serenity”.
“We’ve kept the spaces as light and open as possible, recognising that this is a world for children,” Ms Carrick said.
“An additional room has also been provided for visiting specialists and therapists because we want a holistic service.
“And of course the centre aims to always be a welcoming place for parents.”
In 2009, three similar partnerships are planned – in Cleveland, Springfield and West Chermside.
St Luke’s Catholic Parish Child Care Centre will open its doors on October 18 followed by an official blessing and opening by Archbishop John Bathersby on October 25.
Fr McCarthy is eagerly looking forward to the opening.
“We’re often asked how the Church can be a constructive presence in the lives of modern families,” he said.
“Such child-care centres are an excellent place to start.”
To find out more and receive an expression-of-interest/waiting-list form, contact Centacare Child Care Services on (07) 3421 0030 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or download from www.centacarebrisbane.net.au