Like most Josephites, Sr Helen-Anne originally ministered as a teacher, with a particular interest in preparing children to receive the sacraments. Working as a pastoral carer at both St Benedict's Primary Edgeworth and Holy Cross Primary Glendale, she became increasingly aware of the needs of the young mothers she encountered. While her role was primarily focused on pupils' needs, she quickly realised that if the Mums' concerns were addressed, the children benefited enormously too. The hand that rocks the cradle…
In earlier times, Helen-Anne reflects, many young mothers had their own mothers nearby with built-in support and advice. They didn't feel such pressure to take on paid work and there was a greater sense of local community. As she extended her role to offer support to the mothers, she began to notice that the children became more settled. Significantly, teachers reported more positive outcomes in class, and Helen-Anne knew she was on to something!
Slowly, the idea of Mums' Cottage was born, and the dream became a reality recently when parish priest Father Peter Rees blessed "Mums' Cottage" at Holmesville.
With the support of groups as diverse as Wallsend Rotary Club, the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Holmesville Hotel and the Newcastle Permanent Building Society, as well as many generous individuals, the project came to fruition. A particularly satisfying aspect for Helen-Anne was the partnership that's developed with the Uniting Church. That church's hall, surplus to requirements, has now become Mums' Cottage. The Cottage's mission statement is "Mothers companioning mothers".
As Helen-Anne says, "There are so many needs - mothers need a place to come and be accepted and helped." The Cottage offers respite, mentoring, counselling and advocacy; parenting, legal and financial advice, and most of all, friendship. The Cottage itself is humble but freshly painted, furnished by generous donations and embodying a welcoming atmosphere.
Helen-Anne always had the support of her Lochinvar Sisters and leader Sr Lauretta Baker addressed the gathering at the opening ceremony: "Good on you Helen-Anne! Good on the people who caught the dream Helen-Anne had!"
A mother who has already been assisted by Mums' Cottage speaks enthusiastically: "No judgement is made and you are given ideas on how to tackle some of life's experiences. The Cottage provides an outlet to help people realise that your family is not the only one to experience issues on the journey."
To contact Mums' Cottage, please P 0401 171 644 or visit 29 St Helen St Holmesville.