1. Helene, what's the title of your new position and
what does it involve?
My title is Family-Parish Liaison Officer. The broad aim of this
twelve month pilot project is to provide support to families by
connecting them to the life of the parish, their school communities
and to new and existing networks so all can participate in family,
faith, social and educational activities in the local community.
The project is centred on the Blackbutt Region which includes the
schools and parish communities of Adamstown, Kotara, Cardiff
(Blackbutt South), Lambton, New Lambton and Waratah (Blackbutt
2. Given your experiences in so many diverse areas, what
do you feel you bring to this new role?
My love of community is the greatest gift I bring to the
project. Also, my genuine desire to see all who are involved in the
faith communities experience the real meaning that belonging can
bring. And of course I love a good, fun time which is one of the
key components of creating community!
3. What do you think is the Church's hope which
underlies the work you've been employed to do?
As the Church faces a time of greater public scrutiny, I believe
it's up to the faith community to create the good news stories. I
would like to offer the families whose children attend our schools
support in both their faith and social pursuits. No doubt there is
a hope that I can be the conduit as we strive to create one
4. As a woman who is clearly not a priest, a nun, a
theologian, or a teacher, what draws you to engage with people in
Many people have told me that my 'down to earth, tell it as it
is' approach is a refreshing change from what they may have
previously experienced. Also, the Church has been a huge part
of my life and I want others to see what happiness that can bring,
albeit in ways they may not have previously considered. I meet the
people 'where they are', be it the swimming carnival, welcome
barbecue, Surfest or playgroup.
5. Can you share some of your experiences working in the
The diversity of my role is immense. On the faith side, Corpus
Christi Waratah has hosted a family Mass with support from the
school's families and parishioners, and the parents who belong to
sacramental teams providing the hospitality. St Kevin's Cardiff
will re-introduce the Sunday Children's Liturgy. I attended the St
John's Lambton Stage 3 retreat at Glenrock Lagoon and St Pius X
Year 10 retreat at Collaroy. Socially I met the families at St
James' Kotara South welcome barbecue; pulled out weeds at St
Kevin's Cardiff working bee; met some supportive parents and
parishioners when St Pius X and St Francis Xavier's competed in the
high school Surfest challenge and enjoyed the company of the
Catholic Women's League at St Columba's Adamstown.
6. What are the challenges?
I see them more as opportunities! We live in a world where
change is a constant, yet one that many people struggle to deal
with. We all have to face the realities of fewer priests and
recognise that the Church is also changing. Priests are also
affected by this change and should be buoyed by the willingness of
laity to get involved and be a part of the new direction. Lay
people aren't there to take over but to allow the priest to fulfil
the role he was ordained to fulfil.
Families today have so many choices and activities available to
them that time pressures become a reality. But if they feel welcome
to contribute to the Church in ways they are able without any
guilt, we can achieve a true sense of community. I have found that
people want their spirituality nourished and so searching for ways
to involve them is one of my challenges.
7. What are the joys?
Being out there amongst the schools and parishes where every day
is a new adventure makes life sweet. The playgroups are fun and
provide hope that our future is in capable hands. I loved the craft
group at Kotara - a group of long time parishioners and friends
getting together to knit, sew and drink tea. I have been touched by
the willingness of young families to be involved in the after Mass
cuppa and to express a desire to have a children's liturgy
introduced. The staff at the schools have been so accommodating and
open to ideas. But the greatest joy is getting amongst the simple
things that can make the biggest difference.
8. Obviously Helene you are committed to the Church,
while living in an increasingly secular society. What is the
foundation of your commitment, and what is it that draws you to
want to draw others to the Church?
If I divided my life up into a pie (vegetable, of course) I
would cut equal parts to represent home and family, sport, work,
friends and faith (the Church). I attended Mass every morning with
my brother while we were in primary school. He would serve on the
altar, I would play cricket in the playground. He ended up a
priest/theologian, I ended up a sports junkie! For me that was the
start of combining Church and community.
I was fortunate when I was in high school that the Catholic
youth dances were the 'in' place to be so there was no peer
pressure if you attended such activities. When I began work I
travelled away most weekends for sporting commitments but I always
found time to practise my faith and was proud to proclaim I was a
I've shared the faith journey through married life with Mick who
is now a guitar playing member of the St Philip's Kotara church
band. But it's always been about the people I meet and how I can
enjoy attending a church gig as much as I can a sports awards
night, a weekend surfing trip or a play at the Civic Theatre.
I've had twists and turns in life but my faith has remained
constant. Being a Catholic isn't about blaming or harbouring guilt,
it's about welcoming others in a true sense of community.