Father Donnelly: I’m Father Leo Donnelly and I’m Parish Priest of St Agnes’ Parish of this Parish of Port Macquarie.
Beginning this presentation, I would like to ask a question, I will provide the answer also. The question is, who are we? Well we are the Catholic Church here in Port Macquarie. So the question is, well what is church?
The church evolved from the life, death, resurrection of Jesus. It was that faith filled people who formed the foundation of the church founded on the apostles themselves founded by Christ himself. So that was the beginning, and the successes of those apostles were the oath of the Bishops of the church.
This then comes right through two thousand years to today. So here we are today church in Port Macquarie. Our church has got a mission, just doesn’t need for no particular reason at all, its got a clear mission and that mission was spelt out by Christ himself. He said, go there for, teach all nations, teach them the things I have taught you, baptise them in the name of the father son and Holy Spirit and remember that I am with you always. So that, in simple terms is the mission back there, is the mission today to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Adam Spencer: I’m proud that we do hold so important Christ at the centre of everything that we do. I’m proud of the fact that we put people first and as I said, I’m proud that we have Christ at the heart of everything that we do and I think that says a lot. I think, Father Donnelly and his wisdom, named Newman College after Cardinal Newman and the motto of Newman is heart speaks to heart. I just think that says so much about us as an organisation cause when we see people, when a teacher sees a student, when a nurse sees an elderly person in one of our aged care services. When an Early childhood teacher at St Joseph’s Family Services sees a young child, they don’t just simply see another person. They see something much more deeper than that, they see another heart, they very much embody that sense heart speaks to heart, it’s not a façade speaking to another façade. It’s a human person authentically connecting with another human person and that makes me proud.
Father Donnelly: So what’s our response been here in Port Macquarie, how do we see ourselves fulfilling that mission that Christ has given us. Well it’s done in two ways. It’s done by word and it’s done by action. By word, well in many ways we preach that a message of Jesus, whether its in a school or in a church on Sunday. But it’s just not words, it’s spelt out in action. Later on in this program you will see how that action has been laid out in action and has been brought out in reality right now in our midst. So that has been our response in the Parish of Port Macquarie, this Parish community, this church of Port Macquarie.
Some 20 years ago, I think it was 20. Something happened that was pretty pivotal as far as this parish is concerned. We started to ask ourselves what are we on about, how we define ourselves. And so we arrived at what we call our vision and our mission. And that vision and mission has been the basic inspiration for many of the things that this Parish has carried out in the last 20-30 years. Vision, mission and the fallout from that you will also see later on in this particular program, my position is one of, I am the Parish leader. But in this parish we have what we call collaborative leadership. That means that authority is devolved right through down the system. So many people exercise an authority, but the thing about authority in the Catholic Church is that there is an authority on to serve.
So an example of that is we follow Christ, that I came not to be served but to serve. And that service is shown in many things like for example care of the aged facilities, Centacare operations, family services operations and so on. That is how our Parish seeks to serve.So that collaborative leadership goes right down through the system, people have that, they are empowered to do the things that they do and they do that wonderfully well.
Adam Spencer: The vital statistics of St Agnes’ Parish are quite remarkable for a regional context such as ours. Our organisation is quite awe inspiring. We have from, say for instance if you look at the organisation as a whole of life perceptive and you start with our early childhood programs, we would have a 1000 children in early childhood and inclusion support programs. We have over 4000 students across our six schools.
We have a wonderful social welfare organisation in Centacare which provides so many services such as, community housing, assisting people with special needs, to find their way in the workplace and a whole range of other programs including, transition to work, group homes with people with disabilities and so forth. Then of course we have aged care our tremendous Catholic Care of the Aged operation which is just so holistic. It includes 111 community care packages, it includes over 300 residential beds, we have 2 retirement villages with over 200 independent living units in them.
That’s all underpinned by tremendous infrastructure, wonderful hotel services through our Marian Centre hospitality and commercial kitchen. Which provides meals through all of those services. Not to mention a whole range of other support services that are related to Catholic Care of the Aged.
Outside those ministries within the Parish, there’s are just so many others that add to the breadth and richness of our Parish tapestry. Things like the Youth Hub in the centre of town which has over 500 members and is frequented by so many young people in our community. Things like Emmaus Publications which is really a fantastic initiative once again established by Father Donnelly in terms of establishing web based resources for religious resources for education in the classroom and it is used very very widely across all of Australia. And then just a range of things whilst that is a broad brush stroke of our different ministries. If you drill down into any one of them there is such innovation and such amazing things like Newman College.
Newman is something very close to my heart. It’s the largest specifically Vocational based year 11 & 12 college in Australia. It’s the largest cohort of year 11 and year 12 students in any sectorfrom Newcastle to the Queensland border. Its success has been testimony to its innovation and its ability to meet the needs of young people and meet the needs of our local economy and workforce over many years. But that’s just one example of innovation within all of the ministries that I have just mentioned.