A message from Director Pauline Connelly

When I think of 80 Years of service, I immediately think of the people.

Those who were here for that tentative first day of the then Catholic Family Welfare Bureau, with the path ahead undefined, not knowing what they were becoming a part of. I wonder how they felt.

I think of the vision of Archbishop Beovich, the quiet urging of the spirit that led him to start a welfare mission, the discussions he would have had about this, and the discernment in choosing Hannah Buckley, a young social work graduate, to be the first Director.

I think of the people we have supported through the changing times and needs, over eight decades, and the way Centacare has been shaped by those needs and responded accordingly.

I think of the commitment of the workers in those decades, and how when it came time to respond to different societal needs, they did so through service and through their own professional development.

One thing I know we have always been, and that is the face of Jesus on the street. As Pope Francis described, we are the field hospital, and without judgement or exclusion, we are present to and accompany those with a need.

Seven years ago, Centacare moved from Fennescey house, where it resided for over 60 years into the building next door at 45 Wakefield St.

In the entrance foyer on the arch above the stairwell of Fennescey, there was a beautiful crucifix that hung there the entire time that Centacare was there.

It was left in the vacant building, and during the renovation of that building a few years ago, the crucifix was discarded by the contractors, and was found poking out of a very full skip bin by a Centacare staff member.

Fortuitously, the staff member retrieved it and brought it to me, with both of us shocked and saddened by the occurrence.

There was some minor damage to the hands and feet of Our Lord on this cross, and it was a powerful moment for me in recognising the symbolism inherent.

Jesus, on this cross, depicting Him in his most vulnerable and agonizing moment, being discarded and left in the waste.

I thought of our most vulnerable and fragile clients, and how discarded so many of them have been by those whose role was to support them. I decided then, that this discarded Jesus on this cross, would form the focus of our 80 Years of service and be central to how we acknowledge these years.

The cross will be rededicated by Archbishop Patrick at our Centacare Expo in October, before which it will travel to our different sites and then be installed in the reception area of our current head office.

I pray it will be a continual reminder of why we do what we do, and be a blessing to all who serve and are served by the mission and dynamic spirit of Centacare Catholic Family Services, for many years to come.