Experience beyond reproach

The Pastoral Placement Program (PPP) provides an opportunity for those who feel called to work for the church to experience ministry in a variety of settings.

There are five of us this year and we spend six hours a week helping in different agencies around the Diocese, and four hours a week completing work for parishes and churches. In addition, we get formed spiritually through additional opportunities, prayer and reflection.

My first placement was Family Ministries, a broad team that works with agencies, schools and parishes across the Catholic community. Its aim is to evangelise entire families through the faith formation of their children. Typical tasks include organising and conducting liturgy days, retreats and family masses. This also provided me with the opportunity via a road trip to see communities and parishes across the Hunter Deanery.

My second placement was at St Nicholas Early Education where my favourite group was the pre-schoolers. I was able to help develop their existing skills holistically and interact with them, which was not only fun, but also fulfilling.

My third placement was with Mums’ Cottage at Holmesville.  Sister Helen Anne founded the organisation, better described as a home, which aims to support and empower women, especially those in crisis, through companionship. Mums’ Cottage works with women at the Cessnock Correctional Centre undertaking Miruma, the residential diversionary program for those with mental health, drug and alcohol abuse issues who have trouble adjusting to community life. Another program in which I participated was mothers and children education involving reading, interactive storytelling and music.

My fourth rotation was at the St Vincent de Paul Society and I spent the first week at Matthew Talbot Homeless Services, which provides outreach support to homeless men and their children across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. This included participating in the OzHarvest Nutrition Education Sustenance Training Program (NEST) and completing intake packs. The NEST program involves OzHarvest staff teaching the homeless how to cook healthy meals. The second week I was at Ability Links assisting the Better Access Mapping team (or as I like to call it, the BAMming team). It is creating an app that will show local businesses accessible to people with different types of disabilities.

My future placements will likely be Pastoral Ministries, CatholicCare and Mission to Seafarers. We don't actually get told the upcoming placements until we have finished the current placement. This keeps us more focused in the present. I like this idea.

At the start of the year I assisted with children's ministry for St Therese's Church New Lambton, even leading some weeks. From the start of May I transferred to shared services as part of the finance team where I completed data entry and administrative tasks. I also participated in its team-building day involving an amazing race activity.  

I assisted at the Diocesan stall for NAIDOC week at the foreshore, helped with Hunter Homeless Connect, undertook spiritual direction and spent two days in Sydney learning about the works of Caritas. I also participated in the Bishop's Reflection Day, and helped out at special event masses including the Catechist Mass, and Sisters of Faith dinner.

The PPP is definitely the most rewarding opportunity I have had the honour of being involved with. It has taught me so much about my strengths and weaknesses, life purpose, and increased my skills. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity, and know the others undertaking the program are as grateful as I am.

I look forward to continuing to serve the local community in different ways until the program finishes in November. I can't offer enough thanks to all the staff from the Diocese, and various participating agencies and other areas, for everything they have done. The PPP definitely changes participants' lives. As a result of my experiences I decided to undertake a Psychological Science degree at the University of Newcastle and volunteer at Cessnock Correctional Centre.

The PPP 2020 will commence in February. For any enquiries or for more information please call 02 4979 1334 or email pastoralplacement@mn.catholic.org.au.

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Caitlin Wakefield Image
Caitlin Wakefield

Caitlin Wakefield is a participant of the Pastoral Placement Program 2019.

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