By Amanda Murthy
Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or Younger Onset Dementia (YOD) for the past six years has been a challenging experience for Clare and her family. Her husband Patrick explained to The Record that Clare’s condition has deteriorated and she is now no longer able to live independently.
“This disease has robbed Clare of the ability to do many functions which we take for granted – like eating without difficulty, washing oneself, reading, making and receiving phone calls, switching on the TV, opening the house door, dealing with money,” he cited.
Patrick recalled that due to the demands of both work and caring for Clare, he was left with the difficult choice of leaving Clare at home alone for the day, while he went to work.
“I had previously volunteered in Church ministries, but it was only through Willetton Parish Priest Father Thai Vu, who went out of his way to visit and assist Clare on a weekly basis – that we came to know of the work of Catholic Outreach,” Patrick said.
“The weekly sessions continued with Catholic Outreach volunteers Luanna and Freddie who have provided short but significant experiences for my wife.
“Having personally experienced the work of Catholic Outreach and through the journey I have travelled, I certainly look forward to do my bit in volunteering in this special ministry, once I retire,” Patrick added.
Catholic Outreach volunteer Luanna Bong said her calling to volunteer with the Lifelink funded agency began after she was invited to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at her parish.
“I use to accompany my husband [an acolyte] who administered Holy Communion to the sick and I witnessed many times how God ministered to him and to the sick every time we visited and prayed with someone at their home.”
“Soon after, I decided to follow in my husband’s footsteps to administer Holy Communion to the sick.
“Accompanied by my husband, I visit Clare once a week during my lunch break – I always appreciate this special time that I can bring Jesus to Clare and at the same time to just be with her.
“I thank God that I said yes in accepting this call of Jesus,” she added.
Catholic Outreach Director Marietta Russo explained that despite the wide range of services and resources the local government makes available to people in our society, there are quite a number of people who “fall through the cracks” (such as in the case of Clare), because there is just nothing out there to fulfil their particular needs.
“For example, if under 65 years, a person may not necessarily qualify for services they require like getting to and from hospital appointments,” Marietta said.
“Or recognising that so many people are experiencing social isolation and the links this has with mental health issues – visiting them may help them to feel connected. These are only some of the areas where Catholic Outreach Parish Pastoral Care Programs can assist,” she added.
Marietta added that the Parish Pastoral Care, play a vital role in the total Christian development of parishioners, providing opportunities for the lay faithful to combine their energies with the parish priest to build community and connection.
“At the moment there are over 20 parish programs with hundreds of volunteers across the Archdiocese. We are working towards establishing more programs in new parishes and ensuring the succession of established programs.”
With the success of long-running Parish Pastoral Care Programs, Marietta hopes that Catholic Outreach will continue to expand.
“These programs reflect the attitude conveyed in the Letter of James (2:14-17) where the author talks about faith and good works: ‘Faith is like that: If good works do not go with it, it is quite dead’.
“Having the volunteers work together with their parish priests enables them to put into action the commandment, to love one another,” Marietta concluded.
Catholic Outreach is a Perth Catholic Archdiocesan agency funded through LifeLink. For information, visit https://outreach.perthcatholic.org.au/
To donate to LifeLink, go to: https://lifelink.com.au/donate/