Catholic Social Services the Church’s heart

Features Barbara Gilray15 February 2012 Church-based agencies like Catholic Social Services are increasingly expected to meet a wide range of social needs in the community. Our role is not to…


Barbara Gilray
15 February 2012

Church-based agencies like Catholic Social Services are increasingly expected to meet a wide range of social needs in the community.

Our role is not to judge but rather to search for ways to help them.

Catholic Social Services is a generic counselling and social work agency and is part of the Archdiocese of Wellington.

The agency has been established for more than 50 years and, while its role has changed over the years to meet diverse needs, at its heart is a desire to seek outcomes that will empower people and communities, so that they can function effectively and well.

Catholic Social Services supports the Archdiocese of Wellington in its mission to be a socially just and compassionate church.

Relationships at its heart
In the year ended March 31, 2011 the agency dealt with 2,367 face-to-face counselling appointments – around 200 a month.

Of a plethora of issues, the main concerns involved personal relationships, issues associated with family violence, depression and anxiety.

In the same period 1,100 social work appointments were undertaken with children, young people and families in the greater Wellington area including Lower Hutt, Wainuiomata and Porirua.

The agency’s two social workers mainly work alongside primary school-age children in both Catholic and State schools. As well, they provide a range of community support to parents and individuals with issues such as poor or inadequate housing, parental guidance and budgeting.

CSS outreach
The agency is responsible for the Crypt Drop-in Centre under St Mary of the Angels in Boulcott Street. Sr Sarto and some wonderful volunteers provide a light midday meal and support to up to 50 people daily. Some of those who attend are families with babies or small children. Sr Sarto urgently needs more volunteers to help one morning a week so if you have some time to spare, contact Catholic Social Services. Your support would be greatly appreciated.

Catholic Social Services undertakes contract work funded by the Ministry of Social Development/Child, Youth and Family. This is specifically to counsel people who have been sexually abused, children and families who have experienced trauma and to support parents in their parenting.

The agency has contracts with the Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections to help men who are referred by Probation or through the Courts to deal with matters associated with family violence. Men are generally referred to undertake 12 weeks of intensive counselling.

The course follows a set programme and clients are encouraged to understand that their use of violence is not acceptable. Goals are set at each session and they are made aware that they need to be responsible for their behaviour and accountable for their actions.

The Archdiocese of Wellington funds a substantial portion of our annual income as do the valued members of our 1000 Club.

In addition, as an NGO, a large proportion of our funding comes from benefactors and funders such as Lotteries Grants Board, T G McCarthy Trust, the Winton and Margaret Bear Trust, the Tindall Foundation, the Good Shepherd Sisters and other trusts, religious and supporters.

A number of religious regularly work for and support the agency and we are grateful for Fr Petelo Mauga’s help, as well as that of Br Doug Dawick, Sr Ema Konokono, Sr Sarto, Fr Pete Healy and Sr Stephanie Kitching.

It is likely community church-based agencies such as Catholic Social Services will continue to fill a vital role in encouraging and supporting the many individuals and families who make up our community groups.

We need to continue to work across boundaries so that we value the humanity of the many diverse children, young people, individuals and families with whom we work.

Images: Top CSS director Barbara Gilray; right, CSS social worker Cathy Agnew.

See also A Christmas Story
See also Maori concepts of wellbeing