Peter Vear is a pastoral care practioner at VMCH’s newest affordable homes development, Trinity Lane, which offers safe and secure accommodation to people aged over 55 who are on low incomes, and people with disability. ‘Our residents are all different,’ he says, ‘some more challenging to live with, some living with constant pain, others with grief—a microcosm of our broader society. We try to be there for all of them.’

This week, from 22 to 28 October, we celebrate Pastoral Care Week, a time to acknowledge the important work of pastoral caregivers.

The theme for 2023 is ‘Chaplaincy and Mental Health: It’s Healthy to Get Help’, highlighting the importance of chaplains, pastoral counselors and other spiritual caregivers working closely with mental health colleagues.

For-purpose Catholic organisation VMCH has 24 pastoral care practitioners (PCPs), who support residents, clients and their families across aged care, palliative care, affordable homes and disability services.

Pastoral care is an integral part of VMCH’s Mission, with PCPs there to support people in times of pain, loss, triumph and joy, through prayer, meaningful activities, social visits, grief support and hospitality.

Visiting residents is a large part of Peter’s role, listening to any concerns they may have and helping them to build a community.

‘Seeing the residents thinking of ways that they can build up their community themselves—gathering to help teach those residents who are learning English, offering yoga sessions to anyone interested, running the monthly barbecue, conversing with each other—has been particularly rewarding.’

Peter is relatively new to the role, but the former administration officer says pastoral care work is something he’s always wanted to do.

I love learning about people’s lives, what they’ve been through, and offering them support.

VMCH Chief Mission Officer Bridget O’Shannassy says the organisation prioritises investing in its pastoral carers, recognising the positive impact their ministry of offering emotional and spiritual support can make.

‘The past year has been very busy for our team as they’ve built on their knowledge and training around grief support, helping aged care residents to foster a greater understanding around cultural diversity, and offering opportunities for residents to relax through mindfulness [and] meditation sessions,’ Bridget says.

The volume of their work is also astounding. During the first six months of this year alone, VMCH PCPs supported people through 15,036 one-on-one visits, 1,123 pastoral activities, 535 Masses and 144 deaths.

‘Pastoral care is a vocation, true heart work that can be draining at times,’ Bridget says. ‘Self-care is important for pastoral care practitioners—we need to nourish ourselves, so we are able to continue to share and give to others.’

VMCH would like to thank Peter, Bridget and all PCPs across Australia for the incredibly important work they do each and every day.

Banner image: Pastoral care practitioner Peter Vear with his wife Marg. (Photo courtesy of VMCH.)