“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. … Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has taken a lead role in caring for people with disabilities, those who are sick and for our elderly.
The Catholic Church currently operates more hospitals, schools and charities than any other organisation in the world.
This is also true in Australia, with Catholic Health Australia (CHA) being the largest non-government provider of health, community and aged care services in the country. Catholic Health Australia, a not-for-profit, operates 10% of all Australian health care services and employs over 35,000 people.
Many of our most prestigious hospitals and schools began as Catholic outreach to the poor. Catholic Hospitals in Sydney began as free hospitals for the poor, established by the Sisters of Charity in 1857. Along with the Sisters of Mercy, they now operate four public hospitals, seven private hospitals and 10 aged care facilities across the country.
The Christian emphasis of serving the poor and tending the sick led to the founding the first ever hospitals in history. The early Church was renowned for their radical care for the poor and sick, with wealthy Christians sometimes giving their entire wealth to aid those in need. Taking heed of the parable of the “rich young man”, the ranks of the Church quickly swelled with saints who gave “all to the poor” to follow Christ. St Basil the Great, an early bishop of Caesarea (a Roman province in modern-day Turkey), developed a hospital that was said to be the size of a city.
As the Church grew and became more structured, so did its hospitals. The Benedictine Rule, the first formalised rule of monastic living, instructed its monks that the care of the sick should be placed “above and before every other duty as if indeed Christ were being directly served”. For the next thousand years, the monasteries and convents became the key medical centres of Europe. These hospitals, hospices and charities formed a comprehensive welfare system for the poorest.
A concern for health was often coupled with a concern for education. In this way, the Cathedral schools attached to the convents and monasteries eventually developed into universities. Bringing the brightest minds of the age together, these fertile hotbeds of research led to almost all the developments of modern science and technology. For this reason, the history of science is disproportionately littered with genius inventor-priests. In just a shortlist, we can thank Pope Gregory for the modern-day calendar, Fr Nicholas Steno for geology, Roger Bacon for the scientific method, Fr Mendel for genetics and Fr Lemaitre for the Big Bang Theory.
New discoveries and technologies were often used to further the work of caring for the poor. In particular, women’s religious institutes used their expertise to establish some of the first modern general hospitals.
We are blessed to be a wealthy country, but there is still so much need in Australia. One of the key areas we are facing is an ageing population, perhaps a first in our history as well as increasing demand for disability services. This brings its own set of challenges and needs.
Catholics, following in unity and imitation of Christ, continue to care for our elderly and retired, and our deaf and disabled community, by supporting the Priest’s Retirement Foundation and our Charitable Works Fund – which in turn supports the Ephpheta Centre (Ministry to our deaf and hard of hearing community).
In light of our aging population, and growing demand for disability services, let us continue the work of Christ, tending to the sick, elderly and disabled, rooted in the Gospel 2,000 years ago.
The Church continues this ministry and invites you to join us.
The Ephpheta Centre is a special ministry for the deaf and hard of hearing run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, and supported by Parramatta and Broken Bay.
The Centre organises weekly Mass in Auslan (Australian sign language) as well as social and pastoral outreach including a youth group, women's group, men’s group, craft group and home visits.
The Centre is run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers. In 2012, former director Stephen Lawlor was made a Knight of St Sylvester by Pope Benedict XVI for “distinguished services to the Church”—the first Papal award to a deaf person in Australia.
The name ‘Ephpheta’, meaning ‘Be Open’, comes from the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus heals the deaf man. For 40 years, Ephpheta has opened the riches of the Catholic faith to the deaf community of Sydney and hopes to do so for another 40 years.
Your donation will:
- support a wide range of initiatives for the deaf and hard of hearing including men's, women's, youth, craft and other interests groups
- help train seminarians and priests in Auslan so the sacraments can be more accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing Catholic community
The Ephpheta Centre needs your help to spread the Catholic faith to those that are deaf and hard of hearing. Consider donating today.
Priest’s Retirement Foundation
The Priest’s Retirement Foundation of the Archdiocese of Sydney ensures all priests can receive the accommodation, health care and support they need in their retirement.
There are now over 75 retired priests in Sydney, many of whom worked long into their 70s, caring for the spiritual life and welfare of their people.
The Archdiocese gives two dollars for every dollar contributed to the Priests’ Retirement Foundation.
The Priests’ Retirement Foundation covers needs such as:
- Convalescence care
- Nursing home and hostel care for frail priests
- Assistance in transitioning to retirement
- Health insurance
- Medical and dental expenses
- Assistance with board and lodging expenses
Our retired priests have given so much to us, and the Priests' Retirement Foundation is an opportunity to give back. Please consider donating to support our retired priests today.