St Vincent de Paul Counselling Services

St Vincent de Paul Counselling Services at The Entrance and Mount Druitt, offers counselling services in the areas of drugs, alcohol and gambling addictions and grief and relationships.

Summary of Learnings

The Caroline Chisholm Centre is a special work of St Vincent de Paul Parramatta Diocese. Lorraine Dailey, a parishioner from the Arcadia parish, is a counsellor who works at the centre.

A client that Lorraine was seeing weekly at the centre was moving to the Central Coast. Lorraine did not feel that the client was ready to stop attending counselling and wanted to offer local counselling to that client. Co-operative arrangements were made between the St Vincent de Paul organisations in the Parramatta Diocese and the Broken Bay Diocese which would allow Lorraine to offer her counselling services to both her original client and to clients referred by the local conference of St Vincent de Paul.

Lorraine is now fully booked for the one day per week that she spends on the Central Coast offering counselling to clients who have addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling. She also offers counselling in the areas of grief and loss and relationship counselling.

This initiative is a great example of reaching out, which has required co-operation from a number of people across two Dioceses, working collaboratively for the good of all. The Caroline Chisholm Centre represents an innovative approach to offering the services usually offered by St Vincent de Paul, delivered in a different way in response to a local need.

The Caroline Chisholm Centre aims to provide the usual emergency support required by people who may come to St Vincent de Paul for help.

While the centre offers food and financial assistance to clients it also seeks to understand the reasons that the individual may need this sort of support.

The individual while being offered the initial practical assistance of food or money may also be offered counselling, assistance with managing their finances or advocacy. This is aimed at helping the person to reach independence so that they may not be in the position where they require support in the future.

The centre in addition to offering individual advocacy, through their social worker, also acts on trends in need that they see at the centre – for example writing to state politicians regarding the impact of increasing utilities costs.

In this way they are also addressing areas of injustice which may contribute to the reasons why their clients are in the position of having to seek charity.

The structure of the centre itself is also different to the way that St Vincent de Paul Services may be offered in other regions. Rather than St Vincent de Paul volunteers going out to visit people in their homes, the clients come into the Caroline Chisholm Centre where they meet with the volunteers.

Once they have been assessed by the volunteers in terms of their material needs they are then referred as needed to other professional members of staff employed by the centre for example a counsellor, social worker, therapist, or psychologist.

The team at the Caroline Chisholm Centre includes 6 employed professional staff and 31 volunteers. In this way the Caroline Chisholm Centre is able to offer holistic support to the individuals that come to St Vincent de Paul for help.

The Caroline Chisholm Centre is an example of a service that reaches out to all, serving those in need and seeking peace and justice.

The Centre is a great example of a ministry who in looking at their environment sought to re-imagine the way that this type of ministry is delivered for both the benefit of clients and to offer needed support to the dedicated team of St Vincent de Paul members who are engaged in this work.


The combination of volunteers and professional staff mean that the effectiveness of the service is maximised seeking to assist clients to independence and offering the necessary professional support to volunteers.

One of the most important charisms of the centre is that of hospitality. All team members who work at the centre take a common lunch break; this is seen as an important part of the day. Appointments that are made for visitors to the centre are always made at this time so that visitors experience this shared meal.

This example of hospitality and teamwork is then reflected in the work of the staff and volunteers when dealing with clients of the centre.

An annual retreat is also offered to all staff members to provide them with formation and this retreat to attended by both professional staff and volunteers, including both those who are catholic and those who are not.

Again this is a way of supporting the team who are working in what can be a very challenging environment.

Summary of Learnings

  • Changing models of ministry and service are needed for changing times
  • There is great benefit of having professional employed staff and volunteers working together – there is benefit for both


  • Community building and hospitality are a key part of the ministry and their Catholic identity
  • It is important to look at the whole person – this involves both personal support and advocacy

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001

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