In July, we pray with Pope Francis for pastoral care of the sick:

Let us pray that the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick grant the Lord’s strength to those who receive it and to their loved ones, and that it may become for everyone an ever more visible sign of compassion and hope.

The Mission Statement of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart says that they “continue God’s mission by immersing themselves in the midst of life to empower others and bring hope”.

At Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney, it is incumbent on leaders, staff and volunteers to action that statement daily with all who work on or visit the site. One way of doing so is through pastoral care.

Pastoral care is a relational encounter with others, giving each person our care and compassion in a non-judgmental and respectful way. It requires availability, a listening ear, patience, and the ability to support another without taking personally their cares, concerns, grief and vulnerability. It is companioning a person with love, peace and hope, without giving counselling or advice.

An emphasis at Mary MacKillop Place is the quality of care given to all who visit the site, especially those who visit the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel and Saint Mary’s tomb. Both are places of quiet and reflection.

Staff and volunteers are trained in discretion with all who seek Mary’s powerful intercession. Her help is sought in illness, for family members and concerns, for finding employment, for mental issues, for addictions, for a suitable life relationship, and for a variety of reasons.

Many volunteers, both Sisters and lay people, are rostered daily to be a continuing presence in the Chapel for those who need a listening ear. Often, they simply provide the pilgrim with an opportunity to hear his/her own deep concerns expressed verbally.

When appropriate, pilgrims are offered the opportunity to pray a novena through Mary ‘s intercession and receive a cloth relic that touched Mary’s coffin. The relic reminds them to trust in the efficacy of fervent and continuing prayer. Details for the novena request are taken, and the Pastoral Care Coordinator and/or office staff follow progress via phone or email.

All are welcome to attend Mass and the Sacraments offered regularly, especially the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick held every two months. The Sacrament is “a visible sign of compassion and hope”. [1] The celebration of this sacrament brings peace and endurance to many sick people. Many, like the leper in the Gospel, (Luke 17, 15) return to give thanks.

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of July is Pastoral Care of the Sick. Pope Francis leads by his example and practical care for the sick and poor. Let us try, as Pope Francis urges us, “to show interest, give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen”[2] in offering pastoral care.

May we “empower others and bring hope” through our efforts to be effective pastoral carers, in the spirit of Saint Mary MacKillop and Pope Francis. Let us unite with them in prayer and care for the sick, and for all needing compassion and hope.

Connie Cummings rsj


[1] Pope Francis’ July Prayer Intention
[2] Fratelli Tutti: Pope Francis, 2020 Australian Edition