September 04, 2018

Changing Landscapes

A significant historical event in the history of St. Michael’s Baulkham Hills took place for our Congregation on Saturday, 16th June. A fresh ‘landscape’ was celebrated in the form of a moving ritual which marked the formation of a formal partnership between ourselves andWomen’s Community Shelters (WCS), an organisation which provides Shelters for women and children escaping domestic violence.

The ritual, marking the formal ‘moment’ started with a photo story which captured in images the 116 years of St. Michael’s and showed how St. Michael’s Orphanage had creatively adapted and embraced the changing faces of social welfare. 

Sr Mary-Louise Petro signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
Transforming across the years, the Orphanage, founded in 1902, had become a Children’s Centre and finally a Family Centre which offered on site Family Day Care, Long Day care, Occasional Day Care and crisis accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence on-site and in five houses off-site. Following its closure an initiative titled St. Michael’s Fund had been established in 2016, and continues to fund organisations which mirror the mission of St. Michael’s.
As part of the ritual, and flowing from the photo story, the lighting of four candles recognising each major step of St. Michael’s history, was followed by the reflective reading of a section from our Chapter Statement which highlighted a section: “We will open our hearts to the cries of the poor, using our energies, gifts and resources to address violence and discrimination, especially for women and children”. 
L-R: Annabelle Daniel (CEO WCS), Kris Neil (Board Chair WCS)
Annabelle Daniel, Chief Executive Officer of WCS, then spoke touchingly about WCS’s deep connection with St. Michael’s and the Parramatta Sisters of Mercy, especially recognising the Congregation’s connection with one of WCS’s Shelters – The Sanctuary – which, together with some other similar organisations, have been filling a much-needed gap in services in the Hills Area following the formal closing of St. Michael’s. It was this connection and other networking that led the Congregation to formally welcome WCS as a partner – in spirit, in participation and in financial support.
To conclude the ritual, an exchange of symbols and words which recognised the establishment of the partnership took place between our Congregation Leader, Mary-Louise Petro, our Vicar, Maria Lawton, Annabelle (CEO WCS) and Kris Neill, Chair of the WCS Board. The formalisation of the partnership came with the gifting of a cheque to WCS, the signing of an MoU, and acceptance of Congregation members and/or their representative as members of the WCS Parent Board and Boards of several other Shelters, especially the Nepean, Blacktown and proposed Parramatta Shelters.
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