Grandfather of seven, Adrian Foley, retired from the Public Service in 2003 at age 57, looking forward to spending more time farming, reading, photography and travelling around Australia, the “best country in the world”.
In 2005 he felt the need for more social engagement, and wanted to give something back to the community. He contacted Denis Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria who suggested he contact Shekinah Homeless Services
. He did so, and has been undertaking volunteering roles since that time, including working with the Catholic Prison Ministry
Worship and Hospitality Team, CatholicCare Melbourne
, the Horn of Africa Community Network
, the Melkite Catholic Church
and in criminal justice advocacy.
“Fortunately Australia is blessed with volunteers,” said Adrian. “I think it's a wonderful time to be a volunteer, especially within the Church. Many people are retiring in good health each year, with several years of potential service available to them – not that volunteering is limited to retirees! The Church needs willing people to add vigour within parishes and to reach out to communities. Governments are constantly seeking ways to reduce public spending, and often to privatise services. Without volunteers and community outreach, the future of the Church and the kind of society we will have, look bleak.”
In 2014 Adrian helped Catholic Social Services Victoria establish the Welcome the Asylum Seeker Parish Support Program
. “We have a central team of volunteers and together with CSSV staff, we run three forums a year for parishes, maintain a webpage on the CSSV website, newsletter, and liaise with parishes and parishioners to support asylum seekers and refugees,” said Adrian.
“Since the Tampa incident in 2001 successive Australian governments have competed to dole out the harshest possible treatment to people seeking asylum in Australia. As a community and as a Church, I believe we need to show that we welcome and support asylum seekers and refugees, and that our governments do not represent our wishes when they act in this way.”
Adrian also helped Catholic Social Services establish the Reimagining Parish Services Expo, with the first held last year in Cheltenham
. The next Expo will be held in partnership with St Francis Xavier Parish, Montmorency on 6 May 2017
. He also volunteers in other Church-related roles to “help the Church become more actively involved in the wider community, to reach out to people in need, as Our Lord has commanded us to do”.
When asked if he continues to keep volunteering, his reply was, “Absolutely! I would encourage anyone thinking of volunteering to give it a go—it can transform your life, and make a much-needed contribution to the wellbeing of our people, our Church and our country. There is great personal freedom in volunteering, as distinct from working for an employer. As a volunteer, you can choose what you will do, in consultation with the organisation you are working for. I am so grateful to have an opportunity to work in the vineyard, to contribute in whatever small way to the kingdom of heaven on earth.”