McAuley's Future 'Strengthened'

Sr Kath Tierney was Congregational Leader in 2008 when the Sisters of Mercy decided to amalgamate Mercy Care and Regina Coeli, to form McAuley Community Services for Women (McAuleyCSW). Today, as Treasurer of McAuley’s Board Kath is instrumental in the ongoing development of the specialist service.

As she looks over the growth of McAuleyCSW she knows the decision was correct. “The two services were stand alone and we looked at how to strengthen them and allow for stronger governance and diversification. The best outcome was to make it the one strong organisation that could begin something new and I believe that has happened,” Kath said.

“Before the amalgamation the two services were conducted using many volunteers. We sometimes had to close Mercy Care at the weekend because we couldn’t staff it. That would never happen now because we have wonderful paid staff, supported by amazing volunteers.”

Kath said any fears that the values of the Sisters of Mercy would diminish over the years have been laid to rest by the commitment and attitude of the staff and volunteers who work at McAuley’s five refuges, safe house, McAuley House and the employment and education programs. The Board and CEO also lead by example as they foster the Mercy values within the organization.

According to Sr Kath, the Mercy ethos program provided by Sisters of Mercy for people working at McAuleyCSW ensures the charism of Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, remains strong and continues to be at the heart of the values lived out daily by the staff.

Sr Kath believes it is important for all those involved with McAuleyCSW to understand that the organisation remains true to the original mission, begun by Catherine McAuley in Baggot St, Dublin more than 170 years ago. Catherine McAuley was a woman who defied many conventions of her day by establishing homes for the poor and homeless, particularly women and children.

It’s this ‘foundation story’ that Sr Kath wants McAuleyCSW, its staff and supporters to hold onto. It’s what makes McAuley’s services important, particularly in Victoria where few other organisations focus solely on the needs of women who are homeless as a result of family violence or mental illness.

“Our faithfulness to the tradition and our belief in the absolute dignity of every woman who comes to us, gives us a slight edge when it comes to values. So when we do come to a point sometimes of having to make compromises, we will not compromise our values and how these values drive service delivery,” Sr Kath said.

“If a woman comes to us, even if she does not fit into the funding model, we will take her. We will find a way to make that person fit. And we don’t just look at finding a place for the woman; we ask what else can we do for this woman. We hope to always go the extra mile for her.”

As well as serving on the Board Sr Kath works as a governance and management consultant across the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea and in the broader community.

Sr Kath spent 19 years with the Mercy Family Care Centre in Geelong, which was one of the founding services of MacKillip Family Services. She is currently the Chairperson of the Catholic Care Advisory Board of the Sandhurst Diocese in Victoria.

Sr Kath’s involvement in governance and management is driven by her belief that collaboration and cooperation between service providers and policy makers can result in better outcomes for the people served.

“Always we need to have in mind that we as people in the service sector must value add to a situation -as a board, as staff and as volunteers. We need to keep asking, how we, in our roles, make a situation better. How do we make a woman feel that she is important and restore her dignity, and ensure that children know safety when in our services?”