VASCA: Responding to the needs of the timesPrint
Sr Mark Lehmann, vocations director of the Sisters of Charity between 1971 and 1979, noted the Vatican II effect on new vocations.
In 2007, she wrote: “It was just after Vatican II and Religious Orders were more interested in updating rather than encouraging new vocations.”
Sr Mark also noted the work of the Theresians (see KIT December 2019), at that time dying out, a lay group founded by the Sisters of Charity in 1917 and who were, at that stage, dying out. The Theresians finally disbanded in 1998.
The Theresians had, however, been known for both their loyalty and zeal. These were the qualities Sr Mark wanted for a new lay group of the Sisters of Charity. In 1997, Sr Mark was given permission by Mother Marion Corless to begin the new group – the Volunteer Associates of the Sisters of Charity of Australia (VASCA).
The aim was to include members of all ages, faith affiliations, and socio-economic groups to further the ministry of the Sisters of Charity, whose charism and fourth vow is service of the poor. Members were drawn from the local community where VASCA was established – at the old St Marys Commercial College in Sydney’s Paddington – and from among other friends, supporters, and ex-students of the Sisters.
The ministries included outreach to the aged, lonely, disabled, and bereaved, and demonstrated the charism of the Sisters to women who might, in fact, be discerning a vocation.
It was registered as a charity in 1980, expanded to St Ambrose’s Parish in Sydney’s west (where it still ministers as Volunteer Associaters of St Ambrose, or VASA), and there were plans to expand to Melbourne.
However, by 1996, VASCA in Sydney’s east became integral to the new service, Outreach, which was established at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. Outreach has now been rebranded Open Support.