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Friday, 10 May 2013 14:15

Good Shepherd goes to the people

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Today, she knows that working in Sydney with injecting drug users is the very place she is meant to be. Noelene is confident that if the foundress of the Good Shepherd Sisters, St Mary Euphrasia, met her on the street, she would not only approve of her work, but urge her to keep going.

“Of course when I was a young Sister, in my wildest dreams I would never have imagined the various ways we would be living out the mission, or that I would end up in Kings Cross. But my work today, and the work of Good Shepherd Sisters and mission partners in Australia and New Zealand, isn’t that different to what Good Shepherd has done since the Order began in France in 1835. We have seen marginalised women and girls and tried to help them,” Noelene said.

“For a long time, we ran institutions for these women and tried to support them. Now we go out to where the people are trying to live their lives, often in great hardship.”

One of those places is the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Sydney where Noelene works as a chaplain, supporting people who use the facility. She has been at the Centre for more than a decade, since it opened in 2001. It is one of the many ministries Good Shepherd has undertaken during its 100 years in New South Wales.

Noelene is not at the Centre to try and cure drug users or to talk them into any rehabilitation treatment. She often just sits and has a coffee with them after they have injected, listens to them and helps facilitate any further treatment they may want to pursue.

"I try and build the person’s trust and importantly let them know that they are a person who is valued. Lots of the people who come through, already know me, some disappear and I don’t see them again and others will not use the Centre for a long time because their lives have settled down and then one day I will see them again,” she said.

“A lot of the people who use this place are judged by the community as not being of any value. That’s really why it is right for Good Shepherd to be a presence in this sort of place.”

“I go there to be a presence, valuing and respecting the person, to be non-judgmental, to believe in the potential in people for life, to walk with them in their messy and painful lives – to listen and ask the right questions, to be aware of the loss, pain and hopelessness that are part of addiction. That is where the compassionate heart of a Shepherd God needs to be. I go there to be a compassionate presence of a non-judgmental God”, she said.

Sr Noelene is also a member of the Province Leadership Team for the Australia New Zealand Province.

This article originally appeared in the blog section of the Good Shepherd Sisters' website.