• image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Tuesday, 20 September 2011 13:00

A charitable administrator

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Now 76, Sister Pauline’s first experience of gaols was as a young Sister in 1956.   At that time there were no chaplains or chaplaincy service. She accompanied another Sister of Charity on her visits to Long Bay for Mass on a Sunday.

After moving to Tasmania in 1959 to teach in a Primary School she visited Risdon Gaol each Saturday with a St Vincent de Paul Society volunteer.     Following Mass, time was spent with the men, listening to them and trying to assist in various ways.   Her other experience of prisons was during a study year in the Philippines in 1978 when she chose Prison Ministry in the local gaol as a pastoral placement.

In the intervening years she maintained her contact with prisoners and correctional centres but worked in a variety of other roles as a primary school teacher, a school principal, administrator of an emergency childcare centre, a teacher of religion in state schools in Sydney’s western suburbs, a community leader administering the nursing home section of the Convent, and as a school secretary.

In 1988 she took on the role of administrator of the NSW Chaplaincy Service. Since then her workplace has been Long Bay Correctional Complex at Malabar in south-eastern Sydney.

“People ask me if I feel safe in this environment,” says Pauline. “Gaols can be harsh and rarely aesthetically beautiful but I believe that it is very safe and we in chaplaincy are well respected by the inmates and staff.”

Her role requires a range of administrative tasks including briefings for new chaplains on administrative matters, organising security training for them, facilitating monthly meetings with chaplains across NSW, budgeting and ensuring that the Churches working in chaplaincy are paid their subsidies, organising the chaplains’ annual conference and liaising with Churches and the Corrective Services NSW.

“Every day there is some task relating to Chaplaincy that needs to be attended to,” says Pauline, “It’s quite a different role to that of a chaplain. I keep the wheels of chaplaincy turning, administratively.”

She works closely with the Coordinator of Chaplaincy, Reverend Rod Moore, an Anglican priest. She is also one of the Catholic Bishops’ representatives on the NSW Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee (CCAC) which includes representatives from 15 Member Organisations (Churches).    This Committee liaises with the State Government on Prison, Hospital and Juvenile Justice Chaplaincy issues.

Currently there are 80 chaplains of various denominations, Christian and other non-Christian faiths ministering in correctional centres in NSW. Thirty-eight are full time and the others are sessional (hourly).

“Throughout the State there are Priests, Ministers, Imams, Rabbis, Buddhist Nuns men and women lay persons and Religious working in NSW gaols,” says Pauline.

In the Sydney Archdiocese Father Peter Carroll MSC, is chaplain to Long Bay and Silverwater Correctional Centres. Marist Sister Therese Campbell works part-time with Father Peter at Long Bay. Mrs. Margaret Wiseman and Dominican Sister June Peck are chaplains to the Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre.   Twenty-two other Religious and five lay people work in full and part-time chaplaincy roles in prisons throughout the state.

Corrective Services NSW allocates a subsidy to the Member Organisation of the CCAC for each of their chaplains working in the NSW prison system.

“It would be difficult to find 80 Chaplains to perform a pastoral role in prisons if there was no Government funding.” says Sister Pauline.

She says Chaplaincy in prisons can be a lonely ministry especially for those Chaplains who work alone in the various centres.   

“Some people do not understand prisons and the issues that Chaplains face on a daily basis,” Sister Pauline says.   “So it’s great for Chaplains to be able to meet regularly with their peers in order to discuss their issues and concerns.    Each month some travel from as far as Bathurst, Wellington, Cessnock and Muswellbrook to attend the NSW Chaplaincy Service monthly meetings.

Although Pauline’s main focus is administration, often administration staff whom she meets around the Complex will share their stories and personal concerns with her.  She regularly listens to members of families who ring and need immediate assistance or to Chaplains who just want to talk.

The O’Farrell government recently announced that Parramatta, Berrima and Kirkconnell Correctional Centres, will be closing.  

Sister Pauline said this will result in Officers and ancillary staff enduring extra pressure and stress, which will impact on the lives of their families.

“Our Coordinator Reverend Rod Moore has asked Chaplains to be particularly mindful of the concerns of staff during this period and many are already supporting Staff.

“Some closures will also affect Chaplains, so it is a worrying time for all”.

She said all in Chaplaincy are very heartened and pleased that the Australian Catholic Bishops have chosen as their theme for Social Justice Sunday “Building Bridges not Walls” Prisons and the Justice System as the focus for Social Justice Sunday 2011.  

She said the Catholic Prison Ministry Network led by Father Peter Carroll has had extensive input into this document.

“Prisons and prisoners are often not high on the list of peoples’ priorities.   The attitude of some in society can be to incarcerate and lock up offenders - forgetting that ‘Prisons are People’.

“We need to educate and encourage people in our communities to become involved and be compassionate towards the incarcerated.    Inmates are real people worthy of being treated with compassion and dignity. The hope is that rehabilitation will take place and that there will be acceptance when inmates return home to their families; that they are given practical assistance as they get back on their feet, get employment and lead good and productive lives.”