“Our presence is a pastoral one, we provide a listening ear – we don’t judge”
Centacare’s Prison chaplains include priests, religious sisters, lay men and women from the Brisbane Archdiocese. We offer on request pastoral care to prisoners and staff irrespective of their faith. Chaplains regularly visit correctional centres throughout the Archdiocese.
Sister Elisabeth Keane from the Sisters of Loretto Order is one of them….
“I have been visiting Numinbah Correctional Centre each week since 2000, and am yet to be given parole! Numinbah is a low classification prison farm in the Gold Coast Hinterland and being in such a beautiful setting must help the women’s rehabilitation. It was a men’s and women’s prison but is now females only with about 100 women. However they will soon be able to house up to 130. As most of the women are near the end of their sentence, a number of them are involved in community service, as well as a Work Camp at Warwick. An innovation at Numinbah has been the building of six houses with five women in each. Each house is responsible for their own cooking, cleaning and gardening – a wonderful preparation for when they leave.
What do I find so rewarding about being part of Centacare’s Prison Chaplaincy? Our presence is a pastoral one, so I go with a ‘listening ear’, accepting the women where they are at and not judging. I believe a Christian is someone who sees with the eyes of Jesus and that is what I try to do. I hope the women see me as a woman of welcome, of honour, with a compassionate acceptance, who helps them to believe in themselves, in spite of what has happened, and encourages them to forgive themselves. Only then can their self-esteem be restored.
There are many reasons why people end up in prison – mental health issues, poor education, drug or alcohol addiction, racism. I cannot solve these problems, but I do encourage the women to look at what it was that got them into prison, and how they can change in order to lessen the chances of re-offending. I believe there is good at the heart of us all, some of us have used our opportunities better, but if the women can understand a mistake is not a death sentence, and Jesus loves and forgives them, they may have the belief in themselves to choose better lifestyles.
I meet some wonderful women, and I am proud of so many of them who are now making a worthwhile contribution to our society, this is where Centacare is helping to make the difference!”