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Caring Makes a Difference

The role of prison chaplain in a correctional facility offers a unique opportunity for anyone who is passionate about making a difference. Diocese of Bathurst Mission and Renewal Director Deacon Josh Clayton says that as the diocese has a number of correctional facilities in its boundary lines, this presents great opportunities for service.

“Yes, there are people in prison who have done bad things, but I sometimes think each of us could be one bad decision away from being in jail ourselves, whether it was texting while driving or making another silly mistake”, said Deacon Josh. “And I hope that if I ended up in prison that there’ll be someone there who will come in and bring God’s love to me.

Four people who couldn’t be happier about spending time in some of the country’s harshest places are Fran Schubert, Deacon Mike Williams, Fr Greg Walsh CM and Geraldine Bowes all prison chaplains for the Diocese of Bathurst. Their work sees them cover Lithgow, Bathurst, and Wellington Correctional Centers.

Governor of the Macquarie Correctional Centre in Wellington, Brad Peebles, when asked what difference the chaplaincy service makes to the region’s prison inmates and staff, replied “The chaplain is ‘the soul of the center’ and the chaplaincy service in general is an essential part of the toolkit in managing behavior in custody, and in effecting change in people who are often broken and feel rejected by the community,” Mr Peebles said.

“It’s essential that people, during the process of change, have a non-judgmental person who cares about them and accepts them as human beings. “Although Catholic, our Chaplain Fran has the gift of being loved and respected by people from all denominations, and this also includes our Islamic and Buddhist inmates.”

Apart from their ministry of presence, these prison chaplains would also like to see better support for people upon their release into the wider community as well as to build the capacity in other likeminded people who could assist our chaplains in the complementary role of a chaplain assistant.

Depending on their expertise and experience, this assistance may take a variety of forms, including helping to lead religious services, assisting in offering pastoral care to inmates and staff, and facilitating through care efforts.

“We see it as a great opportunity to be able to remove some of the stigma people have about jails and those who live in them or are leaving them”, added Deacon Josh. Might you be called to be a prison chaplain, or a chaplain’s assistant, to bring hope to some of the most vulnerable people in regional NSW?

Call Deacon Josh Clayton on 0458 261 513 or email mrd@bathurst.catholic.org.au for more details.

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