Being a prison chaplain isn’t a job, it’s a calling, according to Parklea Correctional Centre’s five faith leaders.
To ensure the prison can provide support and guidance to its diverse inmate population and staff, Parklea’s operator MTC-Broadspectrum has engaged chaplains from the Anglican, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Uniting and Islamic religions and there are plans to recruit more from other faiths.
The chaplain’s role is to listen and provide counsel to inmates, their families and staff when they need help, and when COVID restrictions permit, a church service is held on Sundays.
While they come from different denominations and faiths, they all enjoy working together and have the same goal – to provide pastoral care to anyone who needs it, even if they don’t follow the same religion or any at all.
Uniting chaplain Liva has been at the prison the longest, serving the needs of inmates and staff for six years.
“To work as a chaplain is a vocation or a calling, it’s not a job, but we are not here to proselyte to others or convert inmates to become Christians,” Liva said.
“We are chaplains for everyone. We are all God’s children and loved by God equally. The presence of [muslim chaplain] Mohamad has enriched our “being” as chaplains.”
Stanhope Anglican Church minister Edwin wanted to expand into chaplaincy after volunteering with prison ministry organisation Kairos International.
“I saw the impact their ministry had on the lives of the inmates. That convinced me prison ministry was something worthwhile to pursue as a chaplain,” Edwin said.
“I hope to help people to reassess their lives, accept responsibility for their actions and make purposeful changes in their lives so that they don’t reoffend.”
Muslim chaplain Mohamad was interested in working in a prison to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I want to be part of making a difference in the rehabilitation of inmates and I love to see time spent with them making a change in their behaviour and attitude,” Mohamad said.
Richard started as a Catholic chaplain at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital last year and joined the Parklea team in March after “the holy spirit working through people suggested I consider it”.
“I enjoy the possibility of bringing a face of hope and healing into a place where there is so much hurt and suffering,” Richard said.
“As you can imagine, there are a variety of incidents that take place in a prison and at the end of the day, we are all human, regardless of how strong a face we put on.”
Tuni has been a Seventh Day Adventist chaplain for Corrective Services NSW for two years and joined the Parklea team earlier this year. He is also a chaplain at a retirement village.
“I see my role as serving inmates in their time of spiritual need,” Tuni said.
“I hope to move inmates from a hopeless mindset to a hopeful expectation in God.”
Edwin and Mohamad offered some words of advice for those considering entering prison chaplaincy.
“I will certainly recommend this job to anyone who loves, values and respects the inmates as people made in the image of God and who are very precious in God’s sight,” Edwin said.
“Someone who likes to listen, someone with empathy and strength of character,” Mohamad said.
Parklea Correctional Centre is operated by MTC Australia on behalf of Corrective Services NSW.