WelCom December 2020
Sr Veronica Casey pbvm, is looking for people with the faith to listen to and help some of the country’s most rejected people – the 9500 men and women serving time in Aotearoa New Zealand’s 18 prisons.
Mosgiel-based Sr Veronica is the Catholic Senior Prison Chaplain. She is always looking for suitable people for the volunteer and paid prison chaplaincy roles she supports, but often can’t find enough of them.
To help her, the Catholic bishops have published a new booklet about prison ministry as part of a campaign to draw people in all six dioceses to consider becoming involved in prison ministry. Prison ministry is service to some of society’s most rejected people and is valuable work.
Entitled, Prison Ministry: what is it and how do I get involved? – Tiaparani Whareherehere: He aha tēnei mea, ā,he pēhea te hono atu?, the booklet is available in most parishes as printed copies and online. With adjacent Māori and English text it describes prison ministry, what it involves and how to carry it out. Copies have been sent to parishes in the hope people will pick one up, read it and find
‘Prison ministry really is a vocation, but it needs preparation,’ says Sr Veronica. ‘The issues of poverty, ethnic minorities, and mental illness are characteristics of prison populations everywhere. Prison chaplaincy is a core corporal work of mercy.’
The prison chaplaincy service is a government-funded ecumenical service. The Catholic Church has a sub-contract with Prison Chaplaincy New Zealand to provide Catholic chaplaincy.
‘Pope Francis has a deep concern for people in prison,’ says Sr Veronica, who met the Pope at an international prison chaplaincy conference at the Vatican last year. ‘He has urged for changes in the outlook and approach in treating people in prison, offering help and adequate resources to live a dignified life, not discarding them,’ she said.
‘It’s a hugely important role. People in prison tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have no hope in their lives. Prison ministry is about bringing hope and meaning to an otherwise hopeless situation. You can be the first person who’s ever listened to them.’
Prison chaplains are paid and provide religious and spiritual services. Training in theology and pastoral care is available through the Church’s Te Kupenga – Catholic Leadership Institute. Anyone considering the role is advised to do these studies. Volunteers can be involved in a variety of ways such as pastoral visiting, Bible study and Sunday service.
‘This is a ministry for the whole Church and parishes can be involved in prayer ministry, support for the prison chaplains and volunteers and for supporting people on release from prison.’
Sr Veronica is keen to talk with anyone who reads the new booklet and believes they might have a calling to the role. She can be contacted at email@example.com
The Prison Ministry booklet is online at: www.catholic.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Prison-chaplaincy-booklet-Nov-2021.pdf
An article about Sr Veronica’s Rome visit is online at: www.catholic.org.nz/news/media-releases/nz-prisoners-share-poverty/