Mercy and listening ear is key to jail life

Sr Loretta Kerrigan

A maximum security correctional centre wasn’t necessarily what Sr Loretta Corrigan RSM had in mind nine years ago when she applied for a pastoral care job in Canberra-Goulburn after finishing her studies.

- Fiona Van der Plaat, Catholic Voice

She was offered the position of chaplain at the Goulburn Correctional Centre. 'I said I didn’t know anything about jail life but would give it 12 months and see how it went,' Sr Loretta said.

As it turned out, she 'quite liked it.'

'From the day I first went in there, I felt it was the right place for me. I felt quite at peace there.'

So she stayed on and only now, after nine years, is she preparing to step back from the 35 hours a week of what she concedes can often be a 'full-on' job. Not that her work has been anything other than satisfying.  'I find it a privilege to work out there (at the prison),' she said.

'I am constantly amazed at the depth of the men’s spirituality … It’s also taught me a lot about the fragility of humanity and that there is more to the person than perhaps what they have done. The depth of humanity that I see is extraordinary.'

It also helps that the intensity of her ministry is eased with friendship and humour. 'We have a lot of laughs. There are some real characters there and the staff is fantastic. The ministry is very rewarding.'

Sr Loretta is one of two full-time chaplains at the centre, along with an Anglican chaplain. There is also a part-time Salvation Army representative and several sessional chaplains. All are available to inmates of any denomination, who may want to talk about anything from spiritual issues to family matters.

The chaplains enter the centre each day prepared for anything. 'You have to be very flexible. You never know what you are going to be met with on any day.' The art, Sr Loretta says, lies in being prepared to listen to the inmates’ stories without judgment and'“accepting them as they are and where they are at that moment.'

FULL STORY Mercy and listening ear is key to jail life

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