Reflections on Mary: Prison Chaplaincy

'Mary the Advocate'
An Interview with Sr Mary O'Shannassy sgs
Prison chaplains provide practical and pastoral support for prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. In this brief video, Good Samaritan sister Mary O'Shannassy reflects on this challenging yet rewarding ministry; the courage she gains from seeing Jesus 'as prisoner' and the witness by his mother Mary, the advocate. 
Some questions for reflection have also been provided below. 
Points for Reflection:
  • Sr Mary says that 'adaptability' is essential to her work as a prison chaplain. Pope Francis also talks about the flexibility needed in parish life: "The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community."  How might this video challenge or broaden your view of helping those 'on the margins'?
  • Sr Mary says her work is possible through a partnership with God.  Does prayer play a role in your own work life? If not, how might you incorporate it in the future?
  • Sr Mary says that "many (prisoners) find it hard to find anything good about themselves" and that the work of her team is to help people "come home to the goodness within them." Does this challenge your perception of crime and punishment? If so how?
  • Sr Mary reflects on the wedding feast at Cana and describes Mary's role as an advocate, saying "she saw a need and in her gentle way, she did something about it. She sowed a seed and was confident that something would happen; that it would resolve itself."  What role does Mary play in your life? Do you have a prayerful relationship with Mary as mother, friend or advocate?
  • Sometimes we expect change to happen overnight. Mary's advocacy was one of patience and trust.  How might you become an advocates for change? 
  • "We are guided by the teachings of Christ who never neglected the outcast or the criminal." (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Social Justice Statement, ‘Building bridges, not walls: Prisons and the justice system’, 2011)  Who are the outcasts in today's society? In your community? In what ways might you commit to responding to their needs?

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