Dialog Box

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11 December 2019

25 years behind bars - a magnificent milestone

 Sr Mary celebrates 25 years of prison ministry

(Pictured: a surprise celebration for Sr Mary including a reunion with Sr Mary Carroll)

“All saints are stubborn, but not all stubborn people are saints*,” said Paul Zammit, Senior Manager of Pastoral Services who was addressing CatholicCare staff who had gathered to celebrate Sr Mary O’Shannassy’s 25th anniversary working in the Prison Ministry.

Paul went on to clarify that it is the first part of the quote that applies to Sr Mary and that the word ‘stubborn’ is better replaced by ‘focussed’. He also went on to describe Mary as ‘very refined, strong, well-practiced, and single-minded’ about the men and women in the care of the prison ministry.

Netty Horton, CEO would later add the words ‘revered and respected’ – to describe the enduring relationships that Sr Mary has built with the residents in the prisons and the staff at Corrections Victoria.

Sr Mary began working as a Prison Minister in December 1994. In 2002, Sr Mary took on the role of Director of the Prison Ministry, along with the responsibility for a team of 15 chaplains and over 80 volunteers who work across the entire Victorian prison system. In addition to this, Sr Mary remains active as a prison chaplain – providing spiritual and emotional support to those who often feel abandoned by society,

“For me,” responded Sr Mary, “these 25 years have been privilege.”

“To be with, to sit with, to walk with, to loiter with (as an aside, Sr Mary defines chaplaincy as ‘loitering with intent’) people that are considered right down there. There is preciousness in each one of them and it just takes time to be with them, to sit with them, and to be privileged to share the sacredness of the story that has brought them to be who they are. So these 25 years have been a gift to me.”

At CatholicCare, we know that it is Sr Mary who is the gift – not only to the prison ministry but also to the broader community - and we could not be more proud of her and this magnificent milestone.

*quote attributed to Gustavo Gutiérrez. 

Photos of Sr Mary's distinguished career in prison ministry
 

(Pictured clockwise from top left: Sr Mary with Ben Carroll MP, Minister for Crime Prevention, Corrections, Youth Justice and Victim Support; with Brendan Money and Rod Wise, Corrections Victoria; remembering the anniversary of the final church service at Pentridge Prison; celebrating 60 years as a Good Samaritan; recognised for 20 years of chaplaincy at Port Phillip Prison; awarded as a Fellow of the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices)

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