Golden rule – avoid duplicating anything.
Greatest fault: All round nice guy and IT geek, so my name seems to be the most shouted in the Chaplaincy.
I’ve been an emigrant since late 1990. I think the staff and volunteers of the Irish Chaplaincy provide support especially when the going gets tough. Every family should be very relieved and delighted to know this support is available for their vulnerable loved ones.
Breda has received various nominations and awards, including: a, Liberty and Britain and Ireland Human Rights Project - of which she was a patron - nomination, for a Reebok Human Rights Award; a ‘Civil Liberties Award’, commemorating the late Martin Ennals, former Secretary General of Amnesty International and an Irish Post Community Award, accepted on behalf of those working for relatives of prisoners, who serve the sentence also.
I have a passion to meet new people, listen to them and share with them. I meet people from all walks of life in this role, I learn on a daily basis, but most importantly, I offer understanding to those who may have never had a listening ear.
Despite often difficult circumstances, many Traveller groups I visit are alive with spirit, culture and humour, which drives me to continue the work I do. Similarly the Chaplaincy is a positive place to work, in light of the sometimes dire situations we are dealing with. We inspire each other to continue, share good news stories, and offer support when needed.
Without the people I serve, and the other members of the Chaplaincy, my job would be much more difficult.
Around once a month, when someone at work asks me on a Monday morning, ‘what did you get up to at the weekend?’, I usually reply ‘not much - went out for a drink on Friday, watched football on Saturday, and on Sunday, visited a lady that I go and see once a month.’
It strikes me that the way I describe volunteering as part of the Irish Chaplaincy’s Seniors Project really under-sells what we do. I should be saying, ‘I volunteer as part of the Irish Chaplaincy’s Seniors Project and visit an Irish lady for a cup of tea and a good chat.’
I began volunteering with the Chaplaincy about two years ago; I’d heard about the Seniors Project and its visiting scheme from someone I worked with, who had been doing it for a couple of years himself. I thought of my parents, and thought if either of them were on their own and I wasn’t around – it was something that I thought I’d like someone to do for them if I lived too far away.
It isn’t one-way traffic though – this isn’t something where I, the volunteer, am the person giving something – speaking to the lady that I go and see, let’s call her…Bridget…often gives me a different perspective on the way I think about something – I find the visits quite relaxing, and sometimes it’s just great to have a chat.
It’s also much less of a chore than I might have expected it to be; I usually head to Bridget’s place for around 11am on a Sunday; it takes me an hour if I choose the leisurely bus route, and this gives me time to think about the week I’ve had, and to wonder how Bridget has been in the last couple of weeks. In truth, it gets me up and out of bed on a Sunday morning when otherwise, I’d likely be on the sofa watching Frasier re-runs and feeling bad for having done nothing with the day.
In terms of what I can offer Bridget, I’m there as someone to talk to; someone to try and assist if she has an issue with her flat; someone to post a letter; someone who occasionally does a bit of hoovering for her.
I think we should be proud of what we can offer and we shouldn’t be shy in telling the world about it. As with a lot of things though, time and money isn’t really on our side, which is why we need to get people volunteering and to harness the skills that our volunteers have to make the Project more successful.
“While studying at All Hallows, Dublin, I was privileged to do a ‘pastoral placement ‘ at Mountjoy’s Women’s prison. Whilst there I accompanied some of the female prisoners on family home visits. This was followed by working as a prison chaplain for twelve years in the north east of England. I loved this ministry but my favorite prison story is about a lovely lady called Annie, a Traveller, who having been extradited from an English prison longed to visit her family in Cork. The then governor, John Lonergan, sure that Annie would never be seen again, hesitated to let her out for the day. I pleaded on her behalf and permission was granted. On the 17th March we both headed off by train to Cork. At the end of a very emotional day we not only returned on time to Mountjoy but we also brought The Governor some chocolate and a thank you card! Mr. Lonergan used this story at a later lecture when speaking about risk- taking and trusting in the goodness of people.
When I retired from full time work in Acklington and Castington prisons I came to Essex. Aware that I had time to spare, and knowing some of the chaplains at the London office, I was invited to help with their heavy work load. I was made very welcome and I enjoy my time here”.
EG: “What do you do at the Chaplaincy”?
MK: “The prisoners have a direct line to the Prison Outreach Office and sometimes that is
the only contact they have with the outside world. I answer the telephone and direct their calls to the appropriate person if I am unable to address their issues. I also help with whatever administration needs to be done and I go on prison visits occasionally.”
EG: “What do you think the ongoing needs are in the Prison Outreach?”
MK: “Staff are doing admirable work at the office. More staff and volunteers are needed, especially people with experience of prison visiting and computer skills. There are hundreds of Irish prisoners on our books: some are doing life sentences, others who are unable to cope die by suicide. The staff deal with issues of discrimination, bullying, advice, finance appeals; and their families also need support.”
EG: “What do you like most about volunteering?”
MK: “I like the contact with the prisoners and their families. It is good to be able to trace and support the father, mother, son or daughter incarcerated in this dreadful prison system and their distraught families. I also like being able to support the staff with their heavy work load.”
EG: “Thanks Moira, it’s great to have you at the Irish Chaplaincy.”
MK: “Thank you. It is good to have the opportunity to help and to respond to the Lord.
He said ‘I was in prison and you visited Me…”
(Annie is a pseudonym)
Our Board Members
Clare Coffey (Chair), Susan O’Malley (Treasurer), Brendan McCarthy, Tony Walsh, Andrew Cusack, Conor Davis, Fr John Deehan.