A life of faith and obedience led Joe O’Brien through the gates of Hakea Prison, Perth’s maximum-security jail. Source: The eRecord.
“When Bishop Don [Sproxton] first asked me about taking on the prison ministry I said, ‘You’ve got to be joking,” Mr O’Brien said. “Yet here I am, nine years later and still loving what I do.”
Mr O’Brien is the prison ministry co-ordinator in the Perth Archdiocese. He spoke to The eRecord about both the need for support from lay people and religious, and the impact that such an act of mercy can have for both prisoner and chaplain.
“Prison ministry is really one of those things that is about living your faith: the idea is that if you live your faith well, then people see that faith in action.
“Because a lot of people, you can say what you like, you can give them things to read but it makes little or no difference – it’s about what you do.
“They see you and they realise that you mean what you say – they appreciate it and go: ‘Well, okay!’.”
Mr O’Brien said prison chaplaincy is about living “a real faith” and being willing to put your faith on the line, because people are going to give you a hard time about it.
“To work in this sort of environment, you really have to have a concrete faith. “In my experience, I see that my faith is always getting challenged, even simply by some of the stories that I hear. However, even hearing those stories, just listening and being there, I’ve had guys tell me years later that those moments really changed their life.
“And that’s incredibly faith building overall, but at the time, it was a real challenge for me.”
Prison ministry a light in the darkness (The eRecord)