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Pastoral program for ex-prisoners

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The Adelaide Archdiocese has launched a ‘field hospital’ style program to provide outreach and practical assistance to those living on the margins in inner city Adelaide.

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The New Roads Program was borne from the need to “fill the gap” for those on the periphery and others returning to society after time in prison. Its objectives are in line with Pope Francis’ call for the Church to take ‘new roads’ and be a ‘field hospital after battle’.

Although work in this area has been underway on an informal basis for several years, in August the Archdiocese formalised the program and committed to providing funding to cover incidental expenses for a 12 month trial period. Since then, 18 people have been supported through the initiative.

During the trial, the program is focusing on supporting men who are in prison who have been released on parole, those at risk of contact with the justice system, men who are living with HIV/AIDS, African youth at risk of connecting or have connected with the justice system, those facing deportation as a result of imprisonment and, where appropriate, the families of those men.

Participants are referred by prison chaplains, Adelaide Day Centre, Adelaide Community Corrections, Brian Burdekin Clinic, parishes and diocesan agencies.

Program coordinator and frontline contact person Br Martyn Paxton offers pastoral support to the participants, while volunteers Lorraine Kuehn and Sue Wainwright are responsible for providing practical assistance.

They gather goods donated by friends and colleagues and pass them on to the men being supported by the program. Items include vouchers for food, bus tickets, toiletries, household furniture, clothing, mobile phones and, if requested, religious items such as bibles.

“We’ve not set up anything in opposition to any other service, there is just a gap there that we are trying to fill,” Ms Kuehn said.

“Mary MacKillop said ‘never see a need without doing something about it’… if we all do what we can do, when we can, then that is a huge ground swell of people helping. It might feel insignificant but it is going to move on and hopefully if we’ve made one man feel better about himself, it’s a victory.

“For those men coming out on parole, it’s a welcome back…you’ve been away, paid your debt and welcome back – here’s something to make your life better. It’s like providing ‘crutches’ to get them back on their feet.”

Ms Kuehn added that the men are “really grateful” for the support which is given in a “non-judgemental way”.

Ms Wainwright, who together with Ms Kuehn is a member of the Cathedral’s Monday night scripture group, said they had received “overwhelming support” from their Church and community networks.

“All the groups I am involved in, they all know I am going to ask for things! I just ask people if they are replacing something in their house, can I have first dibs,” she said.

“This program is engendering love throughout the community. It’s lovely that the Archdiocese is backing our program and enabling us to reach the marginalised, and do the work that Pope Francis wants us to do. It’s pretty special.”

Ms Wainwright said that as the program continued to expand there would be a need for more volunteers.

“Once you get that field hospital thing going, there is all sorts of need out there. There are huge pockets of marginalised people, and a lot of them are suffering from mental illness and need support,” she said.

If you would like to volunteer or find out more about the New Roads Program, contact Br Martyn Paxton, 0426 884 800 or martynpaxton@gmail.com

 

 

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