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A cathedral that
Novocastrians are familiar with the soaring
spires of the Anglican Christ Church
Cathedral, sitting atop a prominent hill, like
a sentinel guarding our port. Because it
is close to the Police Station, the Court
Houses and the port itself, there are always
people in need of pastoral care who find
their way there. When visiting cruise ships
enter the harbour, many of those aboard,
seeking a quiet place, find their way to this
So, what attracts so many people and
ensures that these visitors are touched
by the holiness of God? I approached
Chaplaincy Co-ordinator, Fr George
Mainprize, for answers.
The Cathedral Chaplaincy is based on
a similar model in Ely Cathedral (UK)
requiring a number of Duty Chaplains.
These chaplains oversee the daily activities
of the chaplain support people; the
activities must have a community focus
and embrace ecumenism. Each chaplain
is inducted and given an overview of aims,
including helping people to a deepening
relationship with God. Chaplains must be
able to work alongside any visitor to the
Cathedral, a friendly presence open to the
So the call went out for volunteers. The
call was answered by, among others, two
Dominican Sisters, Sr Beth Egan OP and
Sr Geraldine Maher OP, of Waratah. With
backgrounds in pastoral care and imbued
with an ecumenical spirit, they were warmly
embraced as perfect candidates for
ministry in the Cathedral. Similarly selected
were two Uniting Church ministers and a
The Sisters greet the visitors with a
Companion Guide to the Cathedral. This
little booklet complements the general
guide book. It is a spiritual overview of
what makes the building what it is and it
allows a visitor to "pray their way" around.
Each Sister has her own way of engaging
visitors -- where do they come from, are
they part of a faith community, do they
want 'the works' -- the tour and the spiritual
overview? They may ask if the visitor has
someone in mind for whom they would like
the volunteers to pray, and if the answer is
"yes", they are assured that prayers will be
Sometimes the Sisters point out special
visiting stations like the rose window
depicting the angel's Annunciation to Mary,
or the east window which proclaims "I am
the vine, you are the branches". The empty
cross above the altar reminds Christians
BY SHIRLEY MCHUGH
Nongrak (left) and Emily Sklenars, visitors from Geelong, and Sr Beth Egan OP at
Christ Church Cathedral.
that they are people of Resurrection.
The Sisters say that they have given
blessings, prayed with and for people,
listened to sorrows and joys and discussed
all kinds of matters, from the plight of
refugees to whether God would vote
Labor, Liberal or Green. The Sisters value
the visitors' perspectives and know that
there are some people who have found
their way back into faith as a result of their
encounters with the chaplaincy teams.
What is truly magnificent about all the
Duty Chaplains, volunteers and assistant
chaplains, is their recognition of what
Anglican Ministry has achieved. It goes
well beyond "Anglican" interests. "People
come for comfort or counsel," said Fr
George, "not because they are Anglican or
indeed, necessarily, Christian, but because
they recognise a special place in which
God resides, or a movement to 'that which
they dimly grasp'.''
I asked Beth and Geraldine if they ever
become depressed or worn out from
the many sad stories (they do hear good
stories too), and they both agreed, "Never.
These people give us so much -- much
more than we give them."
I found that hard to believe.
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
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