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Sr Patricia Walker at St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Melbourne

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As  a member of the Pastoral Services Team at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Melbourne, there is not too much that Sr Patricia Walker has not encountered.

“The whole range of human emotions is in evidence, and Pastoral Care Practitioners need to be prepared for everything,” she said, sitting in the Pastoral Care Offices in Fitzroy’s SVPH.

After leaving school, Sr Pat completed a three year Teacher Training Course at Melbourne Teachers College. Following her graduation she was appointed to Merlynston State School where she taught for two years.

Sr Pat surprised even herself when she discovered the possibility of a religious vocation. “My vocation came totally out of the blue. I had a religious experience  which I believed at the time left me no other option than  to consider religious life. The memory of that experience has been a very sustaining and comforting re-assurance through out the years.”

She entered the Sisters of Charity Novitiate in 1961, was professed in 1963 and made her final Vows in 1968. Sr Pat recommenced  her teaching ministry at St Canice’s School in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay. Further appointments followed at Sacred Heart Cabramatta and Sacred Heart Diamond Creek Vic. Then, a year-long renewal at the National Pastoral Institute in Melbourne ensued : “Such an enriching and yet challenging experience ” said Sr Pat.

After that, she returned to education with seven-year stints as Principal at St Vincent’s at Strathmore and Stella Maris Shellharbour. “I guess in all these places there were always elements of Pastoral Care, but these became more evident  when I was employed for nine very happy years as a pastoral Associate in Good Shepherd Parish at Gladstone Park, in Melbourne.

“Through my engagements with parishioners who were dealing with  serious illnesses, often in resolute and courageous ways, the idea of possibly working in a hospital took root.

“However before that happened. I enjoyed another great Sabbatical in 1999 with four months renewal at Ecce Homo, Jerusalem, followed by further overseas travel. Refreshed and renewed, I returned to Australia to complete a CPE Course at Peter McCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne. And so began my ministry at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne in 2000.”

In the pastoral care offices, Sr Pat finds herself  in the unusual position  of talking about herself, and is not so comfortable with the prospect. With a certain grace though, she took herself into her ministries – most recently and across the years. She now ministers at the hospital four days  a week and finds her role there incredibly rewarding.

“It’s a great place to work, the culture in the hospital created over  many years by great leaders is so very positive. My particular work happens on a cardiology ward and the ICU ward. Every day I encounter an extraordinary variety of people. I never imagined that patients could have such resilience, often in very trying and difficult  circumstances.

“They teach me so much  by their fortitude, faith and acceptance. The real challenge is to try to listen well. Henri Nouwen suggests “that a priority task of pastoral care workers is to be aware of relating to many different patients in different ways.”

And then there are other challenges… “When problems just come flying at you! In those cases, I can rely on other members of the pastoral care team, which is so supportive.

“This is beautiful work. I would hope that I give encouragement.  I hope that my faith helps me face each new day with hope, expectation, and trust.”

Note: Sr Patricia is the only Sister of Charity still working at St Vincent’s Private.  The Sisters of Charity established the public hospital in Fitzroy  in 1893. The public hospital, which served the poor and needy of the inner city around Fitzroy, where it is still  located, was originally seen as a younger sibling of Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital (itself named after the hospital which Mary Aikenhead found in Dublin in 1834 on St. Stephen’s Green). All were intended  as charitable institutions which would help bolster minimal health care.

 

THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
When we have so much to praise the Lord for, we must not complain.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
True affection is to rejoice in the happiness of our dear ones. Never allow a sentiment of resentment to enter into our hearts.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Pray, reflect and consult – and may the divine spirit direct all to God’s greater glory.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
May our dear Lord Jesus fill your hearts with His own love. Amen!
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
We must have patience with others as He has patience with us.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Under every difficulty try to pray fervently.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
We have much to thank Him for, even for those little drawbacks on our comforts and conveniences.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Do pray that justice may be accomplished in peace and that truth may prevail.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
Go on now as steadily as you can, relying on the Divine assistance and fear not.
THE WISDOM OF MARY AIKENHEAD
What we do ought to be done well.

The Sisters of Charity acknowledge the First Peoples and traditional custodians of this land where we live. We respect, value and honour their history, culture and spirituality. We are committed to standing in solidarity and to actively working for justice, peace and harmony in this land.

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