Sr Pauline: A passion for administrationPrint
On completion of her role as Administrator of the NSW Chaplaincy Service, Sr Pauline Staunton was the last Sister of Charity to minister with Corrective Services New South Wales.
She retired on 16th June, 2015 after more than 27 years working with chaplains, the various Christian and non-Christian Churches and Corrective Services.
For 17 years, she was also a member of the Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee representing the Catholic Church in regard to health, corrections and juvenile justice.
“My Corrections world expanded due to my being a member of the International Prison Chaplains Association (IPCA) and attendance at International Conferences in South Africa, Ireland, Canada, Italy and Sweden,” recounted Sr Pauline.
It might seem a slightly unusual way to finish a ministry which had begun in the classroom, but Sr Pauline’s ministry was evolving over time in response to need.
Leaving school, Sr Pauline had worked in an insurance company, and was involved in the Catholic Youth Organisation but the path of a career, then marriage and a family was not to be her choice. “I felt called to be a Sister of Charity which would provide me with different experiences”.
“The choice of ministry after profession at that time was between teaching and nursing. I was happy to be appointed to a teaching position at Sacred Heart, Darlinghurst, although I had not at that time completed teacher training,” she said.
“I ‘learned on the job,’ was trained with other Sisters in a similar situation in the evenings and was granted a Primary Teacher’s Certificate. I enjoyed teaching but felt that I was more suited to Administration which proved to be the case in later years.”
In 1959, Sr Pauline was appointed as Year 3 teacher at St Joseph’s School in Hobart and was a community member at Aikenhead House. “We cared for children from fractured families or single parent families until they could be reunited.”
During that time, she was carer and mentor to the senior girls at Aikenhead House. (St Joseph’s Orphanage for Catholic girls, run by the Sisters of Charity, had opened in central Hobart in 1879. In 1958, the Sisters renamed it Aikenhead House and it began accepting young boys in 1963. The orphanage closed in 1970.)
Sr Pauline enjoyed her “out of school hours” role at Aikenhead House as it provided her with opportunities to interact with the children by providing sporting and social activities.
“In 1962, I was appointed as Principal to St Joseph’s School and moved to teaching Year 6. At the end of 1966, St Joseph’s School closed and St Francis Xavier’s School, South Hobart was built and opened the following year. I was Principal, teaching Years 5/6.”
During her years in Hobart, Sr Pauline completed a social welfare course and spent time visiting Risdon Gaol on weekends.
After her years in Tasmania, Sr Pauline came back to Sydney and lived and taught at St Mary’s Primary School in Hurstville. Following that, she moved to Sacred Heart Convent, Cabramatta and spent four years teaching catechetics in the State schools of Western Sydney.
Her next appointment was as principal at Holy Trinity School. Teaching Year 6 on a part time basis left her time to attend to the administration of the school.
“I completed seven years at Holy Trinity. During that time, I was given seven months leave to complete a Pastoral Care Course at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in the Philippines. My pastoral experience at EAPI was in the prisons.
“As I had a Social Welfare Diploma, I was then appointed as the administrator of the Theresian Emergency Centre, Edgecliff, where we cared for children between the ages of one to 16 for periods up to three months or until their families were reunited.”
As the Theresian Centre was in the process of closing, Pauline moved to Greenfield Park as the Community Leader and worked in Administration at Mt Carmel School, Mt Pritchard for a period until her new appointment as Community Leader at St Vincent’s Convent, Potts Point and Administrator of St Brigid’s Nursing Home on that complex
Three years later, at the beginning of 1988, she moved into her longest role as a Sister of Charity, when she became Administrator of the NSW Chaplaincy Service – Corrective Services NSW. In her role, Sr Pauline’s was responsible for all matters relating to the day to day administration of the Chaplaincy Service. However, she did have access to the five gaols on the complex in an emergency and if a Chaplain was unavailable.
“I supported the chaplains, and I listened to their problems, unofficially providing pastoral support for them,” Sr Pauline said. Chaplains were of all faiths, male and female, lay, religious and ordained clergy.
Networking in her role was important. Liaising with the General Managers of the prisons, she could arrange “out of usual time” visits for clergy or sometimes a family who might have travelled from a distance and may not have had access to their son as it was not a visiting day or time. This could mean supervising the visit at the request of the Governor.
She received the Commissioner of Corrective Services Citation for her 27 plus years (main photo) in Corrective Services and an Order of Australia medal in 2009 from then Governor Marie Bashir (centre) for “service to inmates and their families, staff and fellow chaplains in Corrective Services.”
After nearly three decades in her role, Sr Pauline took eighteen months to prepare for retirement and a period of Spiritual Renewal that allowed her to move happily on to the next period of her life which was to be her appointment as the Community Leader of West Street, Darlinghurst and a contact person for two Queensland Sisters.