Last week Sr Mary O’Shannassy SGS OAM, Director of CatholicCare Victoria’s Prison Ministry, was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate from Australian Catholic University at a graduation ceremony held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The ACU Honorary Doctorate degrees recognise individuals who have provided outstanding contributions to the community and to humanity. Sr Mary’s conferral was in recognition of her loving service to people imprisoned in Victoria, her contribution to the recognition in Australia of the dignity of each person, particularly those who are imprisoned, and for her leadership in chaplaincy for all prisoners in Victoria.

‘It is such an honour to be recognised in this way,’ said Sr Mary. ‘Prison chaplaincy has been 25 years of my life and my whole time in prison has been one of learning and privilege.’

‘To me, it is an honour for the whole of the chaplaincy team throughout Victoria because I believe the leader is only as effective as the individual team members.’

‘I am very grateful for the people who considered me and put my name forward.’

Sr Mary also gave the occasional address to the graduands at the beginning of the ceremony, reminding them to “be true to oneself”.

Sr Mary with Archbishop Peter
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli and Sr Mary O’Shannassy SGS OAM

Prison Chaplaincy is a service offered through CatholicCare Victoria, and involves visiting men and women in every prison and correctional centre in Victoria, offering emotional, spiritual and sacramental support. During prison visitation, Chaplains listen, connect, endeavour to understand and comfort people who may otherwise feel lost or abandoned. They can also provide support to prisoners’ family members and/or significant people in their lives.

The ministry seeks to promote the development and understanding of Restorative Justice, which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. Prison Chaplains work as part of an interfaith network, working alongside chaplains from many other faith groups.

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Sr Mary (second from left) at the recent Patrick Oration. Pictured with Agnes Sheehan (CEO, CatholicCare Victoria), Imelda Chua (Prison Ministry) and Sonya Smart (CEO, VMCH).