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Prison chaplaincy: questions and activities

04 March 2021

Read ‘Seeing beyond the walls’ in the Australian Catholics 2021 autumn edition and take part in the following questions and activities.


  • Why do you think Sr Elizabeth believes the perception of people in prisons is warped by misconceptions, resentment and ignorance?
  • Why does society have laws?
  • What laws are you most aware of? What about rules and guidelines set down by your family, school, local council, the church? Why do you obey them?
  • What’s your response when someone breaks a rule in your family, school, or community? What are some other ways of responding? How do we determine the best response in any circumstance?
  • What are some of the circumstances that might lead to people ending up in prison (e.g. drug addiction, poverty, homelessness)? What are some ways that we, as a society, might get better at reconciling people with the community that don’t involve incarceration?


Life after prison: The prison chaplaincy story highlights how a person’s crime is only a small part of their life. Explore the story of a saint who turned their life around (there are some examples here). What did they do? How were they lead towards God? What does this tell you about God’s response to our sinfulness? How might this shape our own response to those in prison?

Standing with the marginalised: Consider this story from Fr Gregory Boyle about one of the young men he works with at Homeboy Industries. Write a reflection considering how the exchange in the story affects both of the people involved. What effect do you think just listening, and affirming the good in people, can do for them? Alternatively, write a fictional story about an encounter like this, where two people from different backgrounds meet and share stories, and come away changed.

Reaching out: Prisoners aren’t the only members of the community who are often forgotten about. Consider other groups in your community who might be isolated due to their circumstances. Perhaps there are families that don’t speak English well, perhaps there are elderly or others who are housebound, perhaps there are people in your peer groups that are ostracised by circumstances outside their control (disability). How can you make them feel included? Some activities you might consider include arranging to visit the lonely, writing letters to people who are isolated, or formings groups and clubs that ensure everyone can join. Refugee groups are often looking for tutors in English language etc.

What might have been:

Consider the below scenarios, and put together a role play outlining some of the different ways that they might go, depending on people’s responses. Put the responses to the class, and lead them in a discussion as to which they feel might be the most appropriate response.

  1. A child has been saving a cookie to eat while they watch their favourite show. However, when they go to eat it they find their sibling has already eaten it. How does their parent respond to the situation?
  2. Two schoolfriends get into an argument in the corridor, and one of them starts yelling and insulting the other one. A teacher comes across them. How should the teacher respond?
  3. Two young people are hanging out in a park at night. The police have heard reports of smashing and vandalism in the area, and see the two young people. There are no signs of vandalism around them, but the police aren’t sure they’re involved. How do the police approach them?


Read or summarise ‘Seeing beyond the walls’ in the Australian Catholics 2021 autumn edition and talk with the students about the importance of making people feel included. Ask them to think of people in their lives who may appreciate being visited or recognised. (This is also a good Holy Week activity.)

Activity – Showing my love to others

Aim: to recall the ways in which the students can follow Jesus’ example.


  • Have the children listen as you read John 13:1-16 (Jesus washes the feet of his disciples). Emphasise Jesus when he says ‘You say that I am your teacher. If I am, learn from me, I am your friend. If I wash your feet, you should wash the feet of others. Treat others as I treat you.’
  • Ask the students to share what they can learn from the passage (to treat others as Jesus treated his apostles).
  • Then say: When we help others, we are being like Jesus. Ask the children to share ways in which they can show their family, friends, and community how to love others. Write the ideas on the board.
  • Ask the students to come up with an activity to show love to one another in the coming week and then encourage the children to make a poster to illustrate the action they plan to carry out (helping mum with the groceries, setting the table, sharing a snack with a friend, visiting someone who is housebound, and so on).
  • Have the children write somewhere on their illustrations: Jesus shows me how to love others.
  • Encourage the children to decorate the room with their illustrations. The pictures can serve as reminders of all the ways in which they can be like Jesus.
  • At the end of the activity, invite the children to form a seated circle.
  • Ask each child to share how they plan to show their love for others as part of their commitment to remembering Jesus' teachings.



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