Southern Tablelands to benefit from Barbara’s Pastoral Care calling

Barbara Hall in the Chapel at Bourke Street Health Service, Goulburn. Photo Chris Gordon.

Barbara Hall has just started on the next exciting step in the provision of Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy Services, a journey she started 27 years ago, but a journey that almost didn’t begin except for three serendipitous moments of chance a quarter of a century ago.

Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy has been a major part of Barbara Hall’s life for all of these 27 years. She is the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Supervisor of the Goulburn Region and was the Coordinator for Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care for 17 years up until December 2018.

She still remains in the role of part time pastoral care worker at Goulburn Base Hospital and has set up a CPE Centre for the whole of the Southern Tablelands that will provide education and training in pastoral and spiritual care that will assist priests, chaplains and others in delivering pastoral care.

These services have had a very positive impact on health institutions in the region and it’s fair to say that Barbara has truly found her calling, but it very nearly didn’t happen at all.

“It was a few years after my husband John and I and our children had moved to Goulburn,” Barbara recalls.

“I was sweeping the floor one day, I think it was in 1992, and I was listening to the radio and I heard an interview on the ABC about a woman who was doing pastoral care at one of the big hospitals in Sydney.

“She was talking about how she visited patients with cancer, and something touched my heart and I thought I’d love to do that. It was like a light bulb moment… an epiphany.

“I rang Goulburn Base Hospital and asked if they had a pastoral care department, and they said no, we just have local clergy come in. So the idea almost died there.”

But it didn’t. There were still a few more chance encounters on Barbara’s journey.

New life in Goulburn

Barbara and her family had moved to Goulburn three years earlier from Sydney, where they had been involved in the Marriage Encounter Movement. They became active in the Goulburn church community, including the music ministry and taking on the role of Antioch parent couple, and it was through their involvement in the church that she got to know Fr Laurie Blake.

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After not working for a number of years to raise her children, Barbara had re-entered the workforce in 1993 as a part time nurse at an aged care facility in Goulburn, when Fr Blake said he was trying to get up a chaplaincy program at Kenmore Psychiatric Hospital and Goulburn Base Hospital, and he thought Barbara would be perfect for it.

“The Penny didn’t drop for me straight away,” Barbara remembers.

“I didn’t make the connection with pastoral care – what I’d heard that woman on the radio talking about – and I said no. I’d just started back at work, had four kids and a lot of other activities. Then some time later, he asked me a second time and I said no again.

“Anyway, he must have seen something in me because he was pretty persistent and some weeks or months later he asked me a third time, so I asked how much time it would take up. He said I could start with  a couple of hours a day, a couple of days a week. When he put it that way, I thought I could manage it, although I still hadn’t made the connection with pastoral care because he hadn’t called it that.”

When Barbara went with Fr Blake to Kenmore for the first time, the penny finally dropped. Even though he hadn’t been the chaplain there for many years, many residents remembered him fondly and she could see what an impact he’d made on their lives.

“One patient pulled Fr Blake aside and asked if he’d say a special prayer for her,” Barbara recounted.

“He asked what she wanted him to pray for and she said a purple limousine. He said he wasn’t sure if he could pray for that but how about a prayer for her and her family and she thought that would be alright” .”

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“And from watching his kindness and love it struck me as a type of pastoral care that you’d provide in a mental health facility.”

Beginnings in Pastoral Care

Barbara Hall outside the Bourke Street Health Service, formerly known as St John of God Hospital. Photo Chris Gordon.

So Barbara started providing this pastoral care, although it still wasn’t called that at the time, but she didn’t have any training and wasn’t sure if she was doing it right.

One more chance opportunity was still to fall her way.

“Fr Blake asked me one time how I was going, and I remember saying to him that I needed some sort of training because I don’t know if what I’m saying is helping or hindering”, Barbara said.

“I was talking to patients in the acute ward that were suicidal and I had no idea if what I was saying was helpful or harming them. When I said this, Fr Blake said it was funny I should say that, because just that week some information had come across his desk which he’d thrown in the bin other times. But this time he hung on to it and it might be what I was looking for.”

It was. It turned out to be information about a Clinical Pastoral Education program being conducted at St John of God Hospital in Burwood – a CPE program specifically for psychiatric patients.

Barbara applied for the course, was interviewed and was one of six applicants selected. For thirty weeks in 1998, Barbara drove up to Burwood each Tuesday for an 8.30am start. In 2000 she completed the next unit, another 400 hours of study, and her journey was well under way.

Now as an accredited Level 2 CPE supervisor, thanks to even more study, Barbara became eligible to open a CPE Centre which is co-located with Pastoral Services at Bourke Street Health Centre (formerly St John of God Hospital) in Goulburn.

Meeting Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care training needs

Carmen Karauda, a CPE supervisor-in-training who works with Barbara. Photo supplie.

Traditionally, CPE Centres are co-located with the Pastoral Services Department of a Hospital but the need for chaplaincy today also extends to aged care facilities, universities and prison.

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There remains a great need for Chaplains and Pastoral Carers but across NSW and ACT only a few CPE Centres currently exist – at St Vincent’s Hospital, Westmead Hospital, Gosford Hospital, Sydney Adventist Hospital, Macquarie Psychiatric Hospital and John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle.

It’s a major accomplishment to have secured a local CPE Centre, and one that’s likely to provide instant benefits.

“Our CPE Centre is called the Southern Tablelands CPE Centre and we intend to reach out to southern rural NSW, so it won’t just cover Goulburn,” Barbara explained.

She also has a supervisory colleague working with her, Mrs Carmen Karauda, a CPE supervisor-in-training.

“We’ve already  conducted Introductory CPE Courses in  Bathurst, one is currently underway in Cooma and have others organised for  Wagga Wagga and Heathcote at John Paul Village,” Barbara said.

“With a local CPE Centre, we are able to train more pastoral care personnel without the need for them to do so much travelling.”

And Barbara believes our priests will be among the beneficiaries.

“Even though most  receive a lot of training in the seminary, their exposure to pastoral care is very limited,” she said.

“Some of them are fortunate enough to have been placed into a CPE program. I know some of the ones who were at the Good Shepherd seminary would go to St Vincent’s Hospital.

“But for those that haven’t had the exposure to pastoral care training or indeed not have had access to hospital patients, I think having  this Centre available to clergy will be very useful.”

From pastoral care worker to chaplaincy, then co-ordinator to CPE supervisor, and now Centre Director, Barbara’s journey has helped her encounter all aspects of pastoral care, but it’s a journey she’s very grateful to have had, and to still be on.

“I believe God gave me the grace for compassion for the mentally ill,” she said.

“I developed a great respect for them – they are  remarkably intelligent people often very spiritual  in their own way – and I really have great love for them. I’m very lucky to have been in a position to help.”

Brochures for upcoming CPE courses

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