Sister P formerly from Kilkenny receives High Sheriff’s Lifetime Achievement Award
Sister Philomena, who came to England from Kilkenny as a teenager, has been awarded a High Sheriff’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her chaplaincy work at HMP Chelmsford.
The High Sheriff of Greater London makes awards twice a year to citizens who have given outstanding service in helping the police carry out their duties.
Since Sister P arrived, her energy has been an embodiment of compassion, kindness and patience.
She began teaching as a member of the Ursuline Sisters, going on to teach in Essex and east London and joined the prison service in 2002. Sister P taught the Fathers Inside course, supporting men in adopting a parenting role. She also works with traveller communities helping them out of isolation.
The Governing Governor at HMP Chelmsford, said “Sister P is an extraordinary woman and has always had a knack of knowing when perhaps I have been distracted or slightly low in mood. She regularly sends me positive emails and cards whenever I have done anything of a positive nature for staff or prisoners, she has natural gift for raising people’s spirits and uses this for the benefit of all but especially those groups who traditionally are isolated.”
Aged 77, Sister Philomena is the longest standing member of the chaplaincy and continues to offer an exceptional service to staff, prisoners and the community with enthusiasm.
As an active member of the care team she is always on hand to support those involved in incidents or who are experiencing personal difficulty. She pays close attention to the staff as she moves around the prison, she knows who everyone is and what challenges they or their family are facing ensuring that they are offered both a listening ear and practical help where appropriate. It is not unusual to hear that Sister P has visited staff, sent cards or turned up at court to offer her support, much of which is in her own time and at her own expense. Sister P also attends the St Francis Hospice on her day off.
Sister P is an all–round humanitarian loved by all those around her. She’s known to be able to diffuse tense situations without being scared. She’s described by staff as “the person who has always got a smile, a kind word and a listening ear”.
Sister P has worked with the travelling community both in and outside of the establishment, working as a chaplain to the Dale Farm Travellers site. She is a regular visitor to the site working in partnership with the local parish, taking them Holy Communion and preparing their children for Holy Communion. She has brought that experience into the prison, being an advocate and point of contact for a group of people who are otherwise isolated and disenfranchised.