Prison Ministry: Meeting Jesus in the fringe dwellers of society

21 Dec 2020

By Amanda Murthy

By Amanda Murthy

Sister Liz Koziol RSJ. Photo: Supplied.
Sister Liz Koziol RSJ. Photo: Supplied.

After much discernment in prayer, Josephite Sister Liz Koziol RSJ recalled being overcome by a sense of peace, as she accepted yet another call, this time to lead the Archdiocesan Prison Ministry as its Coordinator.

Since assuming this role on 26 October 2020, a day in the life of Sr Liz includes attending regular meetings such as the Catholic leadership, prison leadership, identifying prospective new chaplains, arranging meetings with the current team within the prison where she is currently based, as well as the wider Catholic chaplaincy community in the Perth area.

Other administration requirements include organising an annual retreat, coordinating six to eight weekly meetings with regional and remote chaplains for them to meet and chat with each other and share experiences, with the use of modern technology.

However busy her schedule may seem, Sr Liz admits she is right where she is meant to be and by the grace of God prays that prison ministry will in the long run work “gently and compassionately to transform lives and help those who find themselves on the ‘inside’ to make better choices”.

“In my Novitiate days I was able to visit Parklea Correctional Centre in Sydney. This was a transforming experience, as while I believed in the equality of humanity, I was challenged to acknowledge this at the time,” Sr Liz said.

“It was in listening to the stories of the men, that I could see parallels in our life stories. What keeps me going is the belief that all human beings no matter who they are, can walk the paths of these residents.

“In visiting these poor and broken ‘fringe dwellers’ of society I find myself seeing Jesus as he began his journey to the cross,” she added.

Each resident, Sr Liz described, is on their Easter journey, with chaplains being the ‘Simon and Veronica’ to the residents.

“By this I mean we help carry the cross for these people as they journey towards their judgement day,” she cited.

“We help to wipe the tears and to calm their fears. Once they are sentenced, it’s like the resurrection for them as they know their fate and can begin focussing on a new life of better choices.”

Emulating the charism of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, who is ever-present in her ministry, Sr Liz added that her mission for Prison Ministry is to live out of the humility in acting justly, loving tenderly, compassionately, and walking humbly with God, as St MacKillop did.

“I pray, to leave ‘me’ at home so that I can be available to staff and residents as they require with a pair of ears to listen and a heart that brings a face of God to those I meet,” she stated. “To acknowledge that I too am meeting a face of God in need. For me, it’s important I am authentic in my ministry and that my actions match my words: ‘There but for the grace of God go I, and there with the grace of God I go’.”