British, N. Irish Prison Chaplains See What Their US Counterparts Face

British, N. Irish Prison Chaplains See What Their US Counterparts Face

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

A group of prison chaplains from Northern Ireland and Britain yesterday completed a nine-day visit to Boston College, where they learned about the challenges their American counterparts face serving the incarcerated in both a spiritual and secular manner.

Fifteen chaplains of the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist faiths and two Northern Ireland prison administrators were in the delegation, which was hosted by the Irish Studies Program. The program included a series of workshops and seminars given by BC faculty, and site visits to the Suffolk and Norfolk county prisons, where they met with chaplains of several faiths .

"The goal was to demonstrate that American chaplains from different backgrounds can work together to help a diverse prison population," said Irish Studies Program Associate Director Robert Savage Jr. "These chaplains work in prisons housing both IRA and Loyalist operatives, as well as inmates not involved in political or sectarian-related activity. So they do have the experience of serving a multifaceted clientele.

"In Europe, there is a sensationalistic stereotype of American prisons - that they're all maximum security facilities, housing extremely violent inmates," he added. "But we wanted to give these chaplains a better sense of what their American counterparts deal with, in the hope they can take some valuable lessons home with them."

Representatives from the Graduate School of Social Work, Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, Psychology Department and Counseling Services directed the workshops and seminars, which discussed depression, substance abuse and other problems chaplains often confront in prison populations. Prof. Thomas Groome (Theology) also talked with the chaplains about the role of Bible study in prison.

"Boston College, because it emphasizes social justice and service to others as part of its professional education, has a unique perspective to share , " said Assoc. Prof. Robert Castagnola (GSSW), who led one of the workshops.

Return to Oct. 28 menu

Return to Chronicle home page