“You're doing a good job, Sister!”

As a Dominican for some 60 years, Maureen Rigby has ministered in a variety of areas, always open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit − and the congregational leader! Educated at St Columban's and San Clemente, Mayfield - both schools celebrated centenaries in 2017 − a young Maureen felt drawn to the Dominican charism. She had felt the love and care of the Sisters who taught her and wanted to extend those gifts to others.

Most Sisters became teachers, and Maureen found her many years of teaching in Waratah, Mayfield, Hobart, Canberra, Brisbane, Tamworth, Branxton and Strathfield rewarding. There were opportunities for further study and for spiritual renewal and eventually Maureen moved from classroom teaching to working with children with special needs.

Becoming a companion in the Seasons for Growth program, and training others to fulfil that role, signalled a new direction. Other opportunities Maureen had taken along the way - Clinical Pastoral Education, a program titled "Towards a Spirituality of Ministry”, Diploma of Counselling, not to mention a Masters in Christian Spirituality − can be seen, with the wisdom of hindsight, to have equipped her for her role of Chaplain at Maitland Hospital, Calvary Mt Carmel Retirement Community and Benhome at Maitland.

Maureen reflects, "The ministry of Chaplain/Pastoral Care Worker came as quite a surprise to me. I had never seen myself visiting the sick and dying in hospital or elderly in care. However, while teaching I had often visited families with children who were very ill or where a parent was dying. I feel these experiences prepared me for my present ministry."

Maureen's duties are simple but her ministry is profound. "Each morning when I arrive at Maitland Hospital, I receive a list of Catholics who have indicated they would like a visit from a Pastoral Care worker. I visit all the wards, and most patients are very accepting and show their gratitude, often saying, 'You're doing a good job, Sister!'"

While Maureen's ministry may begin with a list of Catholic patients, it doesn't end there. Staff, whom she finds welcoming and encouraging, will often direct her to a patient who "needs some spiritual care". Sometimes staff themselves are in need of support and then there are the families of patients who are seriously ill.

Maureen will ask dying patients if they would like to be anointed. If the answer is yes, one of the local priests will attend. Sometimes a patient who is not seriously ill is troubled by some real or imagined offence and only a priest can offer solace.

For Maureen, bringing holy communion to hospital patients and residents is a deep privilege, and an important connection for people who can no longer worship as part of the parish community.

Maureen Rigby was born in Maitland. While she has lived in many places, she has now come full circle. She regards herself as “blessed” and looks forward to many years of continuing ministry in the Dominican way. 

Follow mnnews.today on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the former editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.