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Finding meaning and purpose through pastoral and spiritual care

Tags: Residential Aged Care

Lady stands smiling in garden

Ask yourself, “what is it for you in this day that will make you feel alive and reconnect you to what you’ve felt passionate about in your lifetime?” This is the question our Chaplains are here to find the answers to. To bring joy, hope and life to residents and the broader Wesley Mission Queensland (WMQ) community. 

Late last year, WMQ welcomed Julie Mackay, the new Team Leader to Pastoral and Spiritual Care.  

In 1978 Julie found her calling to Chaplaincy after she had attended a hospital as a theological student and saw a group of people alone and dying in the hospital’s geriatric ward. From that moment Julie knew that people, whether at end of life or just living life, need contact, connection and purpose. From there, the seed was sown, and Julie has been on her journey of Chaplaincy every since and is now helping our residential aged care communities and broader services in their journey to spiritual care.  

The Pastoral and Spiritual Care team at WMQ are here to help and improve people’s quality of life. Julie says they often look to bring out the inner child in a person and to find out what brings meaning and purpose to them?  

“A chaplain is there to bring life. They are there to help a person dig deep and find out what it is that makes them feel alive. Just because you get past a certain age doesn’t mean you stop feeling,” says Julie.  

When a person becomes a new resident in one of our residential aged care communities, the resident and their family will be approached within two weeks. This specialised service takes an individual approach to support and care for residents in our communities.  

“When we first meet someone, the Chaplain will listen and work out what they need for their life to become enriched. We start the conversation around what they have to gain. How are you going to live here in the best way possible? From there we build a toolkit, a toolkit to your spirituality. For some it may be prayer, another person it could be going for a walk, or it may be phoning one of their loved ones.  

“So, it’s identifying where are the gaps in this person’s life. A lot of people that retire and then move into aged care tend to lose part of their identity. That’s where we step in,” says Julie.  

“One of the main roles of chaplaincy is loss and grief, but we do like to balance that with having fun and its helping people to find meaning and purpose. It doesn’t have to be a serious conversation, it could be… what excites you? When you go to the beach what happens for you? You then see people connect with something inside themselves that may not have existed before. 

“The Eden Alternative at WMQ is absolutely at the core to that, it’s about understanding that need for connection to people, nature, pets - all of those things. It’s a big step to feeding them spiritually as well.” 

With just seven Chaplains spread across Brisbane North and Brisbane West, each day presents something new.   

“It’s a very different experience at WMQ because it’s not just health, but there are many locations and different levels of care – mental health, disability, aged care, end of life care – there are so many more needs that need to be met. It excites me, to see this organisation flourish into so many areas and helping the needs of the others in the community,” says Julie.  

Although the Pastoral and Spiritual Care team are largely focused on our residential aged care communities, they do offer support for other services too.  

“My hope in the future will be to have a stronger presence more broadly across all WMQ services. If someone does request a Chaplain though we will certainly be there, however presently we don’t have an ongoing presence in each service,” says Julie.  

“I think we are on a very interesting journey as an organisation. COVID-19 has challenged us in a big way, but it has also caused us to think more creatively and I think we will come up with new ideas that we may not have for another 20 years. It has forced people out of their comfort zone and to stop, connect and reflect on ourselves and think deep.”  

To learn more about our residential aged care community, visit our webpage.