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News from Lemos&Crane

NEW Research: Catholic chaplaincy in prison

Catholic prisoners' experience of Catholic ministry in prison

Lemos&Crane are working with the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales to explore the experiences that Catholic prisoners have of the Catholic ministry in prison, and how chaplains might build on their current activities to best promote reflective experiences and rehabilitative outcomes for prisoners.

Spirituality and religious belief and practice are fundamental to the lives and livelihoods of many, and this is no less true for vulnerable or excluded groups including prisoners. However, mainstream services in these areas often lack understanding and confidence to engage in questions of spirituality and religion with their clients. 

In 2013 Lemos&Crane published Lost and Found: Faith and spirituality in the lives of homeless people, which explored the role that spirituality and religion plays in the lives of homeless and vulnerable people and how homelessness services might meet this need. Our research showed that there is a considerable appetite among vulnerable people for religion and spirituality to be discussed and explored, but mainstream services are often hesitant to do so for fear of accusations of proselytising or a general concern that questions of faith were ‘too personal or intrusive’ for the client; a ‘can of worms’. However, when spirituality was explored between staff and client for the research, it became clear that religious enquiry and practice enhanced the lives of many through comfort, consolation, meaning, aspiration and fellowship. Furthermore, engaging in conversation on belief and spirituality enabled homeless people to think about themselves in a positive light and to forge stronger – more trusting - connections with staff.

In prison the potential value of religious and spiritual practice and enquiry is profound. Religious belief and practice can help vulnerable people come to terms with a past that is often characterised by profound emotional and material loss. Faith can enhance and give structure and meaning to the present life in prison, which might be overwhelmed by confusion, boredom and disorder, and create a purposeful future built on hope, fellowship, and a renewed sense of self. 

This research will enable us to better understand the spiritual and religious beliefs of Catholic prisoners and their experience of Catholic ministry in prison. We will identify ways in which spirituality might influence the experience of being in prison, and perhaps contribute to a wider sense of personal transformation.

You can read more about this project here. For more information please contact Sarah.

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