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Mater Pastoral Care Practitioner Rebekah Durham was on track for a career in journalism when a university assignment highlighted how her personality and skillset were actually meant for a different path in life.
Rebekah needed meaningful work that would bring joy to her and those around her. Her defining moment came when she had to interview families who had experienced the death of a loved one.
“I discovered in that moment that I couldn’t ethically do the job in the style that was expected of me,” Rebekah said.
During her Masters of Counselling pre course interview Rebekah knew she was in the right place as the course aligned with her values and capacity to meet the needs of others.
“I completely soaked up the classes and felt like it wasn’t work at all–I mean the assessment wasn’t easy, but I was right where I wanted to be!” Rebekah said.
Since commencing at Mater five months ago, Rebekah has been working with oncology patients in Mater Hospital Brisbane, Mater Private Hospital Brisbane as well as the Mater Cancer Care Centre.
Working alongside oncology patients could be considered confronting for someone new, but Rebekah says it wasn’t even something she thought about.
“Being in the oncology space didn’t scare me at all in fact I saw a group of people with an even greater need,” Rebekah said.
“Just by sitting with patients undergoing their first round of chemotherapy or chatting with their family as they navigate through this stressful time can visibly relieve their fear and anxiety.
“What we do is make connections and go wherever a patient leads–sometimes it’s looking back on their life, what gives life meaning and what their values are,” she said.
Rebekah describes working in hospital pastoral care as an ‘emotionally rich space’ with a lot of sadness and grief which despite being intense, is often beautiful.
“Each person is unique and it’s a privilege to be part of something so meaningful,” she said.
“It’s challenging but we get to know them, meet them where they’re at in moments of joy and sadness.
“While I’ve helped people on their life journey, they’ve also taught me about the quality of life.
“I don’t want it to sound like a cliché but patients have taught me it’s not how long or short life is but how good each moment can be,” Rebekah reflects.
Rebekah says one of her highlights is working in a large and supportive team.
“Working within such a supportive pastoral care team helps me support patients, their families, as well as staff, in the best way possible,” Rebekah said.
“It’s empowering when we can provide quality of care and have a shared vision,” she said.
Mater Director of Missions Madonna McGahan said Pastoral Care Week was a wonderful opportunity to recognise the incredible work Rebekah and the whole team contribute to Mater.
“Rebekah has a maturity beyond her years and brings a refreshingly youthful perspective to her work,” Madonna said.
“I know all Mater People are honoured to contribute to our Mission that is inspired by the legacy and tradition of our founders the Sisters of Mercy.
“Our Pastoral Care team is made up of pastoral care practitioners, communion ministers and Catholic Priests,” she said.
Pastoral Care Week runs from 21–27 October and this year’s theme is Hospitality: Cultivating Time.
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