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Kieran garvey chaplain

Thursday, 4th April, 2013 1:00am

The serene calm that surrounds Brother Kieran as he chats about his life experiences is a unique and unusual characterisic that accentuates the   gentleman's captivating story.

Born on the Southside of Cork but having spent the last 50 years working as a prison chaplain in New Zealand, BK, as he is fondly known by inmates, has returned home to die among his loved ones.

“I have had prostate cancer for a number of years but it was under control. It was only when it spread into my spine that it became terminal and I decided to come home. I wanted to die in Ireland with my family.”

The third youngest of a family of 11 siblings, Kieran is one of the six remaining including three sisters living in Cork, one sister in Canada and a brother in London.

“I didn't want to die in New Zealand, but I am content with death. I am happy to go when my time comes.”

Brother Kieran's contentment with life and death which comes from his faith in God, is helped by the enormous impact he has had on so many lives and the knowledge that he has achieved a great deal while roaming the earth.

“I was sent to New Zealand after I completed my formation training in Kilkenny. That was in 1963. In New Zealand I did a Post Graduate course in Social Studies and I began to work for the social services. Soon I became involved in the prison ministry and in 1974 I was appointed Chaplain of Wellington Prison.”

It was in Wellington Prison that Brother Kieran's friendly face and kind words began to change lives and impact heavily on those around him.

“I have made thousands of friends from my work as a chaplain and many of them have gone on to do great things. There is one guy who I met when he was 19, doing a life sentence for murder. He was very intelligent young fellow and he spent many hours with me teaching me to use a computer. That man is now the IT manager for a national company in New Zealand and we are still friends today. “

Brother Kieran's affinity with troubled souls and tough guys was recognised as a rare and indispensable quality and in 1989 he became the National Catholic Prison Chaplain of New Zealand.

Driven by his passion to help inspire change and redemption Brother Kieran established the Prison Chaplaincy Service of Aoteroa New Zealand (PCSANZ) which represented all 54 prison chaplains in New Zealand.

The motivated monk also held an active role in the International Prison Chaplains Association (IPCA) and in 2008 he was recognised by the Queen with a Queen's Service Medal.

“It was a challenging experience,” Brother Kieran reflected, “you are dealing with what is seen as the dregs of society but when you get to know them, you realise that so many of them are just normal people who have done bad things. Everyone is capable of ending up in prison if they are put in the wrong circumstances.

“As a Chaplain you are a friend and a counsellor. Someone they can relate to without being judged. It changed my life and taught me that everyone is capable of change.”

Name: Kieran GarveyLocation: Rochestown FriaryOccupation Franciscan FriarBest thing about Cork: The Lough Worst thing about Cork: The cold

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