As we celebrate 30 years of school chaplaincy in 2020, we wanted to highlight some long-term chappies who have worked for many years to support the next generation.
For Andrea Eadie, she says a desire to work with young people to help them reach their potential was what motivated her to become a chappy.
“I was teaching high school science and math, and as much as algebra ‘changes lives’, I suppose I didn’t really feel like I was changing lives,” Andrea says.
“One of the turning moments was after I kept a Grade 11 student back at lunch for messing up in class. I didn’t get mad at him, I simply asked ‘what’s up?’
“He responded by asking me ‘have you had anyone close to you commit suicide?’ – it turned out his father’s brother had committed suicide the night before and he had just been sent along to school like everything was normal.
“That incident led me to thinking about working with young people in a different capacity – as opposed to being a teacher.”
Andrea studied counselling, and eventually applied to become the chappy at Patricks Road State School, where she has since worked for the past 19 years.
“I love that chaplaincy is all about linking people together,” Andrea says.
“You link people with each other, you link people with helping agencies and churches when additional support is needed, and you link kids with other kids and teach them how to support each other.”
When asked about some of her favourite parts of being a chappy, Andrea says it’s not always about the work she does herself.
“One of the things that I love the most about chaplaincy is the things that I don’t actually do,” Andrea recalls.
“A while ago I worked with a mum who had breast cancer; I linked her to another mum who had been on the same journey a while, and these mums just grew close and started to care for each other. When one of them was in chemo, the other would cook meals and do school pick-ups for the other.
“That support and connection is beautiful – all I had to do was ask if they’d like to connect.”
Another family that stood out to Andrea was facing a unique problem as their kids walked through primary school.
“One journey that’s close to my heart started when I met a boy at our school who had two hearing-impaired parents,” Andrea recalls.
“In addition to the disabilities that his parents faced, there were financial and social struggles as they tried to adjust to a society that was different from the way they had to work in their family.
“As I worked with that family through various health crises and situations I was able to put a lot of support mechanisms into place; simple things like organising translators when there was a school meeting, taking the mum along to affordable grocery stores, as well as working with the kids who had very different social abilities to their peers.
“Watching them leave primary school and since move into adult employment – which was a huge win for one young man in particular – is so inspiring and encouraging.”
Andrea says those who feel called to chaplaincy should follow that call.
“If you’re looking into chaplaincy, the first thing I’d say is equip yourself as much as possible,” Andrea says.
“If you can stay in the space of building and developing relationships over a period of time, that kind of chaplaincy will grow into something that you would never have believed possible.”
If you’re interested and feel called to chaplaincy – there are various roles open right across Queensland. To find out more about pursuing a career in chaplaincy, visit www.suqld.org.au/morehands