14 December 2017

You rallied a community around a mourning family

Posted in Chaplaincy

School chaplaincy is more than a student support service. It brings communities together.

Because of your support for this vital service, Biloela State School Chaplain, Jess Lowther, was able to rally her local community around the family of a dearly loved local woman who passed away earlier this year.

The wife and mother of three passed away just weeks before Mother’s Day after a painful battle with cancer.

Together with the school community, Chappy Jess supported husband John* and their children through the mourning period.

“I started by meeting with the children regularly at the start of this year, catching up with them and seeing how things were going.

“Mum was in hospital at this stage. Then at the end of Term 1 mum passed away,” Chappy Jess says.

Understandably, the pain caused by the family’s loss is still very raw, but Chappy Jess remains an invaluable source of support, says the children’s father John.

The local community joined in with Chappy Jess and rallied behind this family during their time of need.

“I’m just really appreciative of all the support given,” he says.

Chappy Jess said it can be common for help to just disappear a month after the funeral. She, and a group of teachers, decided they would not let this happen.

They came up with the idea of making a meal once a week for the family. Before they knew it, they had the backing of the entire community.

“We are a small town so everybody knew what had happened and we ended up getting a meal out to them each week of Term 2,” Chappy Jess says.

“As soon as you mention to this small community that you need practical help, people were saying, ‘yep!’

“They were all just going above and beyond what they needed to for the family.”

Biloela SS Principal Anne Saunders said Chappy Jess’s involvement was testament to the positive work chaplains do in schools.

“Once again, the role of a School Chaplain and the unconditional support they provide to a school community has been highlighted,” she says.

“The ability of people such as Jess to gather community support for those in need is truly admirable and integral to the wellbeing of schools.”

Chappy Jess is also quick to highlight the important role her colleagues in the school played as well, particularly in the lead up to Mother’s Day, which would have been particularly difficult for the children.

“The teachers were so proactive about the tricky situation with the children.

“They gave them options – you can make this with dad, or you can go with Chappy Jess and do something totally different, or you could even make it for mum and take it to the cemetery.

“That they were willing to have those difficult conversations was really encouraging.”

Chappy Jess said she thought it was important to just let the children know that she was available if they needed to talk to someone.

“This has just reiterated the fact that we need to be here. It is just being available, being a safe space.

“It’s not always about having a huge deep and meaningful conversation. It’s just being there for them, for whatever they need in that moment,” she says.

You can help ensure that school chaplains are there for our children and their families in their moments of need. Visit suqld.org.au/donate.

*At SU QLD we respect all who come to us for help. While their stories are true, different names and images have been used to protect their privacy.

Casey Seaton

Media & Communications Delivery Manager


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