Listen: Chaplain Francis Challwell in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
Francis Chalwell is a great storyteller. When you talk to him you immediately understand why so many older people love to invite him home. No, he’s not a “Mr Fix-it” who will sort out all those jobs too small for a tradesman – his help is more the spiritual kind.
As the head of Anglicare’s Aged Care Chaplaincy program squeaking doors and dripping taps are not his domain.
Instead of a tool box, what Francis brings to every home visit is the nourishment of love, generosity and inclusion. He listens to and prays with older people. Many are lonely and have a shrinking circle of friends. Often their health prevents them attending church services.
She slapped him
On Open House, Francis Chalwell explained to Stephen O’Doherty that Anglicare has a number of home chaplains. Their importance to the people they visit can often be judged by the bountiful spread that they are offered and the smile on their faces when they open the door.
“I was doing some visits with one of the other chaplains. This one lady, she had the table all set out. She had out the best china. Under a lace cover she had a really sumptuous afternoon tea. We were sitting doing our work and talking with the lady. Meanwhile, the husband, who is also quite elderly, lifts up a corner of the cover to try and sneak his hand in to get a bit of the afternoon tea and she slaps him, on the hand! And she says to him ‘The chaplain’s not ready! That’s not for you!'” explained Francis.
Free Sydney service
Anglicare Sydney provides free chaplaincy service to all those accessing the Anglicare At Home (AAH) program. The program offers personal support for older people who are living at home and have an Anglicare At Home package. Anglicare At Home is part of Anglicare’s vision to provide holistic care for every person on an Anglicare At Home Package.
There are 9 Anglicare at Home Chaplains who cover certain areas of Sydney. Some go south as far as Bateman’s Bay, others north to the Hawkesbury and others west to beyond Katoomba. When a client engages Anglicare At Home for one of their aged care packages, a Chaplain contacts them and offers a visit. An Anglicare chaplain then visits them once that offer is accepted.
Waiting – yet no one came
“Old age often isolates Christians from their church, so a Chaplain’s visit can be a vital support for their faith,” explains Francis Chalwell.
“One client told me that she had to be picked up and taken home by one of the members of the congregation after she lost her driver’s license. Then, one Sunday as she was waiting outside to be picked up, no one came. She sat for more than 10 Sundays, but nobody came. And now, she doesn’t go to church.
Open heart and mind
“For those people who are not Christians, the Chaplain may have opportunities to sensitively and gently point them to Christ.”
“The Chaplain goes into every home with an open heart and open mind. I have accompanied each of the team members on at least 2 visits and I am astonished at the smiles of delight they receive when the resident opens the door. During a normal visit, the Chaplain provides a listening ear and tries to understand the ‘voice of the heart’.
A biblical and human practice
“People who don’t profess to be Christian also value the visits too and, where appropriate, the Chaplain will read the Bible and pray for the person. A client might then be visited regularly by their Chaplain, should they request it.” says Mr Chalwell.
“Visiting is a very bilical practice and it’s a very human practice just turn up and visiting someone and being at their service and listening, holding their hand – touch is very powerful thing.” says Francis Chalwell.”
For Francis Chalwell, it is the strong bond that a Chaplain can make with an older person that makes the job worthwhile “The Anglicare At Home team like to see themselves as caring for clients like they are our family. Well, the Anglicare At Home Chaplains like to see themselves as caring for clients like they are our “forever” family.” says Francis Chalwell.
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