PAUL Wright isn’t your typical “jack-of-all-trades”.
His brand of versatility comes in the form of anything and everything from visiting those held at the Mt Isa watch-house, helping at the local welfare kitchen, manning the parish office, fundraising for the upcoming World Youth Day and attending youth events, tinkering under the bonnet of a parish vehicle, assisting with school retreats, and appearances at various social events.
Paul and his family moved from Darwin to Mt Isa in 2010. He had accepted a role with Good Shepherd Catholic College co-ordinating senior year levels and teaching manual arts.
The energetic man of faith remained “curious” about the role and impact of the parish in the local community.
That curiosity led to his role with North West Indigenous Catholic Social Services as a “watch-house cell visitor”.
Mt Isa parish priest Fr Mick Lowcock formed the not-for-profit organisation.
He “had a vision of improving the quality of life for indigenous Australians living in our North-West region”.
“Mt Isa doesn’t have a prison but does have law courts,” Paul said.
“Therefore any persons arrested and/or convicted will be held in the police-staffed watch-house until either released on bail or escorted to Townsville’s correctional facility.”
Paul described the watch-house as a “purgatory of sorts … a holding facility whilst its inmates wait to hear their fate and then wait”.
The role of “cell visitor” was “a strategy introduced by the Queensland Government after the statistics for suicides and attempts by prisoners whilst in custody appeared to be rising”.
“Being arrested leaves many sudden loose ends,” Paul said.
“(Like) does family know where they are? Is their employment aware? Is their house and belongings secured? “Many have children and want to know what’s happening with them.
“The list really is endless and I find new reasons why the role is vital every week.”
Paul said the gift of time was “the most precious gift” given as a cell visitor.
“I give time for our inmates to talk without judgment,” he said.
“After all, judgment is what the court building is for next door.
“My role is to provide a neutral entity for the inmates to talk to in an effort to alleviate the anxiety that goes hand in hand with incarceration.
“In a nutshell, that’s the watch-house cell visitor’s primary role.”
Asked how his curiosity about the impact of “parish” was answered amid the cell visitor role, Paul’s response was immediate.
“The office of NWQICSS is located above the parish office in the upstairs building on the Good Shepherd Parish grounds,” he said.
“Being all in one location and having the parish as the ‘hub’ really helps to promote communication across all that goes on.
“We are a very active parish with many parishioners doing some wonderful work.
“We have senior members of the community and youth and students alike volunteering in many of our daily operations – in our commercial quality homeless kitchen … (and) involved with our fundraising for the upcoming World Youth Day in Rio, which we have a team of 30 attending.”
Paul said the parish secretary Corena Powers – “who is more like a human resource manager of a large corporation” – and Fr Lowcock’s “aspirations” were recognised recently by Bishop Michael Putney of Townsville.
Bishop Putney “gave recognition to all that assist in making our parish all that it is”, Paul said.
“We have a great team here,” he said.
“Corena Powers is the hub for all that takes place. “Often we move ‘at the drop of a hat’, reacting to situations or calls that need our immediate attention.
“Somehow Corena keeps it all ticking over.
“I could not be as flexible in my varied roles without that amazing support.”
Paul said he “guesses” he “fits in somewhere in the middle as far as the parish is concerned”.
“(I’m a) central cog that assists and co-ordinates everything that goes on and keeps things turning,” he said.
Paul’s “passion lies in youth” but he “didn’t choose it” nor can he “change it”.
“There’s something that resonates in me by the notion that by assisting our young people to grow and be all they can be, we’re creating a better tomorrow,” he said.
“It’s their vibrancy and enthusiasm that inspires me to keep motivated to give time to the cause and the humility that they too can learn from my mistakes.
“In an ever changing world of technology and social trends, I really believe that the fundamental foundations to promote the best in our youth remain simple to determine.”
Paul said “the crux” of that positive message to young people “lies in faith (in God)”.
“Young people have a disposition to question most things,” he said.
“We need to consider that perhaps we are not phrasing the answers to their questions in a positive light.”
A “simple example” he said was that when young people asked the “Why?” of a situation, they were simply told it was “because I said so”.
“I’m sure the question (of ‘Why?’) is often asked in an obnoxious manner,” he said.
“But by replying in the same manner leads to a pattern or learned behaviour in the rationale of the young person.
“The questioning of faith and being Catholic by youth is no different – an authoritarian answer just won’t cut it – after all, if we don’t question to seek an answer, how can we hold any convictions in our beliefs?”
In terms of faith expression and spiritual nourishment of young people, Good Shepherd parish has the bar set high. “Fr Mick often asks our youth group during their reflections, ‘Where was God in your life recently?’,” Paul said.
“Many of their answers are quite profound and most enlightening to me is how genuine and open to faith our youth become from being allowed to explore their inquisition into how God, prayer and faith and how they fit into their own lives and shape their thoughts and actions.”
The parish and the NWQICSS “hope to introduce a series of hands-on-style short course programs for ‘disengaged youth'”.
Paul said that was a term “used to describe young people that need support and perhaps need a little of that ‘time'” he said was such a “precious gift”.
While Mt Isa “may not look like much to some” he said it was helpful to “look a little deeper”.
“I’ve found that it’s truly a remarkable town,” Paul said.
“It has a huge need for outreach … (and) our parish touches many people from all ages and ethnicities.
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