Queen's Birthday Honour June 2011

Sister Marie Roche’s work in the community was acknowledged in her award of  Membership of the Order of New Zealand, (MNZM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List recently.

The following article by Bronwyn Torrie appeared in the Dominion Post newspaper:
Becoming a nun at the tender age of 17 has led to a life of serving those less fortunate, and Sister Marie Elizabeth Roche wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was a calling, really.  I love the lifestyle and because I’m not married and don’t have children, I’m free to really do mission.”
For her selfless service to the community, Sister Marie, 64, is today being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
And she can’t wait to spill her secret.  “I haven’t told a soul, I’m bursting.”
She was shocked when the letter arrived informing her she was nominated for the Queen’s Birthday honours.
“I have to say I’m very humbled by it because I look around and see all these wonderful people doing wonderful things.”
Sister Marie has been inside the walls of Rimutaka Prison for 15 years as the Catholic prison chaplain, working with staff and inmates.
“I do whatever I can to help to make it not better, but different.  Often in the sober cold light of day they realise what they’ve done and what they’ve lost.”
While she loves her work in the prison she isn’t a fan of the institution, saying it’s the ‘least helpful alternative”.
Instead she would rather see families kept together and more prisoners given the opportunity to work and do programmes in the community.
“I think it’s too easy to put people in prison, but often judges’ hands are tied because of the law.”
Her hope in humanity has not dimmed over the years after coming across some of New Zealand’s worst offenders and seeing familiar faces walk through the prison gates time after time.
“I do a lot of one-on-one work visiting the units, just sitting with the men doing what I can.  We talk about their children, their lives, how they got into this situation.”
One of 10 children, Sister Marie left Hawkes Bay for the Sisters of St Joseph in Whanganui in 1963.  There she trained to be a teacher.
In her 24 years in education she was instrumental in establishing St Peter Chanel School, a bilingual school in Otaki where she was principal for six years.
Before taking up her post at the prison she was the coordinator for Challenge 2000, a non-government-funded Christian social work agency in Johnsonville.  This sparked her involvement in the Justice system as she spent a lot of time in court supporting families and visiting inmates at Arohata, Mt Crawford, and Rimutaka prisons.
In her spare time Sister Marie likes to potter in her Upper Hutt garden and create mosaics.
Courtesy of The Dominion Post 6/611

Gallery / Whakaahua

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