"For the past six years I have felt a calling from God to do His work in this particular environment," says Ms Cathy Gomez, who became the new chaplain for Her Majesty's Prison Service, on Tuesday, July 3 2012.
Ms Gomez's role is primarily to provide pastoral counselling for inmates, to assist them with inter-personal issues, and to work with families and other members of the community. While she is doing this through a focus on spiritual beliefs, her work - even as a volunteer counsellor - contributes to areas such as anger management, inmate intake, assessments, education, and sentence-planning.
Prison Director Dwight Scott said, "The service welcomes the appointment of a chaplain. It is a role that provides a great opportunity to touch, in a positive way, the lives of individuals incarcerated, and will indeed enhance the rehabilitative effort of the service."
She has been providing volunteer counselling and spiritual guidance to inmates since 2006. In addition, she counsels with their families if needed. A veteran civil servant, she served for more than three decades in healthcare, in both the clinical and administrative areas.
In 2008 Ms Gomez obtained a Master of Arts in Pastoral Psychology and Counselling from St. Stephen's College in Canada. This followed a Master of Science degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of London in 2003.
She became drawn to prison ministry during a counselling practicum in the prisons.
Music has been a primary tool for her volunteer work, and Ms Gomez formed and conducted the prison's Voices of Hope choir for three years. She now hopes to revive the choir, since many of the former members have now been released. She also maintains a vibrant Sunday night worship group, with the support of "many loving and dedicated church members".
In recent years, she became (and remains) an adjunct faculty member of the University College of the Cayman Islands, and served as counsellor at the Cayman Prep & High School. Recognising the impact of job loss, two years ago she published a book Coping with Sudden Job Loss: Experiences in the Cayman Islands, and she writes a newspaper column on this subject.
Ms Gomez is working with male and female inmates from the Northward and Fairbanks prisons, as well as the young offenders in Eagle House.
Although compassionate, she acknowledges the issues resulting from crime and recidivism. "Crime is a great concern to all of us, and I believe that deep, spiritual change is the most meaningful answer for individuals," said Ms Gomez. "Through genuine remorse forgiveness, and reconciliation, rehabilitation efforts will be enhanced and the recidivism rate will hopefully decrease.
Relating that she has seen many inmates turn their lives around, she said several have become lay-preachers, and others are dedicated to evangelism, locally and overseas.
While most inmates and their families are personally known to her, she sees this as a positive opportunity. "In many ways, it actually makes my work easier," noted Ms Gomez. "There is much work to be done in the areas of forgiveness and reconciliation, and I am confident that the inmates, prison staff and the entire community can work together to make a real difference."
Ms Gomez appreciates the support of the wider community, and especially the warm welcome she received from prison staff and inmates. "I am very pleased to be back," she said, "but, then again, I never really left."
For further information contact: Lennon Christian