" My Jesus, I will love only You; You are the only one I wish to please. "
St. Alphonsus Liguori
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Br. Michael Duxbury C.Ss.R - My Vineyard

phoca_thumb_l_redentore_253_framed03When I was asked to write an article sharing my vocation story and experiences, I knew that I would have a problem knowing at what stage in my past I should begin my story.

From leaving school in the late sixties until joining the Redemptorists almost 20 years ago, I had a number of ‘fresh starts’ in life, be it changing job, moving around the country and even travelling to the other side of the world to widen my horizons.

Whilst working in the hotel and brewery trade, I had the opportunity to visit a Redemptorist church, which I continued to do on regular occasions. This usually happened at quiet times during the week, when on many occasions I was the only person in the church, apart from a Redemptorist Brother who would make an appearance during my visits and share a few words.

This man was to have a quiet, yet major impact on my future.

Even though we exchanged only a few words, being in his presence and watching his actions of praying and performing his duties seemed to say so much to me, and after much thought and soul searching, I eventually came to the conclusion that maybe this was some kind of message, and it was time for yet another fresh start.

That decision became the turning point in my life, as the time had come for me to walk alongside him in the Lord’s Vineyard.

There then followed my application to join the Redemptorists, which brought with it some degree of apprehension and a touch of uncertainty.

My first two years were spent in the Postulancy and the novitiate, followed by a further four years in the studentate, which gave me the opportunity to work closely for one of those years, with the people of Zimbabwe, which was an amazing and eye opening experience for me.

At present my vineyard is totally different, as I work as a chaplain in one of Her Majesty’s Prisons – an area in which I have been involved since the studentate. Prison ministry is very much part of the Redemptorist’s charism, in that we work amongst the poor and abandoned.

The Redemptorists, along with some other missionary orders, by virtue of their membership, have in a sense, a passport in which they enter into people’s homes by first introducing themselves and inviting them to their Parish mission. Likewise, I too have a passport in which to enter prisoner’s homes (their cells), by firstly introducing myself and inviting them to celebrate the Eucharist with fellow inmates.

My role as a prison chaplain is ultimately connected with meeting people, which can often involve making contact with one of them on an unstructured basis, but with a readiness to respond to their needs, as they arise.

phoca_thumb_m_middlesbroughchapelOne characteristic of offenders, and often a reason for their personal difficulties, is their tendency to act on impulse. I think of them as ‘immediate people’, and feel they have been ‘caught in the instance’. Over the years I have formed many relationships, with people such as these, and the ‘loiterers with intent’ model of ministry is a quite appropriate one in dealing with this kind of situation.

Working in my vineyard, I am called to learn from them. What effect impoverishment can have on the human spirit. Hopefully discover insights, listen to their stories, share with them and suggest solutions and a way forward to their problems, and help them find a path to a positive and different future.

My position as chaplain can be at times a demanding mixture of tenseness, sadness and concern, but at the same time, my life and being part of the Redemptorists is fulfilling, satisfying and rewarding.

For me, my vineyard is sharing the good news, knowing that the risen Lord, who entered the upper room through closed doors, enters also the prisons of the world, bringing a peace and serenity only he can give.

Michael Duxbury, CSsR. Middlesbrough