Leading the way through pastoral care

Walking with people as they journey through life, offering friendship in times of joy and hope in times of sorrow, St Stephen’s Hospital’s Pastor Sandra Keay couldn’t be happier with her chosen path.

In the lead-up to Queensland Women’s Week (March 6 to 12), themed Be involved and lead the way, Sandra reflects on her roles as Pastoral Care Manager at St Stephen’s and Chaplain with BlueCare, both within UnitingCare Queensland.

Pastor Sandra Keay“Just before my 18th birthday I went to New Zealand on a working holiday and tried all sorts of jobs including tea room lady, house maid, secretary and office manager,” the Adelaide-born Pastor said.

“While at Wellington I joined friends at a church event and listened to a preacher. It was like thunder bolt for me. I suddenly realised it didn’t matter what I’d done; it wasn’t going to make a scrap of difference to me in eternal life.

“That was a huge turning point for me, just knowing a real assurance, a peace, a hope. Soon after that I met my future husband Roly, a Royal ​New Zealand Air Force supply officer. We married in Wellington, had two children and moved to the top of the South Island.”

Now living on the Fraser Coast, Sandra divides her work time between St Stephen’s and BlueCare bringing peace, joy and hope to people throughout her workplaces, Uniting Church and wider community.

“I make an effort to get to know as many staff as possible. We all have things going on in our lives outside of work. It’s not nosey-ness but a concern for other people who wouldn’t necessarily go to a church but who just need someone to walk beside them sometimes.

“A lot of things healthcare workers see are distressing. Some staff get really close to their patients – they become like family. Sometimes staff members don’t want or need full counselling, they just need other ears to listen to them.

“My typical days include managing St Stephen’s volunteers, running chapel services, visiting aged care homes and building relationships with as many people as I can whether they’re interested in church or not. Likewise, I build relationships with families when their loved ones move into the palliative care stage.”

Sandra also visits respite centres, organises Bible study groups and special services for dementia patients and carers. She facilitates Coffee Lounge social meetings as well as bereavement, loss, dementia and brain disorder sessions, and funerals.

“Basically, being a pastoral carer was about being present, connecting, supporting and encouraging.”

St Stephen’s is a not-for-profit organisation owned by the Uniting Church and is a member of UnitingCare Health, which includes The Wesley Hospital and St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane and The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital in Buderim.

UCQ is committed to supporting all communities across the Fraser Coast and greater Wide Bay Burnett region. The organisation maintains community care with BlueCare, Lifeline and Australian Regional and Remote Community Services (ARRCS) staff travelling thousands of kilometres to reach out to regional and remote areas.

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