A Godsend: Mental health chaplain Adnel Dompor at the Glenside Hospital

Adnel Dompor

Rebecca DiGirolamo | Archdiocese of Adelaide

Former Adelaide parish priest Adnel Dompor has offered pastoral support to clients of Australia’s only forensic mental health unit for the past four years. Showing and giving mercy, he says, is a critical component of his vocation as a mental health Catholic chaplain serving James Nash House. “I don’t ask why they are there,” he says. “It’s not my business; I am there mainly to listen.”

Adnel visits the wards of James Nash House and Glenside Hospital twice a week as a part-time chaplain for the Adelaide Archdiocese. He does this while holding down a full-time job to support his wife and two children, aged 3 and 9.

Glenside Hospital is the State’s largest acute mental health hospital and can hold up to 170 patients. It includes a psychiatric unit, alcohol and drug unit and rehabiltation unit.

James Nash House, in Oakden, has 50 beds for people with mental illness in the justice system. It’s here that Adnel finds those people on the very edge of our society. He says most suffer from some form of psychosis and some have committed acts unforgivable by their own families. “Many of them have lost contact with their families,” says Adnel. “They don’t get many visitors and some don’t get any at all.”

Each week he will visit 10 patients at Glenside and 10 at James Nash House. At Glenside, Adnel gives an ecumenical service every Tuesday. He sits with patients, listens and provides spiritual support.

At James Nash House he offers communion to a couple of people each week. “I go there to listen to their stories,” he said. “They can be repetitive stories but it gives them an outlet because most of them have no-one.”

It’s here that he has to wear a duress alarm (which he’s never used). “I feel very safe,” he says, despite having pastored several patients accused of murder. “I’ve always been a people person,” says Adnel. “I’ve always liked to help others and I still feel I have a lot to offer from my experience as a priest and this is a fulfilling and rewarding ministry for me,” he says. “I also wanted to give back to the church.”

Adnel migrated from the Philippines to Adelaide in 1997. He completed his seminary studies in Australia before he was ordained a priest in 2001. He worked as assistant parish priest at Noarlunga and Brighton parishes until 2005 when he decided to leave the priesthood. About five years ago he was appointed mental health chaplain for the Catholic Church in Adelaide.

Adnel says he had limited life experience of mental illness prior to his appointment. “My perception has changed,” he says. “These people are sick; they are ill and it’s not their fault,” he says. “I feel sorry that some of them have had to suffer since they were young and have been in there for many, many years.”

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