Until her death on January 11, Antoinette (or ‘Tonie’ as she was known), was Catholic Chaplain at HMP Warren Hill and HMP Hollesley Bay on the Suffolk coast. She had been in post for nearly seven years, and was a wonderful and caring friend to the residents. She took up her post at the age of 66, and her niece commented at her funeral in Perth (Scotland) that it had taken her that long to settle in her ‘dream job.’
She was a Dublin northsider, who tried her vocation with a religious order in France, before coming to England, where she worked for many years in London with Social Services. But a change came about when she took the decision to come to the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge in the 1990s to study for a degree in theology. When she graduated, she was appointed as Pastoral Assistant at Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge, where she stayed until 2013.
Her inter-personal skills were soon evident as she began to minister to a great number of individuals – many of whom were people on the margins. It was among these people that Tonie was most at home – something that was also characteristic of her prison ministry. She also did great work with groups and in the Anglia Ruskin chaplaincy.
Tonie delighted in sharing her love of scripture with others, and was always taking initiatives in faith development in the parish. These interests and skills were honed and refined and used to the full in her work at Hollesley Bay and Warren Hill, where she devised programmes for those in bereavement, rosary and scripture sessions, and helped to set up a scheme for men who were not receiving any visits. She worked in an ecumenical and multi-faith chaplaincy team, playing her full part in all the statutory duties which chaplains had to undertake.
As well as her work, she continued studying, gained a Master’s degree, and latterly embarked on a doctorate which would focus on prison chaplaincy. But, for some time, her health has not been good, and in the autumn of 2020 she had to give up her prison work, and spent a good while in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, before moving, just before Christmas to Scotland where she was lovingly cared for by members of her family. May she rest in peace.
Pictured above is Tonie Askin. Picture courtesy of the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology.
Fr Tony Rogers was Tonie’s colleague at both Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge and at HMPs Warren Hill and Hollesley Bay.