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Our people

Ecumenical Chaplains

Olivia Dawson 2021 imageRev. Olivia Dawson

Ecumenical chaplain based at the Dunedin Campus of the University

Email olivia.dawson@otago.ac.nz

My name is Olivia Dawson and I have been one of the Campus Chaplains since July 2018. As a chaplain I am committed to caring for the students, staff, and other associates to the University.

If I have the privilege of meeting you I promise to respect your faith and culture, show compassion, hear your concerns and questions, and provide a nonjudgmental and confidential space for you to express whatever you are feeling or thinking.

I am available to be an emotional and spiritual resource to you and am happy to connect you with others as you seek community during your time at University.

I was ordained as a Baptist Minister in 2010 and I have my Masters of Divinity and Masters of Science in Patient Counseling. I have served in parish ministry and hospital chaplaincy. My family and I moved from the States at the end of 2017 back to Dunedin where my kiwi husband and I met as students at the University in 2005. I have three beautiful children, Micah, Lyla, and Nora.


Steve Downey 2021 imageSteve Downey

Ecumenical chaplain based at Otago Polytechnic

Email chaplain@op.ac.nz

Kia ora, I’m Steve, and I originally hail from Otatara, a small town near Invercargill. I’ve lived in Dunedin Ōtepoti for over 20 years, and have been part of the chaplaincy whānau since 2019. My family and I are part of the Leith Valley Presbyterian Church community.

I’m here for all staff and students of Otago Polytechnic – to be a listening ear, a calming presence, and to provide spiritual guidance and pastoral care. Regardless of your faith or differences, my aim is to uphold your mana, help you connect with your true self, and assist you in achieving your academic and life goals.

Please get in touch or pop over to the Hub to say “hi”.


Helen Papuni 2021 imageDr Helen Papuni

Volunteer Māori chaplain across both University and Polytech campuses

Email helen.papuni@op.ac.nz

Pērā ngā kupu a te whanau Waitoa (kaitito waiata) “Ko Waiapu te awa, Ngāti Porou te iwi, Ko Hikurangi te maunga, Ngāti Porou te iwi, taku manawa ko te Tairawhiti”, nā reira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ko Helen Papuni awau, te kaiawhi wairua mo ngā hunga Māori ki te Whare Wānaka o Otākou me te Kura Matatini o Otākou. Ka noho au ia parairei ki Te Huka Mātauraka, ia wenerei ki Te Poho a Te Kura Matatini. Kuhu mai, kōrero mai, karakia mai!

Kia ora Whanau, I’m Dr Helen Papuni, your Māori chaplain. If you want to learn how Te Whare Tapawhā will improve your spiritual wellbeing or perhaps construct your own īnoi or hīmene Māori that speaks to your unique situation, you will find me at Te Huka Mātauraka on the Uni campus most Fridays and at Te Poho on the Polytech campus every Wednesday. Email me for an appointment.


Rev. Dr Wayne Te Kaawa

Volunteer Māori chaplain across both University and Polytech campuses

Email wayne.tekaawa@otago.ac.nz


Jordan Redding imageRev. Dr Jordan Redding

Ecumenical chaplain based at the Dunedin Campus of the University

Email jordan.redding@otago.ac.nz

My name is Jordan and I joined the Campus Chaplaincy in 2020, though I know the Otago context well. I lived at Knox College as the Ross Fellow and completed my undergraduate and postgraduate study here.

I have a passion for pastoral care and for prayer. My aim is to be a friendly, confidential, and nonjudgmental listening ear, and to explore with you whatever is going on in your life that you want to share.

I also believe university chaplaincy has a role in forming wise and lifelong learners, who desire to use their learning with integrity and humility for the good of all.

I am a Minister at Knox Church Dunedin in the centre of town and am a Minister in Good Standing with the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.


Sheila Mark 2021 imageDr Sheila Mark

Ecumenical chaplain based at the Christchurch Campus of the University

Email sheila.mark@otago.ac.nz

Kia ora koutou katoa. My name is Sheila Mark. I’m the University of Otago Chaplain on site at the Christchurch Campus. My role is to support and come alongside both students and staff who are journeying through life, with all of its highs and lows.

My kete of experience fills a little more each day as I interact with people and we learn from each other. I bring with me a background in Nursing, including both general and mental health experience, pastoral and counselling work and, more recently, chaplaincy at Christchurch Hospital where I also currently work.

On a more personal note, I am married to an amazing tāne with 4 adult tamariki and one gorgeous mokopuna. At the end of each day I enjoy retreating out to Lincoln to relax, unwinding with at home yoga and a good book.

If you see me around on campus, please don’t hesitate to come up and say kia ora.


Lyn Meinders.jpgLyn Meinders

Ecumenical volunteer chaplain based at Otago Polytechnic

Email lyn.meinders@otago.ac.nz


Selwyn Yeoman imageRev. Dr Selwyn Yeoman

Ecumenical volunteer chaplain based at the Dunedin Campus of the University

Email chaplains@otago.ac.nz

Selwyn Yeoman has been a minister with the Presbyterian Church since 1979, so has a fair bit of pastoral wisdom tucked away. He has extensive involvement with students, both through outdoor formational experiences, and having also been head of a college. He has a particular interest in how we care for the Earth, and his Otago doctorate was recently published under the title, "Is Anyone in Charge Here? A Christological exploration of the idea of human dominion over creation."

He is one of our volunteer chaplains and takes particular responsibility for St Margaret's College.

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Catholic Campus Ministry

Amy Armstrong imageAmy Armstrong

Catholic Chaplaincy

Email amy.armstrong@otago.ac.nz

Kia ora. I am originally from Minnesota in the USA, and as an immigrant I have learned that connection is at the heart of our well-being. Through chaplaincy I try to facilitate connection: connection with ourselves, with God, and with each other.

As a trained spiritual director, I meet with people one on one for personal growth and faith formation. We know ourselves better when we know how God journeys intimately with us. We are also more balanced when we interact with others, so I try to connect people where I can along the way, through prayer and service opportunities. We always receive when we give: that is the generosity of God!

I am grateful for the privilege and delight of walking with so many different people and sharing in their lives over these past years as a Campus Chaplain.


Mark Chamberlain 2021 imageFather Mark Chamberlain

Catholic Chaplain

Email machamberlain61@gmail.com


Erolia Rooney imageErolia Rooney

Email eteuatie00@gmail.com

Si o’u alofa and peace be with you.
As a new chaplain, I am learning in this sacred space.
I pray to learn with you.

I believe in being present.
I believe in sharing.
I value connectedness.
I believe in the power of prayer.

In our journey,
God be in front to lead us.
God be behind to guide us.
God be above to bless us.

Tautai Ieova i lenei faigamalaga.
God bless our journey.

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Muslim Chaplaincy

Dr Shakila Rizwan

Muslim Chaplain

Email muslimchaplaincy@otago.ac.nz


Najib Lafraie 2021 imageDr Najib Lafraie

Muslim Chaplain

Email muslimchaplaincy@otago.ac.nz

Assalaamu alaikum (Peace be with you).

My name is Najib Lafraie, and I have been a Muslim Chaplain since April 2019. The Muslim Chaplaincy at Otago University and Polytechnic was established to provide moral and spiritual support and pastoral care to Muslim students and staff.

Originally from Afghanistan, I got a PhD in Political Science from the University of Hawaii, USA. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan I joined the resistance movement, was appointed as Minister of Information in the government formed by the Mujahideen (freedom fighters) following the Red Army withdrawal, and as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs after the removal of the communist regime in Kabul. When the Taliban captured Kabul, my family went into hiding; a year later we fled to Pakistan; and after three more years of precarious life in Pakistan, we finally found safety and security here in Aotearoa.

We came to NZ as refugees in September 2000. That came with its own many struggles. I was fortunate to get a teaching job at the Department of Politics here at University of Otago in July 2002. After 13 years of teaching, I retired at the end of 2015.

Retirement has given me the opportunity to do more voluntary work. I have been doing voluntary works since the mid 1970s. Serving as a Red Cross volunteer to support the former refugees and this Otago Muslim Chaplaincy are the latest ones.

I’m keen to listen to you with respect and compassion, without passing any judgment; and to help you in any way I can. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, even if just for a chat because you feel lonely.

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