07 Editorial - You are Not Alone

posted Aug 8, 2018, 11:33 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 8, 2018, 11:36 PM ]
August 12, 2018 is celebrated as Prison Ministry Sunday to commemorate the feast of the Patron saint, Maximilian Kolbe. This year, the theme is 'You are not alone'. As human beings, we experience a variety of feelings. However, one feeling we would rather not like to experience is the feeling of being alone. Certainly, there are many ways in which we may feel lonely, but loneliness is felt most in prisons. On Prison Ministry Sunday, the Church is proclaiming to all those behind bars that "you are not alone". Through the celebration of Prison Ministry Sunday, the Church wants to declare to each one of our brothers and sisters inside 1,401 prisons in India that they are not alone.

The volunteers of Prison Ministry India (PMI) strive to reach out to our brothers and sisters in prison and bring them inner freedom i.e freedom from fear, guilt and shame that grip their lives. We help to give them a sense of dignity while they are still behind bars.

PMI is an organisation recognized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are behind bars. The prison system can be a painful and damaging process for the inmates and their helpless families. The prisoners suffer not just physically, but also psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, and are in urgent need of care and support.

PMI Mumbai works in five prisons - Adharwadi (Kalyan), Arthur Road, Byculla, Taloja and Thane, and in two Remand/Observation Homes for children at Dongri (Umerkhadi) and Mankhurd.

The Vision of PMI is the 'Three R Theory':

RELEASE – them from Prisons and also from the bondage of crime and sin, into understanding and forgiveness.

RENEWAL – Empowering them to a commitment to a new chance at life.

REHABILITATION – reintegrate them back into their homes and society with a fresh vigour to move on.

We are happy to present briefly the various activities conducted through Prison Ministry Mumbai under the aegis of the Centre for Peace Trust.

Spiritual Activities:

The Eucharist was celebrated on Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday at Adharwadi, Arthur Road, Taloja and Thane prisons. The Sacrament of Confession was held before Mass, and praise and worship was conducted in Hindi and Marathi. After the Eucharist, cake was distributed to 300 inmates at Christmas and Easter.

A solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper was held on Maundy Thursday, including the washing of the feet of the prisoners. Bishop Barthol Barretto washed the feet of 15 prisoners. Most of the prisoners were overwhelmed with this gesture of Bishop Barthol washing and kissing their feet; this symbolic action had a profound impact on the prisoners. On Easter Sunday, praise and worship was organised for the Christians; it was well attended by people of other faiths too. Bishop Barthol Barretto also participated in the praise and worship.

Medical Camps: Since January 2018, Skin camps, Eye, Gynaecology, Diabetes and Dental camps were held at Thane and Arthur Road jails. Dental camps are held on a regular basis at Arthur Road, Taloja and Thane jails.

Release of prisoners: Pope Francis' concluding message for the Year of Mercy - that we need to continue acts of mercy - was seriously taken up by Prison Ministry Mumbai in securing the release of poor and petty crime offenders. The Prison Ministry, in collaboration with the Catholic Lawyers Guild Mumbai (CLGM), has released more than 50 prisoners; mostly those who are very poor and cannot afford to pay the bail amount.

From time to time, the volunteers talk to the inmates and counsel them to deal with their situation. Regular counselling is provided to women inmates at Byculla prison.

Fr Joseph Gonsalves is the Director of Prison Ministry, Mumbai.