[Province of Madrid – St. Louise] This summer as Daughters of Charity in the Prison Centers and together with two volunteers, we have set ourselves a new challenge: to make the Way to Santiago with Interns. The goal was to deepen in the insertion and therapy we face in the Prison Ministry, which we carry out inside the Prison Center Madrid – I.
The unity of the volunteers and the favorable circumstances, by both the director of the Center and the Secretary-General of the Penitentiaries, the project was appreciated and the proposal approved. At the meetings with the Assistant Director of Treatment, we outlined the implementation, route, budget, rules to follow … the number of participants: six inmates who were authorized to leave the shelter, or who participated in the courses. In May the whole group; Felipe (Educator of the Center) Chelo (Psychologist) Manuel (Marist Brother -) Sara, Eva, Sonata, Wendie, Lizeth, Sonia (volunteers) and I, marked the formative objectives we were looking for. It was an educational experience like the one we carried out in the Center. The profile of the Interns was that of people who had problems with drug use and mistreatment histories.
On the day of departure, the group breathed normally. We sat on the bus and enjoyed the scenery and the company. The trip to Tuy, a spectacular medieval village, took all day. We crossed it until we reached the shelter our Sisters have located in the suburbs opposite to the Cathedral. There we organized ourselves into three teams, which were in charge of the supplies on the corresponding days.
We began providing them with a personal booklet, with the topics to be dealt and space for them to write each day a small journal of what they lived. This first meeting had the objective of updating our initial approach, renewing our life. What do you want to find on this road? They wrote down their answers and some of them shared it, in an expectant, joyful and relaxed atmosphere, ready to begin the following day, the first 32 kilometers long stage up to Redondela. We left the hostel at 05:30 in the dark walking through the empty Tuy. As we entered the forest, we threw ourselves into the first planned educational activity: a time of silence to let ourselves be flooded by what surrounded us while the light was imposing itself on the night.
It’s amazing what we miss every day at dawn! The smells, the noise of the water, the footsteps, the beating of the sticks, the birds’ first songs… and at the end of this contemplation of nature each day with the blessing (millenary) of the pilgrim. Here are some of his beautiful words:
“Dear Lord, we ask you deign to keep these servants of yours who, for the love of Thy name, make a pilgrimage to Compostela, to be a companion in the march for them, a guide at the crossroads, an exhale in fatigue…” each lived stage was accrued in the group, as the experience never thought, not even dreamed; they continuously expressed: they felt truly free, without stigmas, that even that even on their permission of departure, they felt like a heavy slab, or as they usually said “a sign that identifies us” but these days it has disappeared, we feel totally integrated, accepted, loved, we are part of society, like the rest of pilgrims, we are the Alcalá de Henares group. We started individual interviews. They were important and profound because they were dealing with intimate and important themes of past life, and little by little, a light was lit on a new way of life renewed for the near future upon release from prison. The meetings favored an atmosphere where there was a greater encounter with oneself, necessary to live more fully. Finally, there was the final leg, Santiago de Compostela; behind us, we left Tuy, Redondela, Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis, Padrón. It was emotional, the church was full of pilgrims from all over the world. We had reached our goal!
The Camino has meant experiences and bonds that will not be broken, they will always be within each one of us. They have all been written from the depths of the human being, stories so intimate, painful, heartbreaking, so lacking of affection, listening and of Love, it has made us anchor ourselves in faith and the hope that nothing in this world is lost, everything can e back to life, illusion, enthusiasm, the desire to live and to continue fighting, if you have the support, the accompaniment and the unconditional LOVE of those who are by your side, to get up when you need it, and to walk together in search of other goals that give meaning to a new life.
Sr. Maria de Cortes Astasio Lara – Daughter of Charity
Social Area Coordinator of the Penitentiary Ministry