Prison Ministry Awareness

[Province of Madrid – Santa Luisa] Our meeting on October 16 began as usual with a prayer. There were many hopeful and beautiful expressions making us feel like, “The pilgrim family in the Penitentiary Pastoral Care”.

Attending the meeting were the volunteers along with Mons. Jose Angel Saiz Meneses, Bishop of Tarrasa responsible of Penitentiary Ministry for the Spanish Bishops Conference and Rev. José Maria Gil Tamayo, General Secretary; Mr. Luis Angel Ortiz González, General Secretary of Penitentiary Institutions and Fr. Florencio Roselló Avellanas (Mercedario) Director of Penitentiary Ministry in the EEC.

We have been encouraged to be united in each Centre. The Church and society should know about it, not to be praised but because, “you do not light a lamp to put it under the bushel, but to put it on the lampstand and shine to everyone in the house, so your light shine before men, and your good deeds been seen and give glory to your Father who is in heaven“(Mt 5.16,17).

Today, more than ever, we have to motivate society in order to be aware; invite participation, insist in the churches and all around us, about the urgency to make known and welcomethose who are our brethren, children of the same Father.

Jose Maria Gil Tamayo told us: “You are not invisible to the Episcopal Conference; this pastoral care has an undeniable component of the Messiah, attention to those deprived of liberty, words of Christ himself. We must work not to be seen, but to be authentic, to show ourselves as we are, and to do it naturally. This will help us to gain coherence and credibility. “Contemporary people listen more to witnesses than teachers, or if they listen to teachers it’s because they are witnesses (Saint Paul VI)”.

Different media and political parties were also present. They encouraged us to continue making ourselves more visible, listened to, to be more communicative. Our work is very important, but there is much ignorance about the Pastoral Care in Prisons, it is not perceived, is not felt. All praised the dedication and commitment of 2,700 volunteers in the different Penitentiary Centres.

Ms. Zaida Cantera, Socialist Deputy in the Congress, left us the following message: “I have seen the best in people who wore cassocks and collars, who have gotten into places where a military man did not dare to enter. Without the Prison Ministry, the security would be worseand she endorsed the words of Mrs. Mercedes Gallizo, former Penitentiary Institutions Director “If there were not Prison Ministry, it would have to be created”.

The Chaplains, delegates and Coordinators, analysed various questions. For example: What do you do at the diocesan level to make visible Penitentiary Pastoral Care in the Church and in society? What initiatives do you think are necessary in your diocese to enhance the visibility of Penitentiary Pastoral Care? We are an evangelical presence, and the prisoner’s face is a human face, with dreams, hopes, illnesses, fears and with a desire to transform their lives.

We have been called to participate in the expansion and visualization of this ministry. Not all the dioceses, along with their Bishops, have the same commitment, not all parishes are willing to welcome and integrate within their plans the Penitentiary Pastoral Care, but it is necessary to continue as in the Gospel, and never falter, but quite the opposite, because we are an evangelical presence.

The conference of Mrs. Raquel Benito Lopez, Coordinator of the Legal Area, Lawyer and Professor of Criminal and Penitentiary Law in the Autonomous University of Madrid “The permanent prison reviewable, moral and legal questioning.”A complex and burning issue, where modifications and revocation of the suspension are the responsibility of the Judge or Sentencing Court, according to the provisions of Article 83 of the Criminal Code, however, the Prison Judge is given the power to revoke the suspension.

Thanks to all those who try to humanize the Penitentiary Centres; thanks to those who have participated and collaborated in the Encounter; thanks to those who opt to read this brief information; thank you to those who, in your prayer, keep in mind our brothers deprived of the divine Gift of freedom.

Sor. M.ª de Cortes Astasio Lara H C. 

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