“It happened in 1980’s, at a time before the Prison Ministry of India was formed as a voluntary organization under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. I was in my regular routine of carrying letters for prison families. At the end of the day, after completing the entrusted duties I was getting ready to go. Soon someone clutched on my Sari, restricting me to move forward.
I turned back to see who was that. I saw an 8-year-old girl. She was so gloomy; her eyes were pleading to me something. Tears were flowing down her rosy cheeks. Rubbing the tears, making her cheeks looks more reddish, she told me, “Sister, please take me and my brother out from here.” The two children lost their parents are kept in the juvenile home.
The face of the little girl is there still fresh in my memory, and she drew me slowly to do something for prisoners…” Franciscan Hospitaller Sister Rosita Gomes recollected the path she had trodden in her unique ministry.
It was Sr. Gomes who initiated Sr. Gomes into the prison ministry. Each visits she made to the prison along with other priests and sisters were pregnant with incredible memories. Through prison ministry, family visits, tuition to the poor children, the sisters was getting a chance to go deep into the lives of the marginalised.
The prison gate which once stood as a sign of fear became a place of welcome and joy for us. We were given strict instructions not to dig the past of the prisoners. But some prisoners opened up the bundle of their worries and sadness to us. We understand that many are imprisoned for not doing a mistake. Some are cheated and some has done because the situation has forced them to do so.
“Our weekly visit to prison was a ray of hope for the prisoners. There are situations where the family bonds of the prisoner’s family were re-established with the visits made by the sisters.” Sister Gomes says.
“We had a mission to full fill. With our daily visit we were enabling the men and women to stand in their own foot after the completion of their term of punishment. They were given career-oriented crafts. The flowers, the handmade baskets made by the prisoners were sold in the market which in turn fetched money for them” she adds.
Their familiarity with prisoners coincide with the Pope Francis’ address to the Brazilian Bishops in 2013, “Unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hope and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey?