SALFORD DIOCESE Walk with prisoners has many turns
ON Easter Sunday Bishop John started the morning in the same way he started Christmas Day.
He went to HMP Manchester to say Mass for the prisoners.
This involves saying three masses in three different wings.
Many people will be surprised that it is within the prison not the Cathedral that you will find the Bishop on Easter Sunday.
When asked why, Bishop John responds with the simple explanation: “We must continue to walk with all people along their journey and do all we can to communicate our Gospel Values particularly to those who may feel excluded or alone.”
This view was expressed by another of our prison chaplains when he recounted the story: “A few days ago I bumped into a couple of prisoners walking down what we call main stress back to their wing.
“One of them said to me….will you walk with us and so I accompanied them to the wing.
“After, it struck me that that request summed up very well what the life and ministry of a prison chaplain is.
“We are asked to walk with prisoners whether they have a faith or none at all from the moment they come in through Reception right to the day of their discharge. And sometimes even beyond.”
Prison chaplains usually work in ecumenical teams, most have chaplains from the major religions.
They are responsible for ensuring that prisoners are able to practise their faith and celebrate their feasts and festivals.
As well as faith specific activities they also have what is called statutory duties such as seeing the new receptions on a daily basis to make sure that their religious registration is recorded correctly, responding to applications requesting to speak to a chaplain following a bereavement or family issues and those who are about to be discharged.
Many prisoners do turn to their Faith when they are in prison. They find it a force in their lives which encourages them to understand that there is real hope for rehabilitation and their becoming valued members of society.
Once a prisoner comes to realise their own dignity then it is our hope that they will see and appreciate the dignity in others.
That is why we are prepared to walk with them, to spend time with them, to listen, to pray with them.
Our walk with prisoners has many turns on the way but with the help of God we walk with them along their journey.