Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Church in an African Prison

The Catholic Church in Africa is undergoing a period of explosive growth, and part of the reason is visible in the care being put into its prison work, as revealed in this article from the Catholic Herald of the United Kingdom.

An excerpt.

“A line drawing of Jesus carrying his Cross adorned his light blue T-shirt as he stood, waiting for Mass to begin, occasionally moving to make space for the steady stream of men heading towards the makeshift confessional. One or two of them appeared incredibly sad, one of them perhaps not far from tears...

“Mass started late: one priest could not be in two places at once. Rarely have I felt the Liturgy to be such a desperately - needed lifeline of hope in the midst of hopelessness and suffering.

"Try to see life through the eyes of Jesus" - this was the message of the homily.

“Three men impressed themselves indelibly in my memory: the one who seemed so sad, the one with the blue T-shirt and a third, who crossed the chapel to greet us. He evidently considered himself of a higher social status as he shook hands, chatting cheerily for a few moments.

"He was a district secretary," Fr Donal Fennessey SMA explained afterwards. "He shot his nephew at point-blank range during an argument. At his trial, the judge said that if he could kill one of his own family, then nobody could be safe."

“My first Mass in a prison chapel was also the first and only time that I have, albeit unknowingly, shaken hands with a murderer. Yet, hearing the confessions of the prisoners through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and offering them the Eucharist is part and parcel of Fr Donal's normal Saturday routine when he visits the prison in Lafia, Nigeria.”