Prisons Week 2019: Take a chance to reach out to prisoners
Prisons Week takes place from 13-19 October 2019, giving Catholics and all people of prayer an opportunity to pray and intercede for prisoners. Prisons Week aims to encourage prayer and awareness of the needs of prisoners and their families, victims of offenders, prisons staff and all those who care. It motivates volunteers to step forward and give their time and gifts, in prisons and in their own communities. It provides an annual focus and reason for Christians to work together, building capacity and motivation to make a difference for people who are out of sight and often out of mind.
PRISONERS AND FREEDOM
Prisoners’ Week began in England and Wales in 1975 as a Catholic initiative by Bishop Victor Guazzelli. It is now an ecumenical event. This year’s theme focuses on the theme: “What does freedom mean to you and are you free?” There is also a verse about freedom to reflect on from the Psalms: ‘He sets his people free. He made his agreement everlasting. He is holy and wonderful.’ (Psalm 111:9) (NCV) Bishop Richard Moth, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Liaison Bishop for Prisons, recognises the struggle and difficulties for those involved in prison, both prisoners and those working with them. “The light at the journey’s end might be elusive,” he said. “Those who through their own actions, or the actions of others, find themselves engaged with our penal system and those who work and volunteer in criminal justice, can find that they are travelling this path.” Bishop Moth believes it is only through deep prayer and trust in God that they will be able to be sustained. “We believe that it is before God’s throne, surrounded by the power of grace, that all those who are searching and asking will truly find the help they seek,” he said.
PRISON VISITS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
One prisoner who has found the help he sought is “John.” Reflecting on the question of what freedom means to him as a prisoner and a Christian, John said: “It used to mean getting out of this place (prison). But now I’ve found God, it means being free in here, in the heart. It sounds weird, but I am free.” John’s experience of freedom is one that Catholic evangelist Ros Powell has seen take place in her ministry of visiting prisoners and sharing faith with them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists visiting the imprisoned as a corporal work of mercy (2447), echoing Christ’s words: “I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36) Ros Powell was inspired by a verse about prisoners from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.” (Hebrews 13:3) Sharing her experiences of a visit to Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Norwich, she underlined the importance of prayer. “Our prayer group at St Teresa’s, Stoke-On-Trent, has a Christian Text Ministry, whereby prayer group members text their prayer requests which are then forwarded to over 100 intercessors, who in turn forward the payer request onto their own prayer partners,” she said. “On the day we went to HMP Norwich, there were hundreds and possibly thousands of people praying for the lads and their families. People as far away as Rome and Tenerife were praying.”
PRISONERS EXPERIENCE PHYSICAL, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALING
As she shared faith with inmates, she experienced the fruits of these prayers. “I could feel every prayer that was being said on our behalf,” she said. “The one thing that struck us was how polite and well-mannered they all were. The Holy Spirit was moving powerfully in the room. There was such a hunger and a thirst. They were being healed physically, spiritually and emotionally; many were set free.” Ros Powell led the prisoners in a prayer service. “I asked them to stand up as I took them through a prayer and again I invited them, in the quietness of their own heart, to ask the Lord to forgive them. Then each one was prayed over individually for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” she said. “The Holy Spirit was moving among the spiritually hungry and thirsty that day.”
GOD’S COMPASSION AND GRACE
In Prisons Week, it is important to remember the power of prayer, as Bishop Moth reminds us. “In Prisons Week, as we boldly approach His throne, let us stand together in prayer with those struggling to cope with imprisonment or involvement in our criminal justice system: that all affected will know what it means to find the compassion of God’s mercy and the grace of Jesus Christ, carrying us through particular and difficult times of need,” he said. Each day of the week, a new prayer brings into focus a different group affected by prison or criminal justice. You can follow this by downloading the prayers from the website: www.prisonsweek.org In a 2019 prisons week booklet, we are invited to reflect, and act, in the following way: “Please pray each day during Prisons Week, but also ask yourself whether there is one thing that you as an individual, or as a church, can do to help any of those people that you are praying for.”
This is a useful prayer from the Prisons Week website:
Lord, you offer freedom to all people.
We pray for those in prison.
Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist.
Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends,
prison staff and all who care.
Heal those who have been wounded by the activities
of others, especially the victims of crime.
Help us to forgive one another.
To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ
in His strength and in His Spirit, now and every day.
Picture: Pope Francis leads grace before eating lunch at San Vittore prison in Milan. (L’Osservatore Romano)Tags: healing, Jesus, Prisons