Prison Ministry - Bhubaneswar Province
When I was in prison, you visited me” - Mathew 25: 37
Launching Prison Ministry for Bhubaneswar Province was a long awaited dream. The new Provincial team decided that the Prison Ministry should soon be working for the Province. This was actualized in the International women’s Day on 8th March 2020.
The prisons hunger for the Church to invite them to the table, for Jesus came to call not the righteous, but sinners. There are 1,401 functioning jails with 3, 96,223 prisoners in India. We have permission to visit Jharpara-Bhubaneswar jail as well Cuttack-Chowder jail in Odisha. Both the jails are known as circle jails having around 800 men and 17 women and 900 men and 40 women inmates in both the jails irrespectively .
The Social Wing of the Province took initiative to get permission from the Director General of Police to visit both the prisons and got it in a very short time. Thereafter we have visited the jails and celebrated the International Women’s Day with the women section of the jail. We had few games and singing competitions followed by prize distributions and had some refreshments programs after that.
Recently on 3rd August 2020, our Province had donated 500 masks to the inmates of Jharpara-Bhubaneswar jail.
Here below are the experiences of our two young sisters in visiting the jails.
“I am Sr. Jyosna, is a social worker who visited both the prisons. My dream was fulfilled on the International Women’s day. It was an inspiring and enriching experience for me. This is my first exposure. Sr. Justine gave us a short introduction of how to go about inside the prison. I consider it as an incredible opportunity of being able to visit the prisons and see the people suffering mentally.
Entering into a prison for the first time, as a visitor was a unique and a deep experience for me. Somehow it was very frightening; big gates, long corridors, banging of doors, keys, huge bolt and locks and more locks. I only knew about the prisons from films and serials. Once we entered, the officers began checking us, questioning, taking signatures and waiting for a response. I felt very emotional seeing and hearing from many inmates, the small babies with young mothers, pregnant women and very young ladies. I could feel the pain while they were singing in tears during the competition. I was really moved by it and felt their unspeakable mental agony and pain. And still what striking me was the awareness that this is all real people who are deprived of family, children, freedom, dreams, desires and ambitions of life and remaining behind the bars. One thing that became painfully apparent was how vital it is for prisoners to focus on rehabilitation.
I had different idea or attitude towards the people in prison but after the visits I realized that they too have feelings and ambitions in life. It was situations in life that took them inside. I felt the need of doing something for them. It really disturbed me a lot and now every day, I pray for them. I am very grateful to the Province and Sr. Justine for giving me this experience”.
“I am Sr. Sudha, a 3rd year junior. When I visited the prisons on the International Women’s Day, the words of Jesus came to my mind. I felt that it is Jesus who is opening up my mind and heart to see the situations of people who are inside. First when I heard the superintendents’ talks, I understood one thing that is through compassion we can convert more sinners than by condemning them.
When I went inside I felt very sad because I saw many young boys were inside, felt that no one guided or helped them when they were small to reach to in that situation of life. Many inmates who are young buried their dreams, ambitions and precious life inside the four walls. I was surprised to know that the majority of the prisoners were the youth. When they took us to the female wards, my heart broke and my tears were uncontrollable by seeing the little children: such innocent ones who were not aware of what life in the jail is all about, together with them a few older ones and some pregnant women who need the care of the husband and family. Some of them were falsely accused. I saw some of them sad, depressed and not finding some meaning in their life. Others were worried whether they would see their family again or not. They are the deeply wounded ones who needed healing. These things disturbed me a lot. I really want to do something for the people who are behind the bars.
I appreciate that our new provincial team is working together and bringing new changes and insights to the life of the Province. Compassion is doing something to relieve the suffering of others. They are trying to reach out to the people not in words but in action. Respecting one another and responding to the needs of the communities and society, trusting in God and renewing the Spirit of our Congregation. I specially remain grateful to Sr. Leena and Sr. Justine for giving me this opportunity to visit Jesus in the prison”.
By Sr. Justine SJA