Pact, the Catholic prisons charity, has celebrated its first supporters’ Mass in HMP Wormwood Scrubs chapel.
The chapel was chosen for its especially beautiful and spacious chapel. Bishop Paul McAleenan was the main celebrant, assisted by Fr Dominic Robinson and Fr Chima, the Catholic chaplain at the prison.
Pact staff and supporters were welcomed by Governor Amy Frost who said how much she valued being able to invite people inside to play some part in the good work the prison staff strive to do.
“Our Mass was moving and prayerful,” said Pact’s Theresa Alessandro.
“One of the prisoners read from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans: ‘Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ.’ Bishop Paul had chosen a Gospel reading from St. Luke, where the new disciples ‘left everything and followed him’. In our bidding prayers, we asked, ‘God of mercy, may your love overcome struggle and heartache and bring new life.’ Jonathan Schranz, the Director of Music at Southwark Cathedral, played the chapel’s grand piano fantastically well, to accompany our hymn-singing.”
Addressing the congregation on behalf of Pact’s CEO Andy Keen-Downs, Alessandro told the congregation about Andy’s recent audience with Pope Francis and showed them the image of Mary Untier of Knots which Pope Francis blessed on behalf of all those in prison in England & Wales. She explained to the men that they were the first of many in prison with whom Pact hopes to share the image and Pope Francis’ blessing. After Mass the men had an opportunity to touch the image and each make their own quiet prayer. Echoing Bishop Paul’s homily, Theresa assured the men that Pope Francis cares about what happens to them because Jesus himself does.
“We knew that holding an event in the prison would be challenging, and so it was,” said Theresa.
“It took quite some time to get all of our guests through Security but this gave us an opportunity to experience what visiting families can go through – sometimes having had a long journey already. We were to be joined for Mass by 15 men but in fact only 4 arrived, due to short-notice issues inside on the day – just as families intending to make a much-awaited visit can be disappointed at the last minute for a variety of reasons.”
Pact staff who work at Wormwood Scrubs escorted the guests back to the Pact Visitor Centre just outside the prison gate. There, Pact’s Director of Comms & Engagement, Nick Mann, thanked everyone for the different ways in which they support Pact and the people the charity serves. Thoughtful conversations followed over some refreshments.
“For some in our society, and indeed in parish communities, there is little understanding of what life is like for those in prison and for their children and families,” said Theresa
“Being involved in supporting people affected by the criminal justice system can be isolating at times. However there was a wealth of experience and wisdom amongst the group: Pact parish reps, volunteers, faithful donors, lay chaplains, members of Caritas Westminster and Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, well-wishers – and Pact staff – found lots to talk about and affirm. We look forward to continuing to walk in solidarity alongside people in prison and their families.
Have a look at the ways you can get involved: Support for Parishes and Groups | Prison Advice and Care Trust
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Pact is a pioneering national, Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. We provide caring and life changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.
Pact is a charity registered in England & Wales, number 219278. Company registration number: 356443. Registered office: 29 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UA.