More than 120 years ago, a child was the first beneficiary of the organisation which has become Pact. We don’t know exactly how the child, known as ‘Roots’, came to need a home except as a result of presumed family involvement in the criminal justice system. The Minute Book records that a place was found for her at the Home of the Good Shepherd in East Finchley.
The Catholic community in England & Wales has supported Pact’s work with women and men in prison, people with convictions and their children and families ever since.
This year, Pact’s Carol Service will bring together individuals and families affected by the criminal justice system in different ways: people with lived experience; families of people with convictions; people who work or volunteer in prisons; our Anglican and Catholic Bishops for prisons; those who support prisoners’ families in communities; and people who are in sympathy with Pact’s values.
Pact CEO, Andy Keen-Downs says, ‘Our Annual Advent Carol service is a special opportunity to lift our hearts together in prayer and song, in solidarity…’
Prisoners often say that they appreciate being welcomed without judgement into church communities. On Thursday 9thDecember, all are welcome at the Mass at Farm Street at 6pm, the Pact Carol Service at 7pm, and the reception afterwards.
When we reflect on the real meaning of Christmas this year, we might bring to mind the 90,000 children expected to go to sleep on Christmas Eve knowing that their mum or dad is in prison – and that there are no prison visits on Christmas Day. We might recall that during the height of Covid restrictions, family visits were not possible at all.
In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis challenges us to ‘take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies.’ Pact continues to offer ways to support prisoners and their children. Our Operation Elf appeal helps prisoners give a gift to their child at Christmas, strengthening family bonds by sharing a little joy and hope for a better future together. Understandably, demand is high this year.
We are asking people to send us a £10 gift card (or two, or more!). We’ll see that these are distributed through Pact’s Family Services teams. In many parts of England & Wales, prisoners will be able to give these gift cards to their children at a Pact Family Visit Day. We will need donated £10 gift cards to reach us by 30th November so if you would like to help, time is short.
We deeply appreciate the hard work already going on in workplaces, parishes and schools to support Operation Elf.
To find out more about PACT and Operation Elf: https://www.prisonadvice.org.uk/operation-elf