It took years to try and understand that Christ died on the cross to forgive my sins… I was sitting in a room with seven other men and I began to cry. I said, ‘How can I possibly live with myself, with what I have done? Then began the journey of building myself up.
These words were spoken by a former prisoner who is now a Pact ambassador. They were also read aloud by Bishop Richard Moth last Friday in the chapel at HMP Send, a women’s prison in Surrey. Bishop Moth is the Liaison Bishop for Prisons. He was making the Stations of the Cross with the women using the new text produced by Pact, the Catholic prisons charity. The reflective part of the text expresses the thoughts and feelings of prisoners, people with convictions and their families.
After the service, Bishop Moth and a small group of Pact visitors, chatted with the women over socially-distanced tea and cake. Some knew Bishop Richard already because he had baptised or confirmed them on previous visits. Some approached Canon Paul Douthwaite, the National Catholic Chaplain for Prisons, asking for special prayers. We talked about the sunny weather, the beautiful prison gardens, knitting, children, church, and making a fresh start. The women explained that during Lent, they have been meeting in the prison chapel with their Catholic chaplain, for weekly Stations of the Cross – just as many parishioners have been doing ‘on the outside.’
Pact’s strong roots are in the Catholic church. We consciously weave the principles of Catholic Social teaching into the way we work. We invite parishes to use this Stations of the Cross liturgy in solidarity with those who are in prison and their families. There are an estimated 90,000 children in England & Wales who are sitting in a school classroom today while their mum or dad is in prison. Some of those mums and dads have prayed the same Stations of the Cross text in the chapel of their prison. Some have yet to turn back to their faith, or to discover it for the first time, and some may never do so. All are made in the image of God and their human dignity is entrusted to the whole Christian community.
As Pope Francis says in Fratelli Tutti, ‘… a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good.’ As we say at Pact, everyone can be redeemed whatever they may have done.
If the Stations of the Cross text speaks to you particularly, you might consider becoming one of our Pact Parish representatives helping us to keep those affected by the criminal justice system in the hearts and minds of people in your parish.
You can download the Stations of the Cross liturgy here: Stations of the Cross | Prison Advice and Care Trust
About the Prison Advice & Care Trust (Pact)
The Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact) is an independent 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.
The charity was founded in 1898 as the Catholic Prisoners’ Aid Society.
Pact’s vision is of a society in which justice is understood as a process of restoration and healing, in which prisons are used sparingly and as places of learning and rehabilitation, and in which the innate dignity and worth of every human being is valued. We work for the common good of Society, taking a public health-based approach. We work at the intersection of criminal justice, child and family welfare, mental health, wellbeing provision and health & social care.
Our volunteers and staff can be found in courts, prisons, probation services, and communities across England & Wales. We are a diverse, inclusive, modern, and collaborative charity. We build effective partnerships and sustainable solutions based on our well-established understanding of the systems in which we work, and on our historic values and ethos developed through our 120+ years of service delivery.
What we do:
- Build stronger families and safer communities.
- Reduce risk of harm to prisoners and their children.
- Remove barriers and increase awareness in public services.
- Influence commissioning, policy and legislation.
Read more about Pact for Parishes and Groups: Prison Advice and Care Trust