Brother Blaise MACQUARRIE is a Canadian who has worked for many years in Chincha Alta, Peru. Here, he tells of his prison ministry.
Our local bishop heard of our active visits to the jail and showed much interest in this new apostolate of ours. He asked for priest volunteers from the seven parishes here in our area. Bishop Hector is young and likes the idea of helping inmates with basic needs and seeing to the welfare of their souls. So some priests volunteered to go to the jail and celebrate Holy Mass and to hear tons of confessions, confessions that would make your hair stand on end. Fr. Jesui, an Oblate priest, told me he heard more confessions in three hours than he had heard in the parish in two months. Now lay women and men are going with Fr. Jesui every Thursday to help in the evangelization and are meeting with great success.
Marcos, Walter, Paulino and I go to the jails on Fridays. There is a real connection between the priest and laypeople that go to the jail to celebrate mass and with us who go there with basic items the inmates need. One group prays for the needs of the inmates, both spiritual and material, and we help meet those needs.
We can go anywhere in this huge jail, speak with the inmates and see for ourselves their specific needs. Once knowing these needs, we take action. For example, we visited four workshops: a carpenter shop with machinery but no wood; a clothes shop with eight machines but no cloth; a shoe shop with a modern machine but no leather; and a craft shop that is also lacking material. We can’t meet all their needs, but we can try to do some-thing.
Roberto and Elena Rior are our link to the inmates. Chatting with this pair of good souls, we devised a project to buy shoe models, leather, glue, etc. Because they know Lima and where to make good buys, I gave them money to make the purchases. With products in hand, my team headed to jail on our regular Friday to offer them to the inmates. The inmates’ reaction is so heart-warming … big hugs followed by “thank you for remembering us.”
We move on to the clothes workshop. We ask what cloth material is required. So that evening Roberto and Elena came to our house and we made up another project list. Recently we gave kits to 40 inmates to make purses for women. These have turned out great because Roberto and Elena sell the purses at a nearby parish after mass. The money collected goes back to buying more material.
We are now looking at the carpenter shop and soon they will have wood to make tables and chairs.
This brings us to 27 inmates, mostly elderly who are in jail for life and not looked upon with any love or respect. We learned from other inmates that this group lacks toilet paper, toothpaste, tooth brushes and soap. Why? Because they are sexual violators. I said to my team, “Let’s demonstrate love for this group.” So another great couple, Marcos and Teresa, went and bought 27 toiletry kits. Off we went to the jail. The reaction from the inmates was immediate. They came to us with hugs and tears in their weak eyes that said everything that words can’t. We are all God’s children, we are sisters and brothers.
What next? In the jail of 1,400 mouths, they buy 6,000 buns per day. This modern jail has no bakery. So, chatting with Roberto and Elena about this situation, I asked if we could set up a bakery in the jail. They came up with a few good ideas, and now there is a scent of bread in the air. (Oblate Spirit, June 2016)