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Is priestal service necessary in prison?
Monday, 24 October 2016 09:53

Catechism contains the phrase that believers should console prisoners. And what about priests?Is priestal servicenecessary in modern jails or penal colonies? So we present the interview with fr.AliaksandrZharnasek MIC who serves as a prison chaplain in Orsha.

- When I started my service in Orsha I wasn’t overloaded with pastoral work because our parish was small and other services (meetings of “Vineyard”, different recollections) we hadn’t arranged yet.

I didn’t have enough courage to begin this unusual service if only because it implied going to a colony to people who suffered from tuberculosis and prospects of infection as you understand was not attractive. For another thing I wasn’t certain of finding some common ground with prisoners who maybe didn’t have demand for my help.

I beguiled myself out of starting this service, tried to find any arguments, justifications, prayed and asked the Lord what is the meaning of this Bishop offer.

After a while a simple idea came into my head – this jail where I didn’t want to go was the place of suffering for people who couldn’t confess and join with the Lord for many years. Such clear and concrete thought set everythingin its place again…

- And did the fear vanish?

- It took some time. But when you get the assurance of your work importance it becomes possible to conquer all weaknesses. Furthermorethe evidence of a young wedded pair from the Congress “The Renewal In The Holy Spirit” in Czestochowarecurred. I had been lucky to take part in this Congress during my studying at seminary.

The man covered with tattoos told he had lain in prison for bad crime not for the first time. And young people from the movement of Renewal had come to serve in this prison (it’s possible according Polish legislation).

The meeting for this person resulted in behavioural change. He found not merely the Lord, but also fallen in love with a girl who had visited him in the prison. After a time they created family, now they have several children…

- The length of your service amounts to more than four years and looking back are you able to delight in someone who was the reason of your service starting?

- First of all I have no doubts that there are a lot of people who require pastoral attention. I can’t impress with stories like one that happened in Poland. But thank Heaven several ex-convicts have already created families, have found a job.

There is no point in waiting for only amazing stories. They happen but very seldom…

(…) It should be realized that prisons contain no only habitual criminals but also outsiders.

- What does it mean? Are they wrongfully convicted?

- Maybe they were convicted justly but… There are a lot of accidents when men or guys were fighting in the street and then somebody grasped a stone, a bar of steel or a knife.

The service in the colony teaches me not to condemn but to see a prisoner’s best traits of character which make him special among other people.

Sometimes it’s quite funny to listen to their speech, how they refer to each other by nicknames as if they are youngsters. The more I consider them, their previous life in family and old environment, the clearer I see the roots of evil.

What is the future of a person who has parents with alcoholism, if brothers are thieves and sisters are prostitutes? How would you talk with other people if you heard only swearing during childhood?

According ave-maria.by (IL)

Updated Thursday, 03 November 2016 13:35
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