This Sunday is the end of National Correctional Consciousness (NACOCO) Week a national celebration held in correctional institutions across the country. For one week, the inmates through their supporters hold activities among themselves and for their families and friends.
In our parish the Prison Ministry would like to take this opportunity to share with you the activities that it does for the inmates of Makati City Jail. The most basic need of an inmate is justice, through the prison ministry; indigent inmates are assisted with legal counsel from lawyers in the SYA community as well as through volunteers who coordinate their cases with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
The majority of the inmates are poor and cannot afford bail, legal fees and money for their most basic needs. Many of the inmates have very few visitors and therefore rely on the prison system for all their needs for food, clothing and toiletries. This is the second concern that the Prison Ministry addresses. In every activity that we do, we try our best to give some food, soap, toothpaste, detergent and other small things that go along way. Even used soap from hotels is well received by the inmates. We also coordinate with the City for medical missions and emergency hospitalization for serious cases.
The third concern that the Prison Ministry addresses is the need for livelihood, skills, recreation and development. In this regard, there are several projects that the Ministry does together with the SYA community such as sports (chess, boxing, futsal, dodgeball and others), cooking contests, film showing, Adult Learning tutorials, livelihood programs (eco bags and other sewn items, handicrafts), and much more.
The final concern is that of the spirit. SYA volunteers teach catechism classes to the inmates every Monday evening, there are weekly masses on Saturday afternoons that our volunteers regularly participate in, we help with special religious celebrations such as feast days, lent, Easter, Christmas and even Santacruzans. The Prison Ministry helped build a 200 person capacity chapel inside the prison grounds that is considered one of the most beautiful chapels in any correctional institution in the Philippines.
Last September 14, Archbishop Luis Tagle celebrated mass at the chapel and the Prison Ministry was the only group that was allowed to stay inside the chapel with the inmates. In his homily he mentions how the Church is close to prisoners because Christ was a prisoner. He also mentioned that prisoners are no longer calledinmates but as temporary residents of the institution. The mass was so beautiful because one could feel the prayers of all the residents all around the small chapel. Prayers of justice and assistance, prayers of love for their families outside the walls, and prayers of thanksgiving for giving the residents a second chance.
This week’s NACOCO will have activities such as dance and singing contest, a Bible trivia contest, a basketball and volleyball tournament, medical mission, and a Family Fun Day. All of these projects of the Prison Ministry would not be possible without the generous contributions of all parishioners through mass collections and donations during the annual Francisfest. Outside the church today is a small photo display of some activities of the Prison Ministry.