Lockdown Shall Not Lock Us Down
Sr Lini Sheeja MSC
National Secretary, PMI
Bengaluru/Mumbai 23 May 2020
Most Rev Allwyn D’Silva, the chairman of Prison Ministry India, through a video conference with its national and regional coordinators invoked the volunteers all over India that the Covid19 lockdown shall not lock them down. Instead respecting the government restrictions and regulations PMI shall strengthen the ministry to the prisoners, their families, victims and prison officials during the Covid19 pandemic. Prison Ministry India, a national voluntary organization under the CBCI has a history of liberating, rehabilitating and redeeming tens and thousands of prisoners and their families through its 20 rehabilitation centers and 8000 volunteers all over India. Besides Most Rev Allwyn D’Silva, the chairman, Rev Dr Francis Kodiyan, the national coordinator, Sr Lini Sheeja, the national secretary, the 4 regional coordinators from Delhi, Pune, Guwahati, and Chennai took part in the video conference.
Sr Lini Sheeja, the PMI national secretary through her prayer invoked God’s blessings to the participants and prisoners all over the world, especially people who are suffering from coronavirus. In his inaugural address Most Rev Allwyn D’Silva, the PMI Chairman expressed his joy regarding the initiatives and activities taken by the national office, regional and state offices in reaching out to serve both the prisoners, people infected by Covid 19 and the migrants. He added that when the whole world is in the grip of coronavirus, it is the paramount duty of the PMI volunteers to take care of the poor and the downtrodden especially those who are incarcerated.
Doubling Spiritual Exercises
Rev Dr Francis Kodiyan MCBS, the PMI cofounder and national coordinator presented the national office activities since 24th March 2020, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the lockdown. To eradicate and prevent the rapid spread of Covid 19 virus and to strengthen those who dedicate themselves in taking care of the corona infected people the first thing the PMI did was to double the spiritual exercises. When churches all over the world were closed down PMI began to celebrate one more holy Mass for the reparation of the sins of mankind and extended the Eucharistic adoration from 9am to 1pm and doubled all spiritual exercises such as recitation of rosary, divine mercy chaplet, thank you Jesus mantra, etc.
During the corona pandemic lockdown, PMI intensified their outreach to prisons by obtaining special permission from the police department. Reaching out to prisons we distributed masks, sanitizers, bermuda, T-shirts, shirts, and pants to various prisons such as central prison Bengaluru, open prison Devanahalli, KGF sub jail, Kolar district prison, Tumkur district prison, and Chikkabellapur district prison.
Go to the Periphery
As Pope Francis instructed us Covid19 pandemic provided PMI volunteers golden opportunities to go to the peripheries of Bengaluru. Fr Francis together with the regency brothers John and Alphonse distributed provisions and groceries to the different slums in Bengaluru and migrant communities.
AID to PMI Volunteers
As announced in the letter of Most Rev Allwyn D’Silva, the PMI Chairman, national office financially assisted many PMI volunteers in different parts of India to distribute mask and sanitizers to prisoners and provisions to prisoners’ families.
Lockdown did not lock down the publication of Prison Voice. Sr Lini Sheeja, the chief editor published in right time the April and May issues of Prison Voice but due to the lockdown, the volunteers would be able to receive it in soft copy format only.
Reception to Released Prisoners
Van Thuan Home, a rehabilitation center for released male prisoners in Bengaluru welcomed many released prisoners during the lockdown days. The best gift brought by Covid19 was the release of so many thousands of prisoners to decongest the prisons.
Reintegration of Released Prisoners
Van Thuan Home reintegrated many released prisoners to the main stream of the society by providing good jobs and accommodations.
Paper Bag Production Unit
On first May 2020, on World Labor’s day, Van Thuan Home launched the paper-bag production unit.
Pritam Tamang (33) son of L B Tamang (Shyangbo) from Darjeeling who was in central prison Bengaluru died at 0630am on 29 April 2020 at Jayanagar government hospital. On 30th morning Fr Francis, Sr Lini, Sr Gertrude, Br Alphonse, and Br John went to the Jayanagar Government Hospital mortuary and prayed for the repose of his soul. What we remember most is that the previous week Fr Francis brought Pritam to his prison the best fruits he liked, the money he asked and thereby fulfilled his last wish.
Outreach Kolbehome Children
On 17th March 2020 as soon as Corona virus began to widely spread in Bengaluru, we sent back Kolbe home children to their relatives in consultation with CWC. But we did not abandon them instead every week Fr Francis and Sr Gertrude brought them provisions such as rice, wheat powder, oil, and groceries with the assistance of the Archdiocese of Bengaluru, Smile foundation, Dream India and many other PMI volunteers.
During the Covid 19 lockdown Fr Francis Kodiyan the chief editor of Reformative Explorations published the second issue of its 6th volume. Due to the lockdown of the printing press you would be able to receive it in the form of soft copy.
Rev Fr Anthony Swamy the PMI southern regional coordinator presented the following report regarding the activities in southern states. Grocery to Prisoners’ Families: In the month of April onwards, PMI volunteers in Chennai thought of prisoners’ families and arranged grocery in a provision shop without collecting them together but directed them directly to the shop. Hundreds of families benefitted from this arrangement. This was possible thanks to the generosity of Sr Nirmala FMM provincial and her team. In May Most Rev Dr George Antonysamy, the PMI Tamilnadu president directed us to distribute provisions to prisoners’ families from another shop directly. Few families also received blessings from the Archbishop. Sr Rose PBVM and her team assisted the archbishop with their generous contribution in this venture. Bon Secours sisters from Kancheepuram also had given assistance to many inmates’ families in and around Kancheepurm. It was the probation officers from the prison department who identified the families of the inmates. Many of the inmates’ families also visited by our volunteers. As the situation of Chennai becomes worse, we request your valuable prayers that Lord’s Anger should be passed soon and return to normalcy. PMI Volunteers in Kerala and Karnataka distributed tailoring machines to many prisons so as to produce masks not only for the prisoners but also for the public.
Fr Wilfred Fernandes, the PMI central regional coordinator presented the following prison ministry activities in the central region. Prisoners’ Release: Food Grains to Migrants: In many central region states PMI provided food grains to tens and thousands of migrants of Jharkhand and Bihar twice.
Assistance to Reach Home
PMI Central Region helped many migrants to return to their villages. After reaching home they called and confirmed that they reached home safely. Provisions to Rag Pickers: PMI distributed food grains to Rag pickers and slumdwellers in Pune and Mumbai. Toiletries to Open Prison: PMI central region distributed toiletries donated by Good Shepherd Church to the inmates of the open prison. The open jail also contacted us stating they needed 200 masks for the inmates. We purchased them from the Central Jail and gave them to the open Jail. These masks were sponsored by our Mr Mathew Anthony. Open Jail again got in touch with us for requirement of Temperature detector Gun, Pulse Oximeter, Sanitizer, Floor cleaners, Hand gloves etc. Maharashtra Day Celebration: PMI celebrated Maharashtra Day on 1st May in Juvenile home below 18 where we distributed eats and spent quality time with the inmates. Prayer Services: PMI Maharashtra continued the weekly intercessory prayer services and special prayers for the corona infected people.
North East Region
Sr Jobina presented the North East PMI report and shared that they did the following activities during the lockdown days. Solidarity with the Brethren Behind the Bars: Responding to the call of Jesus Christ to show solidarity with poor and suffering and experiencing His presence amidst the pandemic of the present situation, the PMI Northeast Region have extended solidarity with the brethren behind the bars to make them feel that they are cared and supported. Awareness Programs: In order to cope the present challenge of Covid-19 in the society, as well as to promote better health care we have organized awareness programs in different prisons, encouraging and motivating them to take responsibility of one’s own health. Distribution of Masks and Sanitizers: At this time of panic, fear and anxiety realizing the need and importance of safeguarding the health of oneself and the others, we have shown our solace to our brethren by providing 1400 masks, Sanitizer, Dettol, and soap for hand wash to the inmates of Central Prison Guwahati.
Have the Heart: Volunteers do not necessarily have the time they just have the heart. Experiencing the struggles and sensing the need of the time the PMI Unit in Mizoram reach out to the inmates of Horeb retreat home sponsored their requirements at this moment of crisis as well as their basic needs also taken care by the PMI Volunteers. Unable To Visit Priosns: Due to the pandemic of the present situation the prison authorities have requested us not to visit the prison until they give us any further information. Thus, we are unable to visit the prisons. But still we are connected with the prison authorities and any need arises we reach out to them.
Fr David MSC, the newly appointed coordinator in north region, organized lot of spiritual activities for the brethren behind the bars and for the humanity affected by Covid 19 Pandemic. Offering the Holy Eucharist, chain rosary, divine mercy chaplet they have intensified their prayer and mortifications.Forthcoming Programs: The video conferencing took the following decisions: State Coordinators Meeting, National Executive Meeting, Fulltimers’ Training Program, Seminars, All India Volunteers’ Competition.
New Spiritual Banks
Decided to open new banks of PMI such as the Bank of Holy Mass, Bank of Rosary, Suffering bank, Bank of Mortification, and the Bank of Stations of the Cross.
Pray with Pope Francis
Most Rev Allwyn D’Silva in his concluding remarks quoting Pope Francis invited PMI volunteers’ attention to the need of intense prayer for the corona infected people and blessed every participant.