SINGAPORE – Former prison inmates and their families and Roman Catholic Prison Ministry (RCPM) volunteers observed Prison Week 2008 with a Mass at Church of St. Alphonsus on Nov 16 celebrated by prison ministry chaplain Redemptorist Father Paul Pang at which 50 volunteers were commissioned. Archbishop Nicholas Chia celebrated Mass at Changi Prison on Nov 18.
The ministry now has over 140 members, mostly retirees; only five percent of volunteers are below age 30.
Through the ministry, prisoners in 13 prisons can worship at Mass, receive the sacraments and counselling, and participate in RCIA and ALPHA courses.
Daniel (not his real name), 19, a cradle Catholic who was released from prison recently, shared that the volunteers helped him grow in faith. “They visited me every week, they taught me how to put my faith into practice,” he said. Many volunteers say that it was the hope of seeing conversions that kept them going.
RCPM is there for inmates who seek Christ while in prison. It does not limit itself to helping Catholics only, but more than half of the inmates they have helped are Catholic. RCPM also provides pastoral and financial help to inmates who are about to leave the prison.
Matthew Tay, Chairman of RCPM, thanked the volunteers and all who had contributed to the ministry, and was pleased to see so many ex-inmates and volunteers gathered that morning to pray for one another.
Lunch was held for participants after Mass.
- By Patricia Teh