I am preparing for my visit to the prison. The sheets of the Word of God for next Sunday. The list of prisoners. Currently there are 20. Objects requested by others. Messages from families; super important to stay in touch, to continue to live with the family, often also to reconcile. In the end, I enter a lot into the lives of families. I discover people through relationships with their loved ones, wives, children, parents, friends.
Saturday 2 p.m. I am ready. I go to the chapel. I ask the Lord: Send me.
I’m going in your name. I leave the house, I walk towards the prison. It is a way of prayer, I say the rosary. It’s Saturday, so I’m still meditating on the glorious mysteries, life is reborn, joy after pain… I’m also talking to the angels to prepare the way ahead of me. I walk through the front door of the prison. I take care of the relationships with those I meet on my way, the guards, the staff. I greet them, I drop things off, I give the list.
I head to the waiting room. When we are two, I speak with Rose about our brothers that we come to visit. Otherwise I continue the prayer, I read the texts of the Word of God.
I let myself be touched by this Word which is there to nourish our prayer.
Then they all arrive. We are all smiling; greetings, hugs, handshakes, joy, interpersonal exchanges with me and among them. This meeting is a feast. I approach each one. I listen, I note, I give them news. After an hour, someone from the group calls for prayer! Let’s pray! The time is too short. It is the reading of one or the other text by integrating English speakers. At the beginning a few sentences of explanation, of catechesis. We let them react, ask questions, express their remarks, feelings. Some like to pick up one or another sentence, a word that brings them to life, often taken from the psalm. Sharing is very important because through the testimonies we discover how God is acting in the life of each one. And the testimonies are sometimes overwhelming. The Lord answers prayer, acts, saves lives, changes hearts. Then it is the praise that rises in our hearts. We sing, sing, sing…
How important it is to sing! to issue from our lips sounds and words of praise, of faith, of thanksgiving. We grow together in total trust in the Lord. I have the most to learn in this area! The Word works hearts. Many have asked me for a Bible. The prayer is fervent, despite the distress brought by one or another. They tell me how happy they are on Friday night knowing that Saturday we meet. My rare absences during the year are announced in advance. I cannot betray their expectation.
My life has changed since I began visiting the prisoners. A good part of my brothers I have visited every Saturday for 1-2-3 years. Our meetings and prayer create very strong bonds between us. They ask me to pray for them, and especially on the day of their judgments. They believe in the power of prayer. They too assure me of their prayers for me every day. And frankly, I feel carried by this prayer, by grace, by joy. I get a lot from these encounters. My faith is growing. I have a large family around the world with whom I communicate often! I agree to carry their burdens with them.
I walk home with this weight that someone is slowly lifting off my shoulders. I go home home around 5 p.m. Rose and I have tea together. Then I sit in front the computer. The FB page is displayed. I re-read my notes so I don’t forget anything. I send messages, I make phone calls to relatives in Algeria. I finish this task between 9-10 p.m. I make appointments with their friends for the next week for the commissions that can only be done live. They come to my house.
I don’t go to prison with a happy heart. But if I didn’t have that commitment, something fundamental would be missing from my life and my vocation to follow Christ!
sr. Danuta Kmieciak, Oran (Algeria)