Feast of the Ascension of the Lord 29 May 2022

“I would like to say a Hail Mary for all the mothers…in Texas”.

Spoken a little emotionally, but strongly; brought a deep silence to the 40 plus community of residents and members of the Chaplaincy Team. We had gathered in the beautiful prisoner designed and built Chapel in Loddon Prison around 5.30pm on Friday night.

The work of the chaplaincy has just resumed this month after a Covid ban of two years. There are two prisons in Castlemaine; the new Middleton and the longer established Loddon. Between 700 and 800 men live there. The Chaplaincy service provides opportunity for nine faith groups to be available for the welfare of the residents.

We were celebrating the feast of the Ascension. The locals read. They really sang. The responses were loud and clear. All in all, a very humbling experience.

The reading from Acts asks us “…to be witnesses not only in Jerusalem but also…” in prison. The man who asked for a “Hail Mary for the mothers” changed the atmosphere and we all were more prayerful. It enabled a much younger man to announce that he was present for the first time… He was welcomed.

The Gospel account has Jesus reminding his disciples of their Scriptural history and of his work with the words, “You are witnesses to this.”

My first prison visit since my first prison visit at Beechworth in the late 1960’s (they asked how long I was in), reminded me that even in prisons there have been changes, thankfully, but some things remain the same.

The value of witness…even in small things.

Looking back on those encounters I think the value of the Chaplaincy is to make real the words of Paul today, “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you…”

Our witness, outside the walls, can do the same.

Let’s stop standing looking into the sky and get on with the job.

Mons Frank

P.S. According to Sister Mary O’ Shannassy SCG, the Victoria budget for Correctional services is $8 billion pa.