Prison visiting is a pastoral service in our diocese. There are over 30 small and big prisons in Hong Kong. In fact there are 16 different parish associations besides the other religious denominations and NGO groups that visit the different prisons in Hong Kong on regular basis. In many of the prisons you can find people from all over the world, majority of them are imprisoned for drug trafficking
Since 2008 I share in the prison visiting activity of two different groups on 2nd and 4th Sunday. On 4th Sunday we visit the young offenders who are below 21 years of age. For many years I used to look at the Lai Chi Kok prison while I travelled in the bus to Kowloon and at times wondered whether one day I will be able to visit the prisoners. I used to talk to my friends about this and slowly I got involved. I visited the Lai chi Kok prison few times with the group. To be honest at the beginning I was rather frightened thinking of the prisoners: who will they be, will they accept me, can I really understand them etc. But soon I found that they were friendly and welcomed me even though my Cantonese language is not that good. During our visit I had the opportunity to share the gospel message with them, in spite of many of them being non catholics.
After some time, the prisoners were moved to Lo Wu and I continued to visit them with the group. Before every visit I recall to mind what Jesus said” whatsoever you do, to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me…when I was in Prison you came to visit me (MT 25: 39,40). Pope Francis reminds us that the prisoners are the least in the society. We can see that he has a special place in his heart for them. He visits them, washed their feet, ate with them. The prisoners need friendship, hope and encouragement as they are far away from their homes and friends and will have to stay behind the bars for many years, may be 10-15 or even more. I realize that the prisoners do not come to our group because they wish to know more about Jesus and the gospel, but simply because it is a chance for them to meet some of their friends and share news and I accept it. During our visit we simply listen to their stories, full of pain and tears. Each is unique and we try to encourage them and support them.
Besides, this group meeting I have the chance of individual meeting in Lo Wu Correctional institution where 1500 women from various parts are behind bars. Most of the inmates I meet are from different countries of Africa, Philippines, and other Asian countries. Many of them are mothers of families who have left their Children in order to make more money to support their families. But unfortunately they do not make any money, but long years of imprisonment.
Many of them come to read the bible and come to experience God in their pain desperate conditions through their friends . I continue this meaningful service to the prisoners “to maintain a breath of hope to the prisoners” as Pope Francis says.
Sr. Theresa Pathickal (Hong Kong – Cina)