CBCP-ECPPC message for Prison Awareness Sunday 2021
My Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ, once again we privileged to celebrate on this final Sunday of October, (31st of October) the Prison Awareness Sunday (PAS). This is preceded by a week-long series of activities; it was opened by a Eucharistic Celebration on October 25 Monday in Bangued, Abra presided by the Most Rev. Leopoldo C. Jaucian, SVD, DD, the Bishop of the Diocese of Bangued and Member of the CBCP-ECPPC. Then on the final day, the National Eucharistic Celebration of the 34th Prison Awareness Sunday will be livestreamed at 11:00 AM from the Baguio Cathedral with the Most Rev. Victor B. Bendico, DD, Bishop of Baguio, and the Vice Chair of the CBCP-ECPPC presiding. In between these two Eucharistic Celebrations are Solidarity Activities in jails and prisons to be conducted by the different Volunteers in Prison Service (VIPS) Units (in cooperation with the jail authorities, who themselves are also celebrating the National Correctional Consciousness Week (NACOCOW) from October 24-30, 2021.) We are also having this General Assembly of Chaplains and VIPS online via social media channels.
For this year, we have chosen the theme: “The Jail and Prison Chaplains and Volunteers: GIFTED TO GIVE Love that Restores Life, Hope and Healing to Prison Community.” This is very much in line with the theme of the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, that has truly transformed our lives and made us a people that is responding to the challenge of our times, making us a community of love and service for one another. Indeed, we are gifted to give whatever we have no matter how little to these our brothers and sisters who are in prison; as we are also recipients of gifts that they can share: their hopes, their trust in the Lord, their strong faith despite their difficulties that they are experiencing while they are in prison.
Hence, we would like to recognize once again the value of the prison ministry: defending life as we should, respect for human dignity and human rights even for the persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), giving them hope with their families for a better life, for a new chance at life because we help them recognize the opportunity to defend themselves in court as they continue to wait for whatever sentence that they may receive and also at the same time to help them trust that if and when they are given a new lease on life they will be able to feel welcomed by society; that they can find new opportunities to make their lives more meaningful especially on behalf of their families.
We also continue to recognize the support of many different people: sectors in our church: lay men and women who continue to give of themselves: their time, talent, and effort so the prison community experience God present among them. I wish you all the best and may these Sunday and weeklong celebration for the PDLs may be meaningful for us all!
On a final note: it may be good for us to consider this as a response to the invitation of our Holy Father Pope Francis as he calls us to walk in this synod on synodality; a journeying of church recognizing one another especially those who are in special situations in their lives: those who are oftentimes relegated to the peripheries of society, those who are forgotten even judged for whatever wrongs they have done to others and community. And this is specifically and especially true with these people whom we serve in prison. May we be able to provide them the experience of solidarity and synodality as church recognizing their dignity as human beings, defending life as we should, their lives their dreams their hopes and may the Holy Spirit sustain us in these efforts and make them truthful and meaningful, and may we rejoice that He continues to walk with us, in solidarity and synodality.
+JOEL Z. BAYLON, D.D.
Bishop of Legazpi
October 26, 2021.
We are blessed by people who are willing to serve and minister to people who are considered not loveable and likeable to the community. Who will love a person known to have killed someone, robbed someone, did harm to our fellow. We can easily sympathize to the victims but find it hard to sympathize to those who had done wrong.
This is so true with regards to our persons deprived of liberty (PDLs). This can also be the reason why there are so many people who are in favor of Death Penalty. What is unknown to them is that the situation in our prison facilities is already a punishment.
Despite the unlovable side of these PDLs, we cannot deny that they are still human. This is the main reason why there are people who manage to give time, resources and even sacrifice their whole life for these people who are deprived of chance, life, love and even their basic needs. For this reason, we acknowledge our dear volunteers and chaplains who constantly serve our PDLs in whatever way they can. No poverty, summer heat, bad weather or pandemic can stop them from serving, from loving our brothers and sisters.
These individuals from different walks of life realized that they are so blessed in one way or another. Being blessed to them means sharing their giftedness, their blessings.
Salute to the frontliners of our ministry. Our gratitude for your never-ending love, service and support to our ministry. May God bless and protect you always.
Manila, October 31, 2021
FR. NEZELLE O. LIRIO
Executive Secretary, CBCP-ECPPC
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