Last night I got home after three days in the prison in Gracias, Lempira.
I had been there twice before for Alternatives to Violence workshops, but this time I was a participant, not a facilitator.
I stayed with the Dubuque Franciscan sisters in Gracias, which is always a blessing and a chance for reviving spirits. It also helped that Brenda had medication for the amoebas I picked up somewhere and that caused me immense problems last Saturday.
Before heading to the jail, I spent a short time in the sisters’ chapel, before the Eucharist, praying and reading the scriptures. Monday’s Gospel was Matthew 25: 31-46, where Jesus identifies himself with the imprisoned, or, as they like to say here, those deprived of liberty.
I was imprisoned and you visited me.
I was surprised when I entered the prison and a number of those who had been in previous workshops came up to me and gave me warm hugs.
I felt “graced by the embrace.”
During my time there, several shared very openly with me. I feel overwhelmed by the confidence they placed in me. Part of this was due to the workshop, but not all. I was really overwhelmed by how I was treated and by how open several were with me. I wonder if they see me as a “grandfather” type.
The workshop was only three days and I will return occasionally to help with workshops as well as with helping them in their efforts to be facilitators.
I hope that we might be able to begin something like this in the Santa Rosa prison. Sister Pat and I will be looking at ways to do this with the help of folks in Santa Rosa, especially those in prison ministry.
These workshops have offered the participants a chance to begin to explore alternatives to violence. But they have also opened spaces where they could speak and be listened to – something those in prison seldom experience.
I am glad that we have begun this and I hope we can continue, expand, and deepen these experiences – in prison and without.
Today I feel a great sense of gratitude, having been graced by my time in prison.