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Seeking God behind bars


They mostly call you “Miss”, as if you were a schoolteacher. And the whole place does rather have the feel of a school: a big modern, concrete-and-corridors noisy comprehensive.

A modern prison isn’t a dark subterranean dungeon with guttering candles revealing gaunt, bearded faces that have not seen the light of day for years. It’s mostly wide corridors with men in T-shirts and tracksuit bottoms. The prison I visit has good sports facilities and lots of well-equipped classrooms offering courses in everything from a degree in economics to lessons in first aid.

It’s purpose-built and clean. No horrible smells and – unlike another prison which one inmate recently described to me – no cockroaches. The kitchens produce varied and tasty meals and the young men who work there gain qualifications to equip them for working at good hotels and restaurants.

I’m not sure I am really much use at helping with catechesis, but I’m giving it my best shot. The chaplain – a fine priest – uses some of the excellent materials now available, including the Evangelium course from the Catholic Truth Society. There are formal lessons to teach and prayers to say together. Above all, he says “they like seeing someone from the outside, and it’s all part of the Church”.

The materials we use are for everyone – and there are also some things that are directly aimed at those who are “inside”, including a simple booklet with the Daily Office. It has a message from the Archbishop of Westminster reminding the reader that prison walls cannot cut us off from God or the fellowship of the Church.

Read more at Catholic Herald.

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