Jesus knocks on the door of the jail
Celebration of the sacraments in Unit 24 of the Penitentiary of Marcos Paz
Bautismo en la cárcel
Baptism in the prison
Taufe im Gefängnis
ARGENTINA, Lis Alvarez. The Sacraments of Baptism and First Communion in Unit 24 of the San Marcos Penitentiary were received by eight young men between the ages of 18 to 21 years old on Sunday, December 18th. This event became a reality thanks to the efforts of the pastoral group of Our Lady of Schoenstatt Jail Ministry, which is composed of parents from the Mater School and is under the direction of Sister Arntrudis Seeger. It also has the support of several other committed individuals.
The young men were prepared for two and a half months. This occurred in a brief but intense manner, because the inmates are moved from one place of detention to another according to their age and some are released. Therefore, the catechists had a short window of opportunity.
The men always showed much respect and enthusiasm for the things they were learning and their enthusiasm grew day-by-day, and meeting after meeting, because of the newness of discovering God. In this way, after a lukewarm and noisy beginning, the meetings became more animated and enkindled. The inmates yearned with joy for the day when they would receive Jesus for the first time in the sacraments. A complete catechism was offered.
It was a simple but very touching celebration.
The simple but very touching celebration took place in the gymnasium of the penitentiary. The young men were dressed in white shirts (which were donated) and First Communion ribbons. They stood impeccable, clean, and carefully groomed, with short hair that was well combed, some were wearing shoes, and they demonstrated an attitude of interior openness and with a joy that characterizes youth.
The celebration consisted of Holy Mass celebrated by Father Alain Desnoy. Each participant in the group had an assigned task for example, the introduction of the catechumens, a reading, accompanying each other when they approached to receive the sacraments, etc.
The offertory was very touching as all the young men took an offering to the altar. One presented his workbook of preparation, another an assignment that was well done, a third one took a small picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that he had made with his own hands, another presented his service to others.
They sang the songs they had practiced, Sister Ilda, from Mater School, accompanied on guitar, and after communion, she sang a song that touched everyone. The majority of the men had relatives who came and there was a psychologist from the penitentiary in attendance. Willy, who actively participated in the meetings and strongly supported this spiritual task, was also present.
Four more missionaries in the penitentiary
The ceremony included an improvised altar in the gymnasium of this penitentiary and the Auxiliary of the Rosary Campaign from the Mater area held a place of honor. Three background curtains were prepared: one pictured a figure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a young man resting on his breast; another showed a manger with the Christ Child in a basket and a lighted Christmas tree at its base; the last scene was that of the Annunciation. That one was behind the Auxiliary. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the men could share in an abundant feast, which was also made possible through donations. There was a cake that was a gift from the school tutor.
Each of the inmates received a small gift of a beautiful shrine with a picture of the Blessed Mother. Maria Teresa, who is the porter at the school, made these shrines and Sister Arntrudis and Sister Ilda distributed them. The Pastoral group gave them some prayer cards, Christmas souvenirs and some other keepsake items reminding them of the sacraments that they had received. It was an encounter that was overflowing with emotion. The men were fully aware of each sacrament administered to them by the priests. They received communion very peacefully and the reverence could be noted on their countenance, this was a true joy to behold.
At the end of the Holy Mass, four of them received the image of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim MTA, which will be added to the nine Pilgrim MTAs that are already on pilgrimage in the penitentiary.
Once again, we can say, "She is the Great Missionary, She will work miracles!"
In the middle of the Year of the Eucharist, this project was planned. They wanted this challenge in order to grow in our ministry. They did not know how it would be carried out, but they were confident that it would be achieved. It was a very beautiful experience for the members of the group, in spite of the difficulties that they encountered along the way. Jesus wanted to knock at the door of these young hearts, and they responded. Jesus was born this Christmas in many of these men, and it gives us hope that everything is possible when we truly announce the gospel.
We can truly announce once again, "SHE IS THE GREAT MISSIONARY. SHE WILL WORK MIRACLES!"
Translation: Celina M Garza, Harlingen, TX/Christi Jentz, Milwaukee/WI, USA