Marist Missionary Sister, Carlota Calle smsm, and her Team, write on their ministry as Chaplains at Miguel Castro Castro Prison, Peru: "He comforts us in our sufferings, so that thanks to his consolation we can comfort all who suffer" (II Cor. 1, 4)
We have been dealing with the pandemic now for more than a year, we thank God the inmates of Castro Castro prison are calmer because there has not been more persons infected by the virus inside. However, it still remains a very difficult situation because they do not have visits from relatives, pastoral agents, or lawyers. The family provides them with their basic needs ..., despite everything they do understand that with the visits the virus can enter and create a drastic situation, like the one they experienced last year. Here I share some personal testimonies from the inmates.
"I believe that God has a purpose for me; I felt the cold of death, I could no longer breathe, I had an oxygen saturation of 79%, I felt that I was leaving and a sense of a deep loneliness invaded me; The image of Jesus in his agony came to my mind: "My God, why have you abandoned me?", I had the feeling that God had abandoned me and I had strong doubts about my faith lived during the 18 years that I have been prisoner ... Despite my disappointment and hopelessness, an inner force told me: "you need to get to converse with the Lord", I prayed again and said: Lord, the dead cannot praise you or announce your gospel, save me! I will be your witness ... At that moment the doctor of the health dispensary arrived, examined me and told me to have faith! He began to give me oxygen it took me 4 months to recover, but it has left me with some side effects. I am missionary of the Chaplaincy for 7 year but it is now that I understand that God has a purpose for me: "He has comforted and consoled me in my sufferings, so that I can comfort and encourage those who suffer." That is the mission that I have and that with joy and gratitude to God I carry and I will carry forward where I am". (Victor Molina)
Missionary Inmates and Pastoral Agents
The pandemic is giving us many lessons, but I think it is time to look beyond the disaster it has brought, to gradually transform our fear into confidence and our pain into hope. This will allow us to discover our inner strength, gifts and capacities to continue humanizing our world, in every space where we find ourselves. We try to be that light that can illuminate the darkness of our world today.
"Receive a fraternal greeting from the missionary interns of the Chaplaincy of the Miguel Castro Castro prison, who thank you with all our heart for your permanent spiritual support and humanitarian aid during all this time of pandemic. We have not had visitors since the 16 of March, 2020. We are in complete isolation. We have lived a year of much suffering, anguish and loneliness but we have also experienced the presence of the Lord in the many gestures of solidarity, fraternity and above all with the miracle of God's protection, our lives are a miracle! Because 70% of the population (6,500) were infected and even though at one time we were in the middle of the dead bodies that nobody wanted to take away for fear of getting infected, thanks to the infinite mercy of God we were able to survive. Still we lost 70 colleagues who died because of the covid -19, plus 8 who died in the riot that occurred due to lack of medicine, despair, fear and anguish. As a consequence of the mutiny, the Chaplaincy spaces were destroyed; however, thanks to the tenacity of our Coordinator of the Chaplaincy, Sister Carlota Calle, and through the efforts of the missionary interns, we have managed to rebuild the medicine cabinet and the library that are already working again.
Drawing the good from the experience of the pandemic, we can say that this experience has matured us in faith, commitment and responsibility. At the beginning we thought we were orphans because the sisters and priests who always guided us were not there, but every time we spoke on the public phone with Sister Carlota, our coordinator, she told us: "You are missionaries, you have to continue, it is time to put into practice, everything you learned, that is why you were formed, Jesus is with you, don't be afraid to communicate it, your companions need you and Jesus entrusts you with his mission, go ahead! ". Thus, the pastoral work continues with our humble collaboration, always with the accompaniment of Sisters Carlota and Teresa, who are our angels, they send us the daily liturgy, material for reflection, humanitarian aid (cleaning supplies, masks and supplies of personal hygiene), that we distribute among the most needy. We have 12 small Catholic Christian communities, where we meet three times a week to share the Word of God in our lives and on Sundays we celebrate the liturgy of the Word. It is this spiritual food that keeps us standing strongly with faith and hope towards a new normal.
As the pandemic continues, our pastoral agents cannot enter the prison yet, so we missionaries have assumed the great challenge of carrying out the Catechesis of the Sacraments, of course our Sisters and Jesuit seminarians send us the material prepared so that we can give it to our colleagues, who by the way now number 40 candidates. (Ignacio Madrigal)
I finish by saying that life is our teacher which teaches us the ways we should continue walking, a pilgrimage in which we are not alone, the Lord and Mary walk with us, and the Holy Spirit ignites us in his love to continue building the Kingdom of God within the harsh reality that we have to live.