The Southern Regional Conference of Prison Ministry India from four states consisting of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu gathered at Don Bosco in Ramanthapur, Hyderabad. The Conference officially commenced at 6. 00 Am., with the recitation of Rosary offered exclusively for our brothers and sisters behind bars followed by Morning Prayer. Thereafter we had a solemn Concelebrated Holy Mass presided by Most Rev. Bishop M.D Prakash, Regional Chairman, PMI. Bishop in his introductory remarks said that we are carrying out a precious ministry which should be strengthened by the divine intervention which in turn would inspire many more to take up the cause in welfare of our brethren behind the bars.
The Inaugural function began with lighting of the lamp by the dignitaries Most Rev Peter Remigius, National Chairman, PMI who presided over the function, Most Rev M D Prakasam, Regional Chairman, PMI the Chief guest for the occasion along with guest of honours Rev Fr Vincent Xavier, South Regional Co-ordinator & Fr Sebastian Vadakumpadan, National co-ordinator, PMI, they were assisted by AP Unit Co-ordinator, Rev Fr Chinnappa Reddy and Hyderabad Unit Co-ordinator, Rev Fr Anthony Sagayaraja. This was followed by invocation of God’s Blessings, where Sr Praneeta led the delegates in prayer. A warm welcome dance enthralled the delegates; this was presented by postulants of St. Ann’s Pirangipuram, Hyderabad province.
The dignitaries were invited on dais thereafter and given floral tribute and felicitated with shawl after which Fr. Sebastian Vadakumpadan, National Co-ordinator was invited to address the gathering, he beautifully highlighted with anecdotes the role of PMI members in taking the ministry ahead in leaps and bonds. He acknowledged the contributions made by the pioneers of PMI, Most Rev Peter Remigius expressed that he was the only bishop who is keen on taking up this ministry to establish it as a Commission under the CBCI.
The Guest of Honour, Rev.Fr.Vincent Xavier gave empirical evidences of the problem and enlisted areas of intervention such as:
1. Release & Reformation
2. The socio re-integration.
3. Rehabilitate them for better future.
4. Rehabilitation is not charity but right
The chief guest Most Rev. M.D. Prakasam, said in his message that he was blessed to have a very charismatic leader in the person of Most Rev. Dr. Peter Remigius. He quoted Gandhi who said “my life is my message. It is the wonderful ministry to give Christ to the people, to help and reach out to the brethren. He remembered late Fr. Maraiah and his contribution to PMI.
Mgr. Swarna Bernard special invitee, in his message said, PMI is to restore the human dignity. He said, it is essential and integral part of Jesus’ mission to set the captives free.
Most Rev. Bishop Peter Remigius, Chairman PMI in his presidential address stated Prison Ministry as a very precious ministry. He gave all information of the pioneering efforts made by PMI from its inception and thanked all those who are committed in serving the cause. He emphasized that various dioceses which are not yet active and enthusiastic and advised to give special concern to strengthen such dioceses.
The inaugural function concluded with the distribution of mementos after which the Fr Chinnappa Reddy, AP State Co-ordinator proposed the vote of thanks.
The Scientific Session commenced at 10.30 am with talk on “21st Century Prisons –An Overview”, by Mr. M.V. Krishna Rao (Retd) IPS, he started his talk with a very impressive and remarkable comment that, PMI activity is not one of glamour, but a pragmatic reality oriented entity. He highlighted the concepts on how to ensure the restorative justice. His presentation involved many delegates to generate various queries which were convincingly answered. The session was well moderated by Fr. Anthony Sagayaraja, Hyderabad, Co-ordinator.
The Session on the topic “How to empower prisoners” began by Mr.Gopinath Reddy, DG of Prisons, saying empowerment is not the domain of prison department alone, it should begin from home, then state should take the responsibility and other structures such as NGO’s should play a pivotal role in bringing about the changes . He said lot of propaganda and publicity should be generated in educating the members of the society to accept these brethren. The self esteem of the prisoners is very low. Through counseling we can improve the self esteem. Self – realization should come within.
The session was facilitated by Fr Stephen, who did justice; lots of queries were poured by the delegates. The session on “Role of Government in the Rehabilitation of the Prisoners”, was presented by Mr Irfan, a young practicing lawyer, he highlighted the various rehabilitation measures adopted by the prison department for the welfare of the prisoners. He said there is still a dire need to design long term rehabilitation measures involving various structures in the society for the acceptance and sustenance of those affected. The session was facilitated by Fr Joseph, Volunteer from Adilabad, queries came in leaps and bonds but due to time constraints the delegates were asked to limit the same.
The co-ordinators of various states presented their state-wise reports. Fr. Vincent Xavier for TN, Sr. Adele for Karnataka & Fr Francis Anthony for Hyderabad. All these units have done marvelously well in the outreach activity in the welfare of the prison brethren.
Soon after this the delegates spent their time in Silent Adoration led by Fr. Anthony Sagayaraja. After this the delegates were divided according to their states to discuss Action Plan for the year 2012-2013. Fr Sebastian Vadakumpadan gave 10 areas to discuss and plan…they are as follows,
1. Legal Upgrading
2. Full timers
3. Restorative justice
4. Capital punishment
6. Diocesan Unit
7. Support of the Church
8. PMI Sunday
9. Community participation in prison
The panel presentation of the action plan was moderated by Most Rev. Peter Remigius & Fr Sebastian Vadakumpadan. The secretaries of the various units gave an enthusiastic response to the given assignment. This was followed by presentation of 3rd South Region Conference Report held in Vellore which was approved and seconded by Rev Sr Leena , & Fr Y C Hrudayaraj.
The Chief Guest at Valedictory function, Most Rev. Peter Remigius in his homily said, Prison Ministry demands a lot of forfeit. The level of your sacrifice is the level of PMI. Prayer can help us to do it. The guest of Honour Mr.Samuel Johnson, DIG, Telengana Region, stressed the attitude of empowering through empathy. Creating self-confidence – personal bond equally works in prison, school and family.
The note of Fr. Josekutty Kalayil articulated feeling of oneness towards our brethren behind bars.
At the closing session few members from various units uttered their comments on the conference and students from St. Francis College presented a rhythmic dance. An oath was taken by all the members of the PMI family as the light of God lit by the dignitaries and was emblematically taken to each state. Thereafter, concluded the valedictory function with National Anthem.
Sr. Rosily JMJ
(Secretary – Southern Region)