PARAGUAY, Melissa N. Torres A. •
At Fr. Martín Gómez’ request the Professional Women’s Branch took on the apostolate at Good Shepherd prison in Asunción. Since May 2015, every Sunday from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Branch volunteers travel through every unit of the prison accompanied by the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign’s Pilgrim Mother. They teach the inmates to pray; they share the Gospel and pray the rosary. On one of these visits, the mothers from the Amanecer unit expressed their desire to have their children baptized, and incredibly, they also wanted to be baptized. In 2015, one of the first fruits of the apostolate was the baptism of eighteen children and two mothers.
The Blessed Mother conquers hearts
This year the apostolate continued with an objective, which in the beginning seemed like only a dream. At the first meeting, they decided that the volunteers had to help the Blessed Mother find allies in this prison. They entrusted this favorite idea to the Blessed Mother, and she took care of touching hearts within the prison. Throughout the year, they discussed subjects related to the Blessed Mother; they showed movies about her life and of some of the saints. They always traveled through the units praying and offering Eucharistic Adoration. Little by little, the Blessed Mother conquered them, and the idea to seal a Covenant of Love with the Blessed Mother was proposed to the inmates. The girls accepted enthusiastically and preparation for twenty inmates began on October 18 and finished in December.
On 18 December, at 4:00 p.m., the Covenant of Love was held in the prison chapel. Fr. Martín Gómez was in charge of the ceremony. The different groups of the Professional Women’s Branch donated what was necessary, such as medals, candles and snacks for the celebration. The University Girls’ Youth and the Family Branch also helped.
Nothing without You, nothing without us
During the two years that I worked as the person in charge of the apostolate, I always felt accompanied by the Blessed Mother. I can say that many times, she arranged the time and scheduled my activities and responsibilities, so I could be available for the apostolate and the girls. Both years the Blessed Mother sent me excellent people to help with this task, and for this, I am very grateful to each one of the girls who formed a part of the apostolate team and who sacrificed their personal, work related and family commitments every Sunday.
I am also grateful to the Professional Women’s Branch and the different groups that accompanied the apostolate: for Fr. Martín Gómez in being our adviser and mentor during these two years, he was always ready to help us, and to the prison director, Dr. Ana Dina Coronel, for her willingness to provide the necessary permission for all our activities.
Schoenstatt: A Movement reaching out
I met incredible women in prison with whom I have a closer relationship after sharing with them for more than two years. I learned something from each one of them, by their life examples and anecdotes. Many are women with big hearts and great commitment; they are women who struggle daily to be better, to be women in solidarity, women of faith, and to be women who work.
They affectionately and emotionally remember, “the Blessed Mother opened the doors,” because the Schoenstatt Apostolic Movement was the first to travel through the prison unit by unit, cell to cell. Later other Catholic movements joined. There is more justice, since they have more freedom.
Undoubtedly, the Blessed Mother worked miracles once more in the women’s prison, and she will continue to do so. The grace of apostolic zeal is present in everything that we accomplished as a mark of the charism that our Father and Founder left us as a legacy, and it shows us once again of the need for a Church that reaches out.
Towards a culture of mercy
“Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace. The Church today needs to tell of those “many other signs” that Jesus worked, which “are not written” (Jn. 20:30), so that they too may be an eloquent expression of the fruitfulness of the love of Christ and of the community that draws its life from him. Two thousand years have passed, yet works of mercy continue to make God’s goodness visible…
Prisons are often places where confinement is accompanied by serious hardships due to inhumane conditions…
Let us make every effort, then, to devise specific and insightful ways of practicing charity and the works of mercy. Mercy is inclusive and tends to spread like wildfire in a way that knows not limits. Hence, we are called to give new expression to the traditional works of mercy. For mercy overflows, keeps moving forward, bears rich fruit…
The culture of mercy is shaped in assiduous prayer, in docility to the working of the Holy Spirit, in knowing the lives of the saints and in being close to the poor. It urges us not to overlook situations that call for our involvement. The temptation to theorize “about” mercy can be overcome to the extent that our daily life becomes one of participation and sharing.”
Original: Spanish. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA