PARAGUAY, Cristi Santa Cruz •
I met Juanito when he first arrived at La Esperanza Educational Center (Youth Prison). He had just turned 15 and in between conversations he told me that he was not baptized. Talking a little more with him, I convinced him to begin the catechism classes for his baptism. —
With a very basic schooling, we started the catechesis, putting all the intelligence and the few pedagogical tools acquired, more by experience and intuition than by instruction, and we were learning who is God, his Son and our mother Mary.
In the educational centers for young people and adolescents deprived of their liberty, the catechesis is very different, because of the time they spend there and, with the required consent of our bishop, we have a very short program. We try to prioritize their desire to be children of God before the proper catechetical instruction. The classes last between 10 and 30 minutes, which is the time limit for the children’s attention spam.
We use all possible means to capture their attention so that they can retain something. We try to impress in their minds, and above all in their hearts, that God’s love is immense and merciful, and that He is always waiting for us to say yes.
Sometimes we sing, we play, we tell stories, we even make them draw. Everything is valid so that God and Mary can echo in their lives and that they understand that there is a better life for them far from all that brought them to prison.
We never missed, until the coronavirus.
All this is on hold today, as a result of the pandemic and, after almost six years of never having missed it, COVID-19 had to arrive to make us leave for so long.
Today, from a distance, we continue to be in contact, praying for them, looking after their needs and returning little by little, thanks to the containment that Paraguay is achieving with this virus.
After almost three months, the pastoral is returning to the educational centers Itaugua and La Esperanza, still not with the catechesis, only three or four people from the team and without hugs, with mouth covers and all the security measures. There is only a short time for the delivery of the snack and a brief moment for prayer. Even so, the immense happiness of the children is evident in their looks and, above all, in their respect for social distancing.
Bringing back hope.
The hope in them and in us beats stronger than ever! The hope of returning to everything that makes us happy every Saturday, everything that gives us more hope that everything will be all right and that the best in our lives is yet to come.
I always say that perhaps it seems little, but for those who never had anything, little is much, and the great majority of young people and adolescents who arrive at the educational centers never had anything, never had a family, love or hope, never believed in anything.
And that is what prison ministry is about, that is what every Saturday is about… To bring back hope! To trust, to believe again! We just put our will into it. God and the Blessed Mother do the rest. We are only their instruments!
Do you want to be part of this mission? Do you want to give away a Saturday snack?
How to donate?
Schönstatt-Patres International e. V.
IBAN DE91 4006 0265 0003 1616 26
Intended use: Fr. Pedro Kuehlcke, Prison Ministry
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