PARAGUAY, Fr. Pedro Kühlcke, Maria Fischer •
Christmas in jail: the Itauguá juvenile detention center, a few kilometers from the Schoenstatt Shrine at Tupãrenda. For a little more than a year, ‘mercy’ has a face here, mercy that has to do with being and doing, just as Fr. Juan Pablo Catoggio said during the opening of the Holy Door at the Original Shrine. During preparation for World Youth Day in Kraków during the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asked youths to select and carry out a physical and spiritual act of mercy every month. He opens a door of mercy every month in the sense of works of mercy; in December, it was Cáritas’ headquarters, where the homeless are sheltered. Fr. Pedro Kühlcke’s team chose only one work of mercy: to visit prisoners… concretely to visit the 180 boys and youths in the Itauguá juvenile detention center…
An open space behind bars
“We have a beautiful prison ministry group, many volunteers who help continually (and many generous donors), so that every Saturday, we can take food for 180 youths and we often can distribute gifts such as toothbrushes or shoes. Every Saturday the youths pray with us for all our benefactors!” Fr. Pedro Kühlcke reported. It is mainly about the Schoenstatt Movement’s Paraguayan families, and also schoenstatt.org’s readers… (This is how they do works of mercy: giving alms!).
“Once in a while, when it is possible, I celebrate Holy Mass there. Not all of them can participate (they have very little free time, when they can also play soccer), but they do it whole-heartedly. We always want to do it this way: that the Masses, the preparation for the sacraments, etc., take place during free time at the jail, and that it is not another obligation.
“At Christmas, like last year, we organized a special Christmas dinner with gifts, music, etc.,” Fr. Kühlcke related.
The gifts are distributed when the youths are in their cells to avoid having them take more than one gift.
Christmas Mass with a very special manger
“What touched me the most was the Christmas Mass in the semi-open space of the jail,” Fr. Pedro Kühlcke shared.
“The youths had prepared a simple, but beautiful manger. When I approached it to look, I saw that the angel’s wings were torn, and the ox’s horns were broken…
This made me think, meditate and preach: “We are this angel, we want to do good, but many times we have limitations, defects, ‘torn wings.’ However, it is precisely in this way, in our reality, that we can be close to the manger, very close to the Child Jesus!