PARAGUAY, Fr. Pedro Kühlcke •
Pepito was preparing in prison to make his First Communion. A few days before he was to receive it, he told me that he had a hearing at the court. He left full of hope of getting out and going home, but unfortunately he was told that he was not going to be released…. —
─ First I was sad, pa’i! But right away I realized that I was not ready to leave, because I needed Jesus in my heart before going back to my home.
After his First Communion I asked him how he was feeling:
─ Happy, pa’i, I am very happy! I feel Jesus in my heart and nothing else matters anymore.
These were very blessed days for the “Visitation of Mary” Prison Ministry: on Sunday morning, June 5th, our diocesan bishop, Monsignor Joaquín Robledo, celebrated a beautiful Mass at the Itauguá Educational Center. Many young people had prepared themselves by attending our catechesis every Saturday, and with great faith they received the sacraments of Baptism for some, First Communion or Confirmation for others. It was “chaotically beautiful”, as always ─ we could not miss the huge tortas for the celebration, nor the little dog in the photo.
There have never been so many altar servers at a youth Mass!
That same afternoon, at the youth Mass in Tupãrenda, there were the young people from the La Esperanza Educational Center, eager to receive their sacraments of Christian initiation. Some of them, who were about to be baptized, wanted to become altar servers… There have never been so many altar servers at a youth Mass!
Two days later, Bishop Joaquin came to Tupãrenda for the sacraments of the participants of theHouse Mother of Tupãrenda. The celebration continued, in heaven and in so many young hearts!
I was especially impressed by some comments from the young people themselves, like the one from “Pepito” above, or also from this other one, who took his preparation very seriously:
─ Not long ago I no longer went to confession, but I want to go to confession again.
─ Because I want my heart to be very clean so that I can receive Jesus in communion this Sunday.
He felt discourage…
Another young man had been baptized, had asked me to be his godfather, and soon after he was released from prison. Unfortunately, the temptation was too strong, and he fell back into his old habits. When he went back to prison, he prepared very seriously to make his First Communion. But a few days before, very sad, he said to me:
─ I don’t deserve to make my First Communion, godfather! My sister told me that it makes no sense for me to make it, because after my Baptism I failed again, and I will surely continue to fail.
I tried to tell him that God trusts him, loves him and will give him the strength to change, but the disappointment was too big, he did not dare to approach Him. God willing, he will dare to do it the next time!
But maybe God has another dream for me!
One of the young men surprised me, when I told him, as I told so many:
─ God has a beautiful dream for you: someday you will be the best dad in the world, and you will give your children the family you never had.
─ But maybe God has another dream for me!
─ Which one?
─ To be a pa’i like you, to take the Word of God to many other young people deprived of their freedom, to listen to them so they can unburden themselves and know that God does not reject them, but loves them.
Another, very young, came clean:
─ I am from a criminal group, I dealt drugs, I did very bad things that I am forbidden to tell you about… But now I don’t want to go on like that anymore; I want to be baptized, I need Jesus in my life!
One of the HMT baptized had been released from prison two weeks ago, he had prepared himself there. He brought some coins for the Mass collection, and he was very disappointed because we did not take up the collection. I offered him to put the coins in the money box of the Shrine, which made him happy. I remembered the poor widow in the Gospel…
At Ciudad del Este
A few days later it was my turn to visit Ciudad del Este, and also the juvenile prison there. Several young people came to talk to me personally. To one I asked:
─ Did you ever ask Mama Maria for a hug?
─ Yes, pa’i!
─ In April you came, and you asked us to do that. That night I asked her.
He still remembered my previous visit, and what I told them!
─ How did you feel?
─ Super well, I slept very well that night!
─ And afterwards?
─ I forgot… but now I’m not going to forget anymore, with my night prayer I’m going to ask Mama Mary for a hug every night!
*In order to protect the privacy of the young people, and respecting Paraguayan law, we cannot show their faces or mention their names.
* Pa’i means Catholic Priest