Over the past 8 months, Fr. Eli, the Executive Director of PJPS, has periodically posted anecdotes about his moving experiences with inmates. These stories come from six years of experience ministering to the inmates, their families, and their guards--six years of heartbreak and joy. I will be posting them one by one starting with his first in the series.
From Sept. 10, 2016:
This morning I woke up with one thought in mind: to write something from time to time of Bilibid: Stories in Prison. Perhaps it is because after almost 6 years in the prison ministry I have experienced and been witness to so many stories that have unfolded. I am thankful for these as they show and remind me of love, of hope, of pain, of joy, of loss, of perseverance, of sinfulness, of grace, of God.
Allow me to start this one with what happened last Sept. 7, 2016, a day before my final vows which was Sept. 8. After the post communion prayer at Mass at the Reception and Diagnostic Center (where inmates are brought after being convicted by the courts), I sat down for some announcements. Then an inmate asked the congregation full of inmates to stand and extend their hands over me to pray for me in silence. As they did so, I just felt so overwhelmed, consoled and humbled. Here are prisoners, sinners praying over me, praying for me a sinner. I silently shed tears as they prayed over and for me. I believe and know that God listens to their prayers. And with that I am hopeful and strengthened, consoled and thankful, and faith-filled and blessed.
below: a photo of Fr. Eli pronouncing his final vows in the Mary, Help of Christians Chapel in Medium Security Compound.