Last year, members of the Sacred Heart Parish (Nhlangano, Swaziland) told me they had started to visit the local prison twice a month on Saturday. They wondered where they could get some advice regarding this specific ministry and asked me to see if any of the priests would be available as diocesan chaplain.
Together with being very happy with their initiative I started to see when I would be able to join them.
Last week they contacted me to let me know they would be going ...in case I could join them. In fact, I could as I had no other appointments in the morning.
Being "the bishop" it is normal to think I would be the one leading but I just wanted to be with them during this time of prayer. The only time I had regularly visited a prison was during my noviciate in Bucaramanga (Colombia) ... in 1982!!!
We spent about an hour with them. We were welcomed with a hymn by a group of 30 prisoners. Someone opened with a prayer, we then sang together, a biblical text was read. Three of our team shared some words about it and then it was time for intercessions, praying for them and their families.
I was then asked to say a few words. I shared with them on the "usual" washing of the feet to prisoners done by Pope Francis both as a sign of God's love for them and - I believe - of their call to be his disciples.
The chaplain of the prison did not allow us to leave before pointing out to them that bishops not often visit the prison. That, on one side, was a word of appreciation for my presence but on the other side became a reminder that this should not be the first and last time...