This weekend, Catholic parishioners in many New Zealand dioceses will be asked by their bishops to consider donating to the 2011 Caring Sunday appeal to support the work of Catholic prison chaplains and help the rehabilitation of prisoners.
The bishops are committed to having a Catholic chaplain in every prison in New Zealand. There are currently 25 Catholic prison chaplains working in New Zealand, with at least one in each of the country’s 20 prisons. The Catholic chaplains work closely with the ecumenical prison chaplains. The work of prison chaplains will be highlighted this Caring Sunday, 24 July.
Parishioners in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Dunedin dioceses will receive letters in which the bishops explain the role of prison chaplaincy and why ministry to prisoners is important for the Christian community.
In their letters the bishops refer to Matthew 25:39: “When did you see me sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
Many of the letters acknowledge that while prisoners need to pay their debt to society, this does not mean they should be forever ostracised.
The bishops also refer to the successful “Seasons for Growth” programme, based on the charism of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, which helps prisoners accept the reality of what has happened, acknowledge the pain of grief, adjust to the new environment and have a positive hope for the future. One of the aims of the Caring Sunday appeal is to enable more prisoners to go through this programme.