Prison Ministry is special to the Oblates because it was the first ministry that St Eugene did as a young man, and a young priest… that and youth ministry. It is a very sensitive ministry to respect those in prison, their guards and the Laws of Kenya.
In poorer countries there is usually greater suffering in prisons because the countries cannot afford to provide high quality care or facilities. There is also corruption which syphons off money meant for prison facilities and prisoners.
Sometimes people break the law not because they are bad, but because of economic desperation or physical abuse. As missionaries, we are concerned about the cycles of poverty contributing to the prison population.
In Kenya, since 1997, we have been officially involved in two prisons:
In Meru Prison ministry, our Postulants would attend the Sunday services and work with the local Christian community to prepare music, etc. for the celebrations.
In Nairobi, the Pre-Novices attend each Sunday to provide catechetical instruction, singing and even giving a reflection on the Word of God during Mass.
Prison Ministry in Kenya includes the following activities:
There is a greater focus on women prisoners because their needs are greater:
The prisoners require lots of positive, hope-filled messages to help them overcome feelings of self-rejection, family and community rejection. We help them develop some basic skills to assist them when they are finally released.
By the time the women leave prison, our aim is to ensure that they have recovered their self-esteem and developed Christian values to guide their lives and help prevent a return to prison.
When they leave prison, female prisoners, in particular may often face rejection by their families and need to start afresh. This is especially difficult if the women have one or more children and need to pay school fees and school supplies, etc. The Mission tries to assist with these immediate needs and even tries, if funds are available, to provide seed capital to start small businesses so they can provide for themselves and their children.
From time to time, in cooperation with the Prison Authorities, OMI Kenya Mission has been able to assist in our prisons with the following projects:
Our Prison Ministry is largely supported by our Missionary Associates in Canada. We are also grateful for our Missionary Associates in Australia, and a certain parishioner from Holy Family Parish, Albany, Western Australia.
This Ministry has a bottomless bucket of needs and we are always happy to receive donations from any individuals or groups to help these people in prison. Yes, some made bad choices, but many (most??) are there because they were desperate to feed their children or were living in situations of domestic abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Finally, we would like to appreciate the work done by our Australian Oblate brother who works from Hong Kong: Fr John Wotherspoon OMI. He tirelessly travels around the world trying to prevent desperate young people (and sometimes older), from becoming drug couriers or drug mules.
Fr. John visited Kenya on two occasions, in 2013 and 2016. In 2016, he kindly providing funding to assist a court case seeking to release a lady with several children. She had been in prison for a few years with another 6 years remaining. Approximately $2,000USD paid for the lawyer and court costs. It was an urgent case as the extended family had rejected the children.