Prison Ministry India , Diocesan Unit, 7th Annual General Body Meeting

On 11th August, the 7th Annual General Body meeting was held at Social service Centre. Most Rev. Thelagathoti Joseph Raja Rao, Bishop of Vijayawada and Chairman of the PMI Diocesan unit presided over the General Body Meeting. 65 volunteers from Krishna District who are members of prison ministry participated in the meeting. Fr. E.W. Jaya Raju, Rector of Gunadala Shrine and Fr. Antony, PMI AP state coordinator from Kadapa Diocese, Fr. Thomas Pasala, Director of PMI Vijayawada unit, and religious sisters, lay persons from Vijayawada and 8 sub jails areas have attended the General Body Meeting. The meeting began with lighting of the lamp along with prayer song followed by prayer conducted by Mr.Ratnam and team. Mr. Bandi Babu Rao, one of the

ctive senior volunteers read out the previous year’s Report of the unit and submitted the Cell reports.

The Chairman, Most Rev. Thelagathoti Joseph Raja Rao, spoke to the members extensively on service to the prisoners. He quoted from St. Matthew’s Gospel chapter 25 about the final judgment ‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Quoting these words, Bishop said that this entire teaching is like an examination for each of us; we may ask God when did I do any good to you; then God would reply’ Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Bishop added that Our God is a great reformer of the society and always worked for the betterment of the society. He encouraged all the members to give their best for the prison ministry. He also added that to start such an activity at the diocesan level and strengthen it and to continue the same for the last 15 years is a great work of charity and that it shows commitment of members, which is indeed praiseworthy. He pointed that to do these good activities we all need enthusiasm and great motivation

hrough our prayers. He prayed for all the members to put in more efforts for this unique service to the prisoners. He said that through our good works we must prove to the world that ‘humanity is greater than religion’ and Christianity is a service to mankind that expresses the pure love of God. Finally, Bishop appreciated Fr. Thomas, the Director of SSC, for taking up the prison ministry with enthusiasm and guiding it in the right path.

Fr. E.W. Jaya Raju, Rector of the Gunadalamatha Shrine, said that youth must give up bad habits to avoid criminal activities. It’s because of bad habits youth get into bad company and without much thought commit crime. He requested the members to support the youth and teach them moral values so that they would be reformed and mend their ways and become good citizens. Fr. Anthony, the AP state coordinator appealed to all the members to follow strictly the rules and regulations that prison department issued. He also added that we are not in this ministry to promote religious services in prisons. Fr. Thomas Pasala said that only Vijayawada Diocese in AP state has the permission to visit jails, after approaching the prisons’ in-charge several times explaining and confirming them that the ministry is not to promote any religion but to visit the prisoners and listen and give them consolation, support their families by giving legal aid if possible and to celebrate national festivals and major religious feasts to cheer them up.

Finally, Fr. Thomas Pasala thanked Bishop and all the guests and the members for their selfless services and contributions. As prison ministry purely works with the little contributions from its voluntary members, he requested all the members to promote donations so that many welfare activities for the families of the prisoners can be undertaken. The program continued after the launch with group discussions. The General Body Meeting concluded with Holy Eucharist celebrated by Fr. Anthony, AP state coordinator.