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Malaysian church holds spiritual retreat in prison ministry

Father George Packiasamy releases a dove — a symbol of freedom from the inner prison for all souls. With him are members of the Catholic Prison Ministry. (Photo supplied)

The Catholic Prison Ministry of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hosted some 50 participants at a spiritual retreat in Seremban from June 10 to 12. 

Father George Packiasamy and Father Bonaventure Rayappan, the Ecclesiastical Assistants for the Prison Ministry, facilitated the discussion, and Father Xavier Andrew and Father Jestus Pereira spoke as well.
In addition, Archbishop Julian Leow of Kuala Lumpur unexpectedly showed up during the retreat and reminded participants that Jesus is present in prisons, and they can visit him there.

As the prelate remarked, after each visit to the prison, he always felt energized and joyful. He also emphasized the value of using this retreat to replenish, give hope, and encounter Jesus with the prisoners.
In his opening prayer, Father Xavier referred to Matthew 25:36, "When I was in jail, you visited me," and wondered why Jesus included "visiting the prisoner" on His list of things His followers must do.
He added, "Everyone is imprisoned by something, somehow, and once you recognize your brokenness and imprisonment-and that you are still God's child, worth loving-you begin to see others as beloved children, worthy of your visit.”
Father Jestus led the participants in a reflection on Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus, and he asked the participants where they were in the story of Zacchaeus. 

He reminded them that they are not simply volunteers; rather, they are the hands of Christ helping prisoners become involved in society. 
During his reflection on Psalms 88 and 22, Father Bonaventure shared his emotions regarding those imprisoned for crimes; those penalized for political opinions; those awaiting trial for crimes they may or may not have committed; and those on death row. 

Prisoners often see their life sentences as an eternity. Others on death row feel abandoned, cut off from the world, and missing their loved ones. 

As members of the church, the risen Lord will bring hope to those alienated, cut off from the world, and lacking hope. 

This ministry is based on the fact that death has no final say in this world, that Jesus lives inside of us to liberate us, and that the love of God must be our foundation.

In his presentation, Father George focused on showing hospitality to strangers. He led the group in a reflection on Scripture, reminding them not to forget to show hospitality to strangers, since if they did they would be entertaining angels unknowingly.
Hospitality to strangers provides a link between us and God, and he advised the members to take advantage of opportunities to be hospitable to those in need.
Father George explained that the reason for serving the imprisoned is that Jesus is there to reach out to them and in turn, God chose us to serve as His loving presence to them.
He concluded by reminding everyone that one’s foremost goal is to show prisoners the living Christ.
The ministry's president, Stephen John Raj, thanked Archbishop Julian and the guests for being present as well as his working committee and the priests who facilitated the retreat. These visits, activities, and gatherings had stopped after two years.
As members shared their experiences in ministry, they shared their testimonies of how prisoners embraced Jesus and how they encountered Him on their missions.
A dove release was held on the very last day, and Benedict Savarimuthu, one of the members, said, "This represents freedom for everyone from their inner prison."
"I have always looked forward to the CPM retreat and enjoy every moment of spirituality and fellowship with the members - and this time was no exception. Our venue and priests were both wonderful. Their sharing was admirable,” said  Charles Savary.
The fellowship, uplifting prayers, the special intimate Mass, sharing from all, the venue, food, and overall togetherness made it a memorable experience for me, said Andrea Diaz. - Anbu Selvam 


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