Last Sunday, 6 November, the Church marked Prisoners’ Sunday, a special day when we remember in prayer prisoners as well as recognising those who pastorally support their innate dignity in circumstances that can sometimes be devoid of humanity.
Bishop Martin Hayes of Kilmore, who is the liaison bishop for prisoners, said in a statement which paid tribute to prison staff and invited people to pray for the plight of prisoners, said,
‘In her well-received publication Unheard Voices, former prison chaplain Sister Imelda Wickham PBVM speaks on behalf of prisoner experience, saying “we are all on the same journey of life, with its ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, and all in need of redemption.”
‘Sister Imelda states that prison chaplaincy has had a significant impact on her life and that she has been most changed by those who visited prisons on a weekly basis for many years: the families and friends of prisoners, “the greatest learning was to be in touch with the experience of the people I was sent to serve.”
‘While being imprisoned is an experience most of us will never have, Sister Imelda emphasises that it not just those who are incarcerated that serve the sentence. She rightly praises the gifts and skills of those in the prison system who help keep it operational, wisely reflecting ‘in all my years I have never met an evil person. People do evil things and we are all capable of that.’
‘Policymakers in particular can learn from Sister Imelda who points to addiction as the greatest disease and cause to destruction in people’s lives, leading to crime and prison: “addiction is not a crime. It is a health issue that needs to be attended to medically and psychologically.”’
In conclusion Bishop Hayes said, ‘In ensuring that the unheard voices of prisoners are heard, Sister Imelda calls attention to the loneliness of the prisoner. On this Prisoners’ Sunday, I invite you to join me in prayer for all prisoners, their families, prison staff and prison chaplains, whose work is vital but unheralded within prison services throughout the world.’