.- In honor of St. Valentine's Day, Catholic actor Eduardo Verastegui and producer Jason Jones visited several prisons on Feb. 14, including one that held women death row inmates.
The visits to the Texas prisons were organized by the group HERO's Second Chance. Verastegui and Jones mobilized their respective non-profit groups in an effort to bring a message of “love and hope” to the incarcerated. The group was invited to participate by Discipleship Unlimited, who organized the tour.
“I could think of no better way to celebrate the feast day of St. Valentine than to bring a true sense of love and hope to these inmates, especially those women on death row,” said Verastegui, founder of Manto de Guadalupe, a non-profit dedicated to community service. “Our efforts today were in keeping with the legend of this wonderful saint's life.” Verastegui spoke on Monday about the ancient story of the saint, saying that St. Valentine allegedly wrote a farewell letter from prison and signed it “From your Valentine” before his execution.
Jason Jones, who founded the Human Rights Education and Relief Organization (HERO), stated on Monday, “It is our sincere prayer that the efforts of this ministry will help these women to recognize that their intrinsic value and dignity is not determined by their state of life, but by the gift of life itself.” Jones also remarked that “no matter what decisions brought them to this place, they are created in the image of God and are of incomparable worth.”
Jones' non-profit HERO promotes what they call the “Whole Life ethic” which seeks to defend “human dignity in all its stages” in all corners of the globe. “The Whole Life ethic acknowledges that issues that appear to be separate, such as human trafficking, political violence, famine, abortion, female genital mutilation, euthanasia, pornography, embryo destruction and many others are actually related threats to the dignity of the human person,” according to the HERO website.
HERO's Second Chance, the joint effort whose primary focus is prison ministry, has been inspired by the concept of the movie Bella, which Verastegui starred in and Jones directed. In the movie, the central character finds redemption after spending time in prison following a tragic accident. The film won the 2006 Toronto Film Festival People's Choice Awards.