For chaplain, prison visits are about bringing Jesus – and meeting him

Prison Credit Thomas Hawk via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA 10 23 15 Thomas Hawk via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

When Fr. Juan Carlos Cagliani goes on prison visits, he is not only seeking to bring Christ to the inmates, but to encounter Christ in them as well.

"I'm not going to bring Christ to the prison, I am going to meet Christ in the prison. I am not bringing Jesus, I am going to meet Jesus!" said of priest, who belongs to the Diocese of San Justo in Argentina.

Fr. Cagliani, who has spent 37 years working with prisoners, participated in the Prison Ministry Regional Meeting held in Neuquén, Argentina, April 28-30.

The theme of the regional meeting was "Where is your brother?" (Genesis 4:9) In addition to ministers, government officials were present and spoke about recent changes to the Criminal Code.

Approximately 70 delegates from the Diocese of Patagonia listened to the presentation given by Fr. Cagliani, who said that "to embrace Christ behind bars is to discover the merciful gesture of knowing that we love each other as brothers."

"You begin to discover the face of Christ in those faces, where you don't look at the crime but only go to find the love and mercy that come from God," he said. "You find in those visits, in that human contact, in that closeness, in that presence, in that sharing, a God who loves you."

The priest said that he experiences the love of God when he encounters each particular brother or sisters who is serving a sentence in prison.

"Often hated, cursed by so many brothers, including Christians, and they don't realize that Jesus is there in that place."

Bishop Pedro Maria Laxague of Viedma, a member of the Bishops' Prison Ministry Commission, said that "God challenges us to take responsibility for our brothers."

"He invites all of us to shepherd our brothers, the way he did," the bishop said.

Bishop Laxague also noted that "prison ministry challenges us to be a Church closer to the people."

He suggested that "the world of the prison" reveals underlying problems in society.

"Many things are going wrong in the neighborhoods, in the cities, in the towns," he said, "and that is where all of us who are baptized live, where we carry out our service."

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.