Our Annual Autumn Day 2010
Twenty six people attended Our Annual Autumn Day travelling from Birmingham, Manchester,
Leeds, Southwark, Brentwood, East Anglia and Westminster Dioceses.
Monsignor Malachi Keegan captivated us with his life experience events. His words were soul-stirring and delivered with humility from the heart. Fr. Malachi was asked many questions about his work in Her Majesty’s Prisons.
We offer our extended thanks to Fr. Malachi for coming to speak to us.
Mass was celebrated in honour of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom.
Autumn Day 2010
The Full Report by Jane Barham
Autumn Day 2010 was held at St. Vincent’s, Carlisle Place in London and was well attended by members and friends of Our Lady’s Catechists who had travelled from different parts of the UK. There was a warm welcome from Chairman Carol Taylor and members of the Executive. Carol then introduced our guest speaker Monsignor Malachy Keega, who is head of the Catholic Chaplaincy Team of England and Wales. The topic was ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Monsignor Malachy told us that he had worked for the prison service for 15 years and was now a ‘go between’ for the Catholic Church of England and Wales and the Prison Service. As well as being a priest, his background is also that of psychotherapist and counsellor. This leads him to examine what it is that makes a person turn to criminality and also what is on offer to help offenders.
Monsignor drew on his experiences of meeting offenders of all ages and backgrounds who have committed different sorts of crimes. He explained that although a person’s background does not justify the crime it can sometimes help explain it. It is often the bad early experiences, low self- esteem and lack of love that leads a person to their path of self- destruction. We can all become vulnerable through encountering problems, which could cause us to break the law in some way. A big concern is that although most prisoners want to work out their shortcomings, ex-prisoners are all too prone to re-offend, which is not surprising as the released offender becomes vulnerable the moment he is released from prison..
To help alleviate this problem, the Community Chaplaincy Team is currently setting up schemes to help offenders when they leave prison. Parishes in Wandsworth are being visited to recruit parishioners who are willing to become part of a team which will give support to prisoners who have recently been released. The form of support is through friendly phone calls and coffee and chat meetings. This contact continues for three to four months and though it is not an easy project as the general public have a fear of released prisoners. It is however proving successful in 80% of contacts.
Prisons in the UK are publicly funded by the State and are influenced by the political scene. In America it is very normal for there to be private prisons which are run by companies who make a profit from the scheme and it is a system which may also be starting in the UK. It has been suggested that as a cost cutting exercise, generic chaplaincy could be implemented in our prisons. Monsignor Malachy assured us that he is making a strong objection to this idea. On the other hand there is also a government plan to employ Moslem chaplains to ensure Moslem prisoners are not radicalised.
It became evident that it takes time, effort and most of all love of the condemned that will give a person the hope for a chance of a new beginning. Love and prayers and caring thoughts are also necessary for victims of crime. We were also reminded that Jesus himself was held in custody, beaten up, put on trial, falsely accused, convicted and executed. There was opportunity for questions and discussion throughout the talk. A vote of thanks was given by Margaret Jones.
The talk by Monsignor Malachy was followed by lunch where friends and members of Our Lady’s Catechists had the opportunity to mull over the essence of the morning session and catch up with old friends whilst making new acquaintances. The day finished with Holy Mass.
In his homily Monsignor Malachy reminded us to pray to Our Lady the Mother of God and this we did in our recessional hymn: ‘As I kneel before you, as I bow my head in prayer, take this day, make it yours and fill me with your love . . .’
Before departure, Carol Taylor thanked everyone for their attendance and congratulated Loris Squirrel on her recent award of MBE for her work with Inter-Faith.