Br Jaime Rosique MSC chose to spent his pastoral work placement in Cloverhill Prison, Dublin, alongside his fellow MSC brother Domenico Rosa. Here, he reflects on the lessons he learned during his three weeks in Cloverhill.
“Each of these people has a story, a load on their back that has shaped the life they have lived so far.”
When I was initially offered a choice between two pastoral placement experiences, I had little doubt as to which one I would choose. Although Cork and the L’Arche community were very appealing to me, as soon as I saw that the other possibility was to assist the prison chaplains of Cloverhill, I sensed that this was there the Lord wanted me to be. This was not the first time I has been offered that possibility as a pastoral experience, and I took the hint! Now, looking back, I can understand why He wanted me there.
The proposed placement programme covered a very busy and interactive experience. This included visiting several courts of justice, involvement in prisoners’ services such as the school or the library, a day at the visitors’ centre to experience the work done with the families of the inmates, and a breakfast at the Capuchin Day Centre, where it is not uncommon to find former prisoners once they have served their sentences.
On our induction day, we were given some reading material to help us to understand how the prison service works in Ireland, and which also provided information on some trends among the prison population (such as drugs, homelessness, and mental health issues). We were then given security instructions and introduced to several officers. Shortly, afterwards we began our visits.
The D2 Wing, where people with mental health problems are kept under close scrutiny and supervision, was the main focus of attention of our ministry. Here, we found ourselves working with the most vulnerable of prisoners. Their joyful and appreciative response to small gestures of kindness, such as simply listening to them, was overwhelming. Their gratitude made me think about my own appreciation of many things that I would often take for granted – things that mean a lot to those deprived of freedom.
The stories and anecdotes that have touched my heart are too many to be able to express them in a few lines. All I can say is that I found the experience very enriching. It has helped me to become aware of a reality that I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to experience. My time at Cloverhill has helped me to understand the many different factors that take somebody to prison, making me realise that, regardless of the offences committed, I was working with human beings who in many ways are victims themselves.
In other words, after the three weeks I spent at Cloverhill, I feel moved to remember that behind the news headlines, the court case numbers, or the PN numbers (Prisoner Numbers), there is a person. Each of these people has a story, a load on their back that has shaped the life they have lived so far – and these people and their stories have touched my own heart and life as well.
Br Jaime Rosique MSC