‘Redemption in the darkness’ Archbishop visits Goulburn Correctional Centre
Behind the high walls and iron bars, inspirational messages of hope and recovery emerged during Archbishop Christopher Prowse’s latest visit to the Goulburn Correctional Centre on 14 December.
Accompanied by Catholic chaplain Tony Stuart, the Archbishop’s prison outreach for Christmas included celebrating separate Masses in the maximum and minimum security sections and lunch with the facility’s Governor.
The Archbishop and Mr Stuart spoke to the Catholic Voice shortly after exiting the centre.
“I think it was a remarkable visit,” said Chaplain Stuart.
“There were 70 people at the first Mass [today] when the last time the Archbishop was here, there were perhaps five.
Mr Stuart believed it had possibly been the first time in many years since something like this had taken place.
“Things are really changing for the positive. The [inmates] are so grateful.”
The Archbishop said it was important for him to visit the centre, especially at Christmas time, “to bring the closeness and the tenderness of the baby Jesus of Bethlehem here in what’s often perceived as a very tough environment.”
Referring to the importance of human dignity for those within the prison system, Archbishop Prowse said he was approached by inmates over the years who admitted they had done wrong but would say this didn’t necessarily mean they were bad people.
He said many shared their concerns over being separated from their partners and families, especially at times of the year such as Christmas.
“The prisoners, by and large, are very God-conscious, as I’ve found over the years,” Archbishop Prowse said.
“They’re very appreciative of the Mass and sacraments, confessions and anointing of the sick, particularly for those that are scarred with addictions of one sort or another.
“The best congregations are often prisoners. They’re like sponges,” the Archbishop added.
“They just can’t get enough of anything to do with the divine, anything to do with God, anything to do with healing, anything to do with hope and anything to do with light.
“Because they’re surrounded so much by darkness and despair, [there’s a] longing to be able to be restored to, in a sense, a lost innocence.
“There’s a lot of conversions to the Catholic faith…more than you would think.”
The Archbishop underlined that he was very grateful for the role played by all our prison chaplains, whether in Goulburn, Canberra or Cooma.
In Mr Stuart’s case, he said he had spent a lot of time with prisoners who had experienced deep trauma in their lives, often from a young age.
“But they’re so incredibly grateful for everything we do for them. There’s redemption to balance the darkness.”
“Yes, redemption in the darkness,” agreed the Archbishop.
“That’s a very Christmas message.”