Sharing: Prison Ministry

I applied for a prison visitor’s pass through Prisoners’ Friends’ Association ( in 2010 as per Sr. Flora’s suggestion because there are several Indonesians in the Hong Kong correctional institutions. Mr. Jack Fung, the chairman of Prisoners’ Friend’s Association, helped to book the room to meet an Indonesian inmate in Lo Wu Correctional Institution but I couldn’t visit her yet as they were preparing the re-opening ceremony and I should leave for Guangzhou on Sep 3, 2010.  Several months later, I did my first visit with Srs. Felicitas and Flora followed by several visits during my language study break. 
            I started to visit Putonghua speaking inmates in Lo Wu Correctional Institution on Jan 9, 2012. Most of the times, I asked questions and listened to their sad stories and if I didn’t understand what they said, we changed the topics.

Starting last Jul 2012, Ms. Li asked me to visit Tai Lam Institution Centre for Women, around two hours from our convent, because there are enough visitors at Lo Wu Correctional Institution.   I met the inmates in one of the rooms of the social welfare office so it’s in a more friendly situation.  After a while, I also meet English speaking inmates.  There were times when the officer asked a Vietnamese inmate and a Spanish speaking inmate to meet me, we couldn’t speak to each other at all so I made body languages: both hands in my chest, bow my head and make sign of the cross as a sign to offer to pray together.  They agreed so we prayed together.  To the Spanish speaking inmate, I pointed to myself and said “hermana” a Spanish word for “sister”, later on she said there was another Spanish speaking inmate who can speak English outside so we called her to be a translator.  During the last two years, I met inmates from mainland China, Indonesia, Africa, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Latin America.  
The reasons of their imprisonment are various, e.g. overstaying, working illegally, stealing, drug trafficking.  The general reasons are looking for better financial situation, even though several of them said they are not guilty.
Several of them didn’t want to talk a lot, several of them wanted to talk a lot, even wanted to meet again.  One or two of them could share their stories with smile, several of them were in tears most of our time together.  Several of them couldn’t sleep well, most of them could eat well.  
I do know I only can do simple things in our short encounter: being presence, listening to their stories, answering their questions, and praying with them, sometimes I couldn’t hold my tears as they were in tears.     
            Last Oct 23, I joined “Prison Walk 2012”, an annual fundraising of PFA.  We met at Shau Kei Wan MTR station and then went by bus to Lai Chi Rehabilitation Centre.  There are 52 participants from several nationalities including non-member.  An officer gave a presentation about the training centre for the young offenders.  After the presentation, we walked to the beautiful Big Wave Beach.  The PFA’s treasurer Mr. Robert Allender gave me more information about the PFA on the way to the beach.  We stayed at the beach for a while and then everyone can decide whether staying longer or walking to Chai Wan MTR station.  I decided to go Chai Wan MTR with Mr. Robert Allender, the walk leader Ms. Tess Kimura, Mr. Junichi and two Japanese guys.  It’s around 3 hours walk in total including climbing the hill and going down through the Chai Wan cemetery.  My legs started to be in pain the next day afternoon.    It’s a very nice to meet several new friends, including Mrs. Sue Lau and PFA chairman Mr. Jack Fung whom I communicated by email and telephone during the last two years.

After visiting Tai Lam CI on Nov 1, I attended the 30th Anniversary Annual Gathering Meeting of PFA at Duke of Windsor Social Service Building.  AGM started with call to order by MC Ms. Beverly Chau and Ms. Heidi Cheng and welcoming remarks to Official Guests from PFA Chairman Mr. Jack Fung.  Vice Chairman Mrs. Lorna Gabinera read two letters of appreciation from former members.  There are more than 30 participants, including Correctional Service Department (CSD) officers, member and non- member.  Honorable Commisioner of Correctional Services Mr. Sin Yat Kin gave address followed by giving certificate of appreciation for several categories.  He said that over the past 30 years, members of PFA have given unfailing support to persons in custody and he is sure that the PFA will continue to shine and guide persons in custody towards a bright future.  I received certificate of appreciation as “Prison Walk 2012 Top Fundraiser”.  For sure, this certificate is also given to my very generous friends who sponsored my participation at Prison Walk 2012.  After that, Mr. Tam Po Shek entertained us with his beautiful “dongxiao” ( performance.  Previous Chairman of PFA Rev. Charles McKnelly gave message followed by supper and the opportunity to dialogue with CSD officers.  The second parts of AGM were annual report of activities by Mr. Jack Fung followed by PFA Treasurer’s report by Mrs. Tess Kimura and election of Executive Committee 2010-2011.  In his report, Mr. Jack Fung said that there are 86 visiting members and 30 pen pals.  Recently PFA printed 3,300 copies of bilingual newsletter, which was sponsored by the Matilda Sedan Chair Race funding, to be distributed to different institutions in Hong Kong.  As a result, more inmates ask for a pen friend and express their appreciation in reading them.
I am so grateful for my membership at PFA which gives me the opportunity to be with the inmates, to listen to their struggles, and to pray with them.  It also gives me the opportunity to widen my circle of friends especially with those who are working in prison ministry.  Last but not the least, it also an experience of God’s Providence through my generous friends.  May God continue to bless our work for the inmates in Hong Kong!    
Hong Kong, 5 November 2012

Sr. Anastasia B. Lindawati, M.M.
Let’s do simple things with simple love to make God’s love visible

Sharing: Maryknoll Sisters China Region Centenial Thanksgiving Mass

            As part of centennial celebration, Maryknoll Sisters China region held a thanksgiving Mass on Oct 27, the birthday of our foundress Mother Mary Joseph, at St. Theresa’s Church-Hong Kong.  Srs. Joanna and Molly also joined our celebration.  There were more than ten celebrants besides Fr. Paul Kam as the main celebrants.
            Our Mass was in between two wedding Masses so with the help of several volunteers, we prepared and cleaned up the Church quickly.  Several students of Maryknoll Convent School (MCS) Secondary Section helped to distribute liturgy booklet before the Mass and centennial pens and holy card after the Mass. 
            The MCS Secondary Section students choir led the opening song “We are Called” 
Sr. Michelle in her English welcome note shared the reason of choosing Oct 27 for our celebration.  She said that the month of October is Mission month, a reminder that we all are called to share in Christ’s mission to bring the Good News to others; Oct. 9th, 1955 Mother Mary Joseph died peacefully; today, we celebrate the birthday of our Foundress, Mother Mary Joseph. There was a lamp on the altar because one of Mother Mary Joseph favorite quotes was from Lowell’s poem Yussouf “As one lamp lights another nor grows less, so nobleness enkindles nobleness.”
The first reading in Cantonese was taken from Is 42: 1-4 while the second reading in English was read by Sr. Sue which was taken from Rom 10: 13-15.  Fr. Brian read the Gospel and gave the homily both in English. 
Sr. Norma in her Chinese dress professed her final vows in Cantonese and English after being called forward by Sr. Annie. 
I read the prayers of the faithful in Indonesian while the rest of the prayers were in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Tagalog and Cantonese.    
Two students from primary section brought candles, two students from secondary section brought flowers, while Srs. Arlene, Maureen and Marya brought water and wine, ciborium, and host.  Here is the link of offertory song:
After communion, each sister took turn to pronounce our name and then renewed our vows together.  Sr. Annie in her thank you note said, “Here they met and fell in love with the thousands of women, men and children who welcomed them and showed then the language and culture of their villages and cities.  How does one thank generations of people who have shared our lives for 90 years?” besides mentioned a few names of those present.  Here is the link of the closing song: The Mass ended with group pictures with all celebrants and then singing “Maryknoll my Maryknoll.”
            Tea reception after Mass including cutting the centennial cake was held at Maryknoll Convent School Primary Section, followed by the opening of the Maryknoll Convent School Heritage Centre.
            After touring to Heritage Centre, Srs. Norma, Agnes and I visited Garden of Peace, which was blessed on Oct 19 by Fr. Brian, and the prayer room both at Secondary Section to see the tribute to the Maryknoll Sisters who have served in the China RegionHere is the link of the video of the blessing ceremony:
            The articles about our Centenial Thanksgiving Mass can be read at:
Hong Kong, November 3, 2012

Sr. Anastasia B. Lindawati, M.M.
Let’s do simple things with simple love to make God’s love visible