A mission of mercy to forgotten men

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The Young Men of God team outside the John Morony Correctional Centre in Windsor. Left to right: Chris Lee, Nathan Tran, Ben Galea and Andrew Lemalu. PHOTO: Supplied

A group of young Catholic men are seeking to bring hope to other men who have been broken by life and largely forgotten by society.

The Young Men of God Movement joined forces with the Kairos team to run a four-day mission for inmates at the John Morony Correctional Complex in Windsor, beginning on 4 March.

The mission included talks, prayer, worship, small group discussions, gifting and affirmation, with 18 inmates taking part.

National Leader of YMG, Ben Galea said it’s not the hope of the world that they want to give prison inmates, but something far more powerful—the hope found in Jesus Christ.

“In the film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, there is a moment where one prisoner named Red says to another prisoner Andy that ‘hope is a dangerous thing’. Red was putting his finger on the all too common tragic human experience of being let down by the world – a false hope that leads to isolation and despair,” Mr Galea told The Catholic Weekly.

“These men in prison will come to see that this is not the same type of hope that we come to bring. This is the hope of the Lord, the eternal Christ, the risen one, this is the hope of Jesus of Nazareth!”

Talks given during the mission focused on fostering and nurturing a personal relationship with God. Participants were taken on a journey of discovering who God is and his merciful and healing ways.

Mr Galea spoke on the importance of making choices in life and Deacon Tony Hoban from the Parramatta Diocese addressed the topic, ‘You are not alone’.

YMG member, Nathan Tran, said they were deeply moved by the response from the inmates, or “guests”, as they prefer to call them.

“The guests responded to this in the most honest and moving way, by recognising the isolation they felt,” Mr Tran said.

“We were struck by the honest recognition of the guests of their personal weaknesses, but more importantly their desire for change over just a few hours.

“We were astounded by the way in which the guests stood before us with nothing to hide, that they trusted within minutes of meeting us, and the genuine resolution to desire Christ in their lives.”

Ben Galea speaks about the Prison Mission at a Young Men of God event. Beside him from left to right is Andrew Lemalu, Chris Lee and Nathan Tran. PHOTO: Supplied

Mr Tran said that men in a personal relationship with Christ can have a profound influence on other men.

“I want men, inside or outside a prison, to know that they are not defined just by their culture, upbringing, successes or failures.

“I do not see much difference between those inside and outside the prison walls. We share sin and failings, but we also share in the same victory of Christ that raises us and brings out the best in us.

Youngest YMG volunteer, Andrew Lemalu, 23, hopes their mission encourages the residents at John Morony to believe that faith doesn’t come with age but rather with a personal choice to love God each and every day.

“All I want is for them to have a genuine encounter with Christ’s love and for me to be an authentic Catholic witness to them,” he said.

“Having worked in youth ministry for all of my adult life, I have encountered a large scale of brokenness. I believe that the souls of the men I meet in John Morony are no different to the vulnerable people I’ve met while journeying with a school students, university students, homeless people, and others who have fallen on rough times.”

This was the first prison mission undertaken by YMG which is a national Catholic men’s movement seeking to give young men the opportunity to encounter Christ through brotherhood nights, masses, formation weekends, national conferences and local or international missions.

Kairos is an interdenominational Christian ministry reaching out to incarcerated individuals, their families and those who work with them; to bring sustainable meaning and hope in the place of loneliness, isolation and despair.

More info: www.ymgmovement.org