Bishop Vincent washes the feet of inmates at Parklea Correctional Facility at Easter.
Before undertaking his official duties for Maundy Thursday, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta visited Parklea Correctional Facility to celebrate Mass and conduct the washing of the feet as part of the Holy Thursday liturgy.
Joined by 16 inmates, seven staff members and Catholic Prison Chaplain Richard Korkor, Bishop Vincent’s homily focused on the power of God’s love and sacrifice.
“God is love. We are all loved no matter who we are,” said Bishop Vincent.
“God gives us the strength and power to live a dignified life of love, service, respect and care for one another.
“Jesus was in the darkness of the tomb, but the Son of Man has been glorified. The whole Christian logic is that pain, suffering and death is not a dead end. The power of God will transform those moments. He ushers in the great promise of transformation.
“Your time here is a period of transformation. Prison is not the end of the road, just like the tomb wasn’t the end of the road for Jesus.
“You are loved. You have dignity,” he said.
Bishop Vincent then washed the feet of the inmates and staff.
“The washing of the feet symbolises that there’s no vertical structure – we are all equal. When Jesus knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples, he reset the human relationship. So, the greatest must serve the last and the least.
“I will wash your feet as a gesture of humanity, solidarity and shared suffering.”
During the Prayers of the Faithful, Bishop Vincent asked for any prayers from the inmates.
One inmate prayed, “Lord, please pray for the victims and families of our crimes. May they heal.”
Prison Chaplain Richard Korkor was impressed at this response commenting that this showed “true conversion.”
Following Mass, attendees had a conversation over tea, coffee and the traditional Easter hot crossed bun.
Acting Governor Brian Gurney expressed his thanks to Bishop Vincent.
“We are so pleased Bishop Long has again taken time out of his busy schedule to deliver a Catholic Mass here at Parklea, which is an important boost for the inmates when most are unable to spend the Easter holidays with their families,” Mr Gurney said.
“Having Bishop Vincent Long here is a reminder of the forgiveness, love and hope that is available to those who seek it and everyone should be treated with decency and respect,” he said.
Chaplain Richard Korkor said Bishop Vincent’s visit showed the inmates they are not forgotten.
“During his ministry, Pope Francis has visited people on the margins, and he has washed the feet of prisoners,” Mr Korkor said.
“I believe that Bishop Vincent mirrors the Holy Father’s ministry and mirrors the person of Christ to these inmates in giving a voice to the voiceless, and an opportunity to be seen and heard.
“His visit represents not just to the staff and management, but to the inmates, that they are in people’s thoughts,” he said.
Thank you to the staff and management of Parklea Correctional Facility for facilitating this event.