By Paul Dobbyn
PRISONERS at Cairns Lotus Glen Correctional Centre are able to pray and discuss their faith thanks to visits from fellow Catholics.
Francis Bedford said the pastoral experience he was getting in the prison ministry was enriching in many ways.
Cairns diocese has two pastoral care associates as well as staff of pastoral support services attending to the pastoral needs of the inmates at Lotus Glen Correctional Centre.
Mr Bedford and wife Gaile attend Lotus Glen on the allotted day for Catholics, which is Monday, and then every fourth Sunday to present an ecumenical service.
“When we visit on Mondays we have one-to-one contact with the men in their accommodation blocks,” Mr Bedford said. “Bibles, prayer cards and rosary beads have been well accepted.
“Visiting with the men and listening to their stories without any judgment or condemnation, praying and providing spiritual support for them, helps to sustain these inmates in their Christian faith while they are incarcerated.”
Lotus Glen is on the Atherton Tablelands. There are about 680 male offenders housed at the main centre with another 100 or more at the prison farm.
The population is about 75 per cent Indigenous and Islander men. At the main centre, the men are housed in accommodation blocks holding up to 50 inmates per unit.
The correctional centre has a team of 13 chaplains from various church denominations each attending on allotted days. The centre has a chapel and an education room which chaplains use for Bible studies and religious services.
Mr Bedford, who is also an aspirant to diaconate, attends on Fridays with chaplains from other churches.
“So this pastoral ministry is also proving to be an enrichment of my knowledge regarding other denominations and faiths,” he said.