AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Prison Counseling: “We see the Holy Spirit at work within these walls”

Tuesday, 29 March 2022


Korhogo (Agenzia Fides) - "Since 2009 I have been visiting the Korhogo prison in the north of Ivory Coast twice a week, where little by little a pastoral care for the spiritual accompaniment of the prisoners has developed. There are currently 450 people in this prison, designed for 100 prisoners. Around 180 of them live and sleep crammed into a huge cell, and you can imagine the conditions in which they live", writes Sister Monique Lorrain, of the Les Xavières Institute, Missionaries of Christ Jesus.
For 12 years she has been visiting prisoners and speaking to them about the path of faith as a path to authentic liberation. With her personal testimony she shows what the grace of God can do in an African prison.
"Among the large Muslim majority, there are about fifty Christians from different churches among the prisoners", the nun said. "Many of them have started a real journey of faith since they have been in prison. They were drawn to the witness of the small Christian community here. In each cell, they pray together every morning. Before the pandemic, I went to a prayer meeting once a week where everyone could share with the group what God was doing in their hearts. The light of the gospel illuminated their questions. The meetings ended with a short Eucharistic prayer, and after that the few baptized Catholics were allowed to receive the bread of the Eucharist. It is amazing that some of them say: 'This morning I woke up with a happy heart!' Yes, the grace of God is offered in the trial of detention!" Sister Monique adds: "We see how the Holy Spirit works within these walls", says the nun. "And how great was the joy when the prisoners once gave me an envelope with a sum of money at the end of Lent: It was their Lenten offer to donate to the neediest who live outside". Since the pandemic began in March 2020, prisoners have been barred from any contact with the outside world as a health measure. "We try to keep the connection between the prisoners and their families through the exchange of letters", Sisters Monique said. "We are raising awareness among the city's parishes to donate a meal for all prisoners at Christmas and Easter. This is a very important sign for them. The isolationthat adds to the harshness of imprisonment is also a test for us, the counseling group, because if this mission keeps us in touch with the harsh reality of evil, these prisoners are also the ones who deeply evangelize us and make us privileged witnesses of God's action in them". Sister Monique, who has served in Ivory Coast, previously worked in Chad and Cameroon as a nutritionist for malnourished children and as a caregiver for alcoholic adults. (MP/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 29/3/2022)