Parish Members Visit Inmates
Contributed by: Antonia Fiske
My experience at the Kairos Closing Ceremony was much, much better than I was expecting! It was a sunny, warm day and Bert and I were amazed at how large and flat that part of the valley is. All the roads were totally straight and occasionally turned corners in between great gray walls with no signs on them. Searching for our meeting place was a great game of ‘hide and seek’. We were told to look for flagpoles.
Once we finally found the place, were identified and signed in, we had to walk, maybe a mile on these long, straight paths through short dried grass that turned corners from one huge area into another. Our meeting place was an enormous indoor gym with clerestory windows all around that filled the whole area with light.
Lloyd met us there and helped us to get seated. The ceremony began with giving out certificates of completion to each inmate. During the four day Kairos experience, they had been seated at tables, each one given the name of Christ’s closest apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul and James, seven in all.
After the Graduation
After the ceremony, the Warden, a very friendly, outgoing man named Mike, who was there on his day off, told about the cultural groups within the prison. There are three distinct groups, each controlled by a leader who does not want any of his members to talk with or associate with any other group. The Kairos team deliberately put two members of these different groups at each table. There were seven tables with six inmates and three Kairos team members at each table.
When the certificates were given out, members belonging to one table came up one at a time. Then each one came over to where the guests sat and shook our hand and thanked us for coming.
After all forty two inmates got their diplomas, the floor was opened up to any inmate who wanted to tell about his experience in the Kairos. This was the fun part. We got to see them smile, laugh and hear their voices. I enjoyed seeing how their bodies moved, almost danced, as they walked up to the microphone. The hair styles were totally original! Most touching was hearing how they bonded with other inmates, because they had to wear a tough ‘mask’ all the time in the prison. Because of accents and diction, there was a lot I did not understand.
I came away feeling that the gift of the Kairos was that the inmate’s hearts were opened to love, that they cared deeply for one another and that they had a vision of how they could live a life expressing love when their prison term was over. This is a gift that can never be taken away.
It was a very uplifting and gratifying experience in spite of the guard with a rifle looking down at us from above.