News from Pact

Pact’s Roadshow in the Grimshaw Room at the weekend (on the cathedral site, Sat 15 July) made a big impression on people who came.

‘This has been really good. I understand so much more now about what prisoners and their families are going through and the work you do at Pact.’

Pact’s CEO Andy Keen-Downs spoke about his recent brief meeting with Pope Francis. Andy described how he managed to bring prisoners and their families to the Holy Father’s attention in the few seconds available and despite his own limited command of Italian.

People were able to have a closer look at the image of Mary Untier of Knots which Pope Francis blessed that day on behalf of women and men in prison in England & Wales. Andy pointed out that we incarcerate a higher proportion of people in England & Wales than anywhere else in Western Europe. He reminded the group that nurturing family ties, where appropriate, reduces the chance of someone returning to crime by 39% - and so makes our communities safer.

Through Pact’s short films, the group listened to people with lived experience of the criminal justice system. After many years of being in and out of prison, one man was helped in part by a Pact volunteer mentor to turn his life around and share his experience through his own performance poetry.

Pact’s Faith in Action team, Theresa and Marie, explained how the values of Catholic Social Teaching continue to underpin our work 125 years since we were founded, originally called the ‘Catholic Prisoners' Aid Society’. We often say that a smile and a cup of tea can go a long way to making visiting families feel welcome and accepted when they arrive at the prison. However Tina Pritchard, Pact’s West Midlands Head of Service, described some of the amazing frontline work our staff and volunteers do in restoring dignity, keeping families together and harnessing the experiences of those we serve so that our work has real impact. She demonstrated that, ‘we don’t just make the tea.’

Theresa and Marie offered a wide range of opportunities to support prisoners and their families with Pact: as a parish rep; as a volunteer; through marking Prisoners’ Sunday on 8th October; in parish-prison partnerships and pilgrimages.

Deacon Peter Tibke, Advisor on Prisons and Prison Chaplaincy to the Archbishop, shared about the work of chaplaincy in prison and how valuable support for this work is too.

New friends and connections were made during the morning. The Pact team look forward to continuing to work together with the people of the Archdiocese of Birmingham to walk alongside prisoners and their families - who may be journeying through the most difficult times of their lives. We are grateful for the support of Archbishop Bernard Longley who spent the morning with us.

These are some of the comments we received at the end of our morning together:

‘I have met people who can help me take engagement with prisoners and their families further'.

‘I have a fresh awareness of the challenges’.

‘The need to share this information more widely’.

‘Thanks and praise to God for giving people the vocation to help prisoners’.

‘The breadth of services which are offered always with love and care’.

‘The dedication and perseverance of the teams’.

‘That it is important for the general public to be more aware of the difficulties prisoners and their families face. Pact therefore is an essential organisation to spread the message and to encourage people to get more involved’.

Please contact Theresa and Marie if you would like to know more or get involved: [email protected]

Justpeople small group workshops

Check out the Parishes and Groups pages on Pact’s website 

Keep in touch through our quarterly magazine Fresh Start