Friday, January 23, 2009

Imprisoned and Free

Greetings, everyone!

I apologize for my long absence. I was supposed to be back a little after Christmas, but there was a delay in the legal system that kept me in San Salvador.

Here's what happened:

There was a group of us on a couple of buses headed from El Salvador to the state of Chiapas in Mexico. We weren't there to be political, but to help on medical missions and other types of missions that were in place to work with the people in those countries. The buses we were on weren't for missionaries, but were just average routes. I spent part of it holding on to a bag of chickens for the campesina who sat across the aisle from me!

Anyway, just before we passed into Mexico, a couple of tourists got on board, and shortly after that, the bus was stopped.

A group of armed men boarded, all wearing black, wearing black berets, holding really big guns. The woman next to me smarted off to them, and when they responded, she told them that she didn't have to cooperate because she was an American citizen.

They hauled both she and I off the bus, along with a few other people, and took everything we had. We watched the other bus go by, and I saw Mother Frangelico watching.

There ws nothing she could do to help us. The bus didn't stop.

The woman I was with, even though I didn't want to be with her, kept pulling me into her trouble. Neither of us spoke a lot of Spanish, and finally (Deo Gratias!) we were separated. I think I managed to convince them that the stupid blonde (um, sorry Mother Frangelico_ and I weren't together.

Nor were either of us criminals. If she'd kept her mouth shut, we both would have been passed over, but she made a scene, and she kept making a scene. I don't know who she was with, but in any case, we both got sent to a prison in San Salvador, in chains and shackles and the whole bit. It was terribly dramatic. One would think we were both horrible terrorists.

Everyone goes into prison that way.

I was really angry at first. I couldn't get word to Mother Frangelico, or to the group we were with. The prison had a chaplain, but I couldn't get a message to him or the bishop.

Well, there was a woman there who could help, and she knew the system and got a message through the guard to someone who was visiting someone else. That person took a message to the local parish priest, and he took the message to the Bishop.

The Bishop himself came to see me, and we talked about many things. He couldn't get me out, so he advised me to do what I could while I was there.

And again, at first I was really angry. I didn't care that the Bishop came to see me. I was angry that he wasn't doing anything to get me out. At least from my perspective. I even YELLED at him! And he didn't do anything. He wasn't anything but nice to me.

After I was taken back to the prison yard, I had some time to think, and he was right. So I started looking around, and there were all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. Some were there because they were supposed to be there. But so many were there because they'd offended this or that "authority". Some really awful things happened to some of them. I'd rather never speak of it, although maybe one day I'll have to, and I'm grateful those things didn't happen to me.

When they finally came to get me out, I didn't want to leave. That was true. It wasn't because it was so great there, but I didn't want to go and leave those people behind. They finally explained to me that I could do more for the prisoners if I left, and if they could, they'd find a way to send me back in a different way.

Well, the authorities wanted me to be in SOMEONE'S custody, so they allowed me into the custody of the Bishop, under the condition that I had to remain in his household or the associated convent. He placed me with the Sisters who lived there, a couple different communities. There was a lot I didn't understand, of course, although I'd learned a lot in prison, most of it things I shouldn't have been saying!

The Superior there was constantly in shock, even though I didn't know what I was doing wrong! But there was a novice there who spoke some English and was able to explain to Mother Superior that I really wasn't so profane, just had learned prison Spanish and didn't know any better. She was charged with teaching me proper Spanish so whever I said something I shouldn't have, she corrected me and if necessary, even wrote the phrase, even though she was blushing madly when she did it.

So over the last few months, I've really gotten to know the Sisters, and their work, and they do a lot of amazing things for the poor there. The Bishop has been wanting to start a prison ministry, and so had the Sisters. I became a link as I'd come from there.

I WAS supposed to come back here, but since the government of El Salvador wouldn't let me leave yet, the Bishop persuaded them to allow me to work with the Sisters, under their supervision, and they started a prison ministry.

For now, I'm back here in the US for further discernment, but I may be going back to El Salvador, to join the Sisters and work with them. I already feel like they're family to me.

But as Mother Frangelico, Father, and the Bishop have said, it's important that I have time away since the experience as a prisoner has tainted my own discernment. They want me to be around what is familiar, to be, well, maybe "deprogrammed".

I still have nightmares of a lot of things, and the things that happened to others, things that I saw. Not all of them while I was in prison, but some while working with the Sisters.

So for now, I'm back here at the Monastery, still discerning...happy to be back with my Sisters and Brothers.

And Dang it, where ARE the Brothers and Father?

1 comment:

Sr. Max said...

So you really liked being with them? You know, the prisoners.

Weren't you afraid that they would harm you like they did the others? Others - meaning the reasons they went into the prison.

You really want to go back?

Are the other Sisters still working with the prisoners?

What were the prisons like?

What were the prisoners like?

I have so many questions! Sorry!