Welcome to the Diocese of Lafayette!
Our Lenten journey is nearing its completion as we celebrate Palm Sunday and enter into Holy Week. This week we are visiting the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, where Catholic Extension funds a Palm Sunday bus trip that allows people to visit their loved ones in prison. Early in the morning, participants board a bus outside of St. Paul the Apostle Church, the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the Lafayette diocese. Many of the riders lack transportation, and the free bus trip to Angola State Penitentiary is the only way for them to visit their family members. Stephanie Bernard, the diocese's program coordinator for justice and peace said the bus ride "is always both a sad and a joyous trip."
"I think it gives the inmates hope that they're not forgotten, the hope that they're forgiven, and even for the parents, as they meet their children here, that they are still connected," she said. "People are really looking forward to hugging their child--something that we take for granted."
Watch the video below to meet Stephanie Bernard and ride along on the bus to Angola State Penitentiary.
On Palm Sunday for the last 25-plus years, the Diocese of Lafayette has provided transportation to Angola State Penitentiary for the poor and marginalized to visit their loved ones during the Lenten Season. As I journey to Angola I find myself reflecting on Jesus’ mode of transportation into Jerusalem. Scripture tells us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey knowing that his death was drawing near. We read that arriving in Jerusalem there was much excitement as he was greeted by the people in a manner befitting a King.
Just like Jesus, the families on the bus who journey to Angola know what awaits them. The passengers are fully aware of what they will encounter when they enter the gates of this maximum security facility. However, there is joy and anticipation as they long to see their loved ones. There is laughter and a sense of peace and resolve. There is also hope that one day their loved ones will be free and it will be no longer necessary for them to get up early in the morning to meet the bus for a four hour journey (2 hours each way).
On arriving back at the bus, the joy of having the opportunity to spend with their loved ones permeates on their faces as they express their thankfulness and gratitude to the diocese for providing the bus. Many express a sense of relief in that they found their loved ones to be in good health and spirits despite the circumstances.
As we begin the fifth week of Lent, please join us in praying the prayer below. Then share this prayer on Facebook and Twitter to encourage others to do the same.
The Catholic Church plays an essential role in helping the incarcerated and other populations on the fringes of society to know God's mercy and love. This week we ask you to consider giving up the cost of dining out for an evening to support programs like the bus ride to Angola that extend mercy to those who need it most.