Tag Archives: prisoner

25 June, Today this is my vocation, X: being a kind friend is powerful.

Volunteers have a vocation which they might admit to, if pressed. Here is part of what the London Irish Chaplaincy has to say for itself.

The Irish Chaplaincy today

Today, we continue to meet and walk alongside Irish people, especially those most isolated and vulnerable such as Irish prisoners, older Irish people and Travellers. Our work stems from our spiritual roots, embracing the core meaning of Catholic, which is ‘universal’ and ‘inclusive’. We work with people regardless of their religious background.

Who said innovation was the only route to revolution?

Although the term ‘innovation’ seems to be the buzzword, we’ve found that most of the time it’s the little things that make a big difference. For example, simply talking to someone, holding a Travellers’ forum in a prison to offer someone a voice, or writing a letter to a prisoner are the most effective ways to lift their spirit. We know people’s needs change over time and we’ve carried out plenty of research to be sure we’re offering the most helpful services. But the message is clear, that in most cases simply being a kind friend is powerful enough to change someone’s life. For us, these simple actions have stood the test of time.

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Irish Chaplaincy: walking with hope.

Irish Chaplaincy

Are you ready, boots? Start walking!

This week, from April 19th– 24th 2021, many people will be walking to raise funds for the work of the Irish Chaplaincy, and to raise awareness of the elderly Irish we support in Britain, whether living alone or in care homes or in prison. To join in, contact Declan.ganly@irishcaplaincy.org.uk . Put the Spring in your step!

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My Thoughts on 20/03/2021 by Canon Anthony Charlton of St Thomas’ Church, Canterbury.

We ought by now to have included a few more posts from St Thomas’ church as well as from St Mildred’s! So here is Canon Anthony’s thought for today, fresh from his retreat at home. We’ll include a few more as time goes by. Will T.

My Thoughts on 20/03/2021

I have finished my 5 day retreat and would like thank you for all your prayers and good wished. It was organised by the Jesuit Spirituality Team for Catholic Clergy. Although it was not the same as going away, I found it a great blessing and hopefully prepared me for the coming Holy Week.

In today’s gospel the chief priest and the Pharisees wanted Jesus arrested. They didn’t like what he was saying and doing. They wanted to arrest him and certainly refused to consider him a prophet.”Go into the matter, and see for yourself : prophets do not come out of Galilee.”

This reminds me of the report in the Guardian newspaper in January about the persecution of Christians face today in many parts of the world.

“More than 340 million Christians – one in eight – face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith, according to the 2021 World Watch List compiled by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors. It says there was a 60% increase over the previous year in the number of Christians killed for their faith. More than nine out of 10 of the global total of 4,761 deaths were in Africa.”

Here in the UK we are blessed to have the freedom to express our belief freely and unhindered. Let us pray for all those who at this time are persecuted and suffer imprisonments torture and even death for being followers of Jesus Christ.

Canon Father Anthony

Canon Father AnthonyParish Priest

Help Spread the Word……

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15 March: Jeremiah at the Temple Gate, Gates IV.

We take up the story after Jeremiah had been witnessing against child sacrifice just outside the gates of Jerusalem. He goes back into town and through the Benjamin gate to the Temple courtyard.

Then Jeremias came from Topheth, whither the Lord had sent him to prophecy, and he stood in the court of the house of the Lord, and said to all the people:

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring in upon this city, and upon all the cities thereof all the evils that I have spoken against it: because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

Now Phassur the son of Emmur, the priest, who was appointed chief in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremias prophesying these words. And Phassur struck Jeremias the prophet, and put him in the stocks, that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, in the house of the Lord.

 And when it was light the next day, Phassur brought Jeremias out of the stocks. And Jeremias said to him: The Lord hath not called thy name Phassur, but fear on every side. For thus saith the Lord: Behold I will deliver thee up to fear, thee and all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thy eyes shall see it, and I will give all Juda into the hand of the king of Babylon: and he shall strike them with the sword. And I will give all the substance of this city, and all its labour, and every precious thing thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Juda will I give into the hands of their enemies: and they shall pillage them, and take them away, and carry them to Babylon. But thou, Phassur, and all that dwell in thy house, shall go into captivity, and thou shalt go to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and there thou shalt be buried, thou and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied a lie.

Jeremiah 19.14 – 20.6

Jeremiah was not a man for the quiet life – well, he might have been, but for the Lord’s call. He did try to evade it by saying he was too young, but to no avail; called and sent he was, so to Jerusalem he went and proclaimed the Word. And got beaten by the chief priest and left in the stocks overnight. Did he slink away with his tail between his legs? No, he spoke the Word again. The exile in Babylon was coming fast.

Jeremiah would later encourage the exiles not to put their lives on hold, but to build a new life for themselves in Babylon, as we see many of them do in the Book of Daniel and elsewhere. Am I simply marking time, awaiting the end of the exile from ‘normal life’ that covid19 has led us to?

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28 February: Blessed William Richardson

You never know what you might find on the Web! I’d never heard of Blessed William Richardson till I saw his name in Hallam News, from the Catholic South Yorkshire diocese. A remarkably brave man to go prison visiting among Catholics, aware that he might be betrayed at any time. The full article from which this is taken can be found here. Remembering him, we also honour Christians of many allegiances, killed for their beliefs, and pray that we may continue to work to bring all our communities together.

Blessed William Richardson grew up close to where the South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire borders meet.

We know from the Entry Book in the English College in Spain that William was a convert to the Catholic faith and was received into the Church by one of the clergy at Wiesloch, Germany, where at that time he was working.  He was called to the priesthood, attended the English College in Spain, studying Philosophy and Theology, and was ordained priest there in 1594 and then returned to England.

Most of William’s life was spent working in London often with the legal profession in the Inns of Court.  He visited prisons as an ordinary visitor, to take Mass to Catholics imprisoned for their faith, and he was sentenced to death after being betrayed by a priest catcher.  His execution took place on Tyburn Gallows, by the barbaric act of being hung, drawn and quartered on 17 February in 1603.  There is no knowledge of his last resting place, but if we can find a King under a car park, we may one day learn of his last resting place.

William’s death was in the reign of Elizabeth 1 and he was the last priest to be murdered at that time.  Elizabeth 1 died one week later.  Bishop Challoner tells us he accepted his death with such constancy and faith, and praying for the Queen, that impressed his executioners.

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22 November, St Cecilia: Viva la Musica

Further musical reflections from Eddie Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy; a good one for Saint Cecilia, even if it was written a while ago. Viva la musica!

Music is especially evocative during Advent, although for some people the memories touched can be bittersweet, as I discovered on a prison visit a couple of weeks before Christmas.

We were in HMP Wormwood Scrubs for the regular Irish Chaplaincy Traveller forum and I’d brought my guitar in to play to what turned out to be a very lively group! One or two of the younger guys were being a bit overly boisterous but I didn’t let it put me off. I just kept singing and I just kept smiling, as I looked around the group making eye contact. It was reassuring to see that a couple of the men were quietly singing along to the Irish songs. I’d planned as well to go into a medley of Christmas songs, both traditional and modern (assuming that everyone would be in the mood for some Christmas music); but was pulled up short when one guy exclaimed “we don’t want to be reminded of Christmas when we’re in here”. “Can I at least do ‘Fairytale of New York’”, I pleaded, and happily they relented, and were singing the chorus with gusto. I think I managed to win them over because when it came to the refreshments they were almost fighting each other to make me a cup of tea. I ended up with four! One of which had so much sugar in it, it was undrinkable! Not to matter; I was really touched, so too when there was a whip round for mince pies for me, before any leftovers got secreted into jogging trouser pockets to be smuggled back to the cells!

There was a man sitting next to me who had not seemed very happy when I’d been singing and I assumed he just didn’t like the songs or didn’t like me or whatever! But after the drinks he suddenly said to me “you’ve a queer good voice but this just reminds me of being in the pub”. Another came over to talk to me. He’d been one of those singing along and he was a good bit older than the rest. He explained to me “ah, the young guys get a bit over-excited”. We had a really nice chat. It was his first time in prison and he said “it’s like spending 23 hours a day in a bathroom”. That was certainly a striking image of the reality of being in prison.

The week before the Scrubs gig I’d been singing in a care home in Kensington for people with dementia, which I always enjoy. I do mainly Irish songs for the benefit of the Irish people there but everyone in what is a very international group of residents appreciates the music. As I was going round greeting people on arrival one of the Irishmen, clearly in a cheeky mood, motioned to the lady next to him and said to me “give her a kiss”!

This group were very much up for Christmas songs! People were singing along with the so-familiar melodies; and when it got to ‘Jingle Bells’ even some of those who are normally quite subdued were joining in and moving their arms, with their faces lighting up in recognition. It was a lovely moment. So too when a Columbian lady (the one I’d been encouraged to kiss at the start!) came up to me and said in Spanish (she appears to have reverted to her mother tongue in her later years) “the singing  was beautiful. May God bless you”.

We’re currently planning our second annual St Brigid’s Day concert, which will take place on January 31st 2020 at St James’ Church, Piccadilly: a ‘Celebration of Irish music, poetry and dancing’. Like the events mentioned above, it will bring people together and, I have no doubt, touch the heart and the soul and raise the spirit. Amongst the variety of talented performers on the bill we’ll have the young people of the London Celtic youth Orchestra and the ‘more mature’ members of the Irish Pensioners Choir’. It promises to be another wonderful occasion.

How blessed I am to have contact with such incredible people in such a rich variety of situations and to have music as one of the means by which we encounter one another and share in our common humanity.

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Some Things We Can’t Think


Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Frank Cottrell-Boyce

There’s a chance to see author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce when he gives this year’s Sir Harold Hood Memorial Lecture entitled ‘Some Things We Can’t Think’ on 3rd December 2020 6.30pm – 8.20pm

Frank will be talking about stories which tell the world who we are. What happens if we don’t get to tell our own stories? What happens if we don’t recognise ourselves in the stories that are told about us?

This year’s lecture will also combine with the premiere of our new short documentary by Martin Freeth, ‘Hidden Sentences: Voices of Prisoners’ Families’.

Following the film and lecture, there will be a Q&A session with Frank and some of the people with lived experience of the justice system who feature in the film.

This is a free event. Donations to the work of Pact are warmly welcomed and can be made online here. There will be a brief talk by Andy Keen-Downs, Pact CEO, about the work of the current work of the charity in support of people affected by imprisonment.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce is an award-winning storyteller. Frank Boyce was born into a Catholic family in Liverpool in 1959 and studied English at Oxford where he met Denise Cottrell, a fellow undergraduate. They married in Keble College chapel and together have seven children. Frank first worked as a television critic for Living Marxism magazine, and wrote episodes for Coronation Street and Brookside. As one of the most respected screenwriters working in the British film industry, Frank has written the screenplays for many feature films including Welcome to Sarajevo, Code 46, Butterfly Kiss, 24 Hour Party People and Goodbye Christopher Robin. His first novel, Millions, was based on his own screenplay for the film of the same name, and was published by Macmillan in 2004. In 2010, Frank co-presented the Papal Visit at Hyde Park with TV personality Carol Vorderman. Frank’s long-standing artistic collaboration with Danny Boyle included their work together to craft the Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2012 telling the story of Britain through a multi-media extravaganza. He has authored numerous children’s books including sequels to Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In 2004 he was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Millions, and in 2012 his novel The Unforgotten Coat won the Guardian Prize. Frank’s most recent children’s book, Runaway Robot, was published in 2019.

The Sir Harold Hood Memorial Lecture is held most years by Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) as an opportunity to celebrate the life and memory of a great friend and champion, the late Sir Harold Hood. The lecture seeks to contribute to public knowledge and understanding of how we as a society can make our prisons places in which individuals can achieve personal change and growth, and leave to live good lives, in stable and healthy relationships with family and the wider community.

This is the eighth lecture in memory of Sir Harold Hood. The first was held in the Chapel of HMP Brixton and was given by Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Other lectures have been given by the late Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Lucia do Rosario-Neil, Bishop Richard Moth, Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ, Dr Galena Rhoades (transcript not available), and His Honour Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, Recorder of London.

To find out more and book your place please go to: www.prisonadvice.org.uk/Event/hh2020

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16 October: In Prison and you came to visit me

It’s a while since we heard from the Irish Chaplaincy in London, but they’ve been busy. Here Eddie tells us about work for prisoners that continues out of sight and mind of most of us.

Jesus was speaking in a time long before the coronavirus came along and put a stop to prison visiting.

During the pandemic many prisoners have been banged-up (confined to their cells) for up to 23 ½ hours per day, and with activities and education cancelled. Most work too has been suspended, and with it the chance to earn a little bit of money with which to purchase basic necessities or make a phone call. One of the letters we received showed the unenviable choice about how to spend the daily half an hour of ‘freedom’: to take a shower; to join the queue for the phone (assuming you have the means to make a call); or to go into the exercise yard, where there may be a distinct lack of social distancing. Travellers have been perhaps particularly affected by this confinement in a tiny space for large periods of time.

The fantastic team at the Irish Chaplaincy has been unable to make the usual regular visits to the hundreds of Irish and Irish traveller prisoners in England & Wales, but has been as busy as ever, supporting people in other ways. There have been many phone calls, including to the families of prisoners (often back in Ireland), and to various prison staff; and at Easter over 1,000 people were contacted via ‘e-mail a prisoner’ with an individual message of hope and a special prayer written by our Fr Gerry. Phone credit has been provided to many people, so they can keep in touch with loved ones. And it is this maintenance of family contact which is said to be the single most crucial factor in eventual successful rehabilitation.

The team has supplied in-cell resources to about 500 people, which have included books, CDs, mindful-colouring, pens, puzzles, games and hobby equipment. And 103 Irish women in custody were sent a special pack (seen in the above picture). One recipient wrote from HMP Bronzefield:

The colouring book is so lovely, means so much, made me cry. I love felt tip pens also, really helps me with mental health side.”

There have been many other messages of thanks, including this recent one:

Yous are lovely people and if I ever get out I’d like to volunteer if of course you need any help with anything as I think yous do amazing service to people in difficult situations.”

The team is now assembling and sending out ‘Keeping Connected’ packs, comprising: notepad, a pack of envelopes, greetings cards, nice pens, credit for stamps, and a prayer card. Again, this will facilitate the crucial contact with family at a time when visits are not happening.

The team will be much in demand for their visiting, at such time as they can resume. For the time being, the amazing service continues.

By Eddie Gilmore

October 11th-17th 2020 is Prisons Week

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14 May: Prisoner’s hope.

From the London Irish Chaplaincy Easter 2020 Newsletter.

The Travelling Forward Resettlement Project was launched in April 2019, to support Travellers in 5 selected London prisons to get out of and stay out of prison. This message is from a man who, just before Christmas, came out of HMP Brixton (where he had been supported by our team throughout his long sentence). He is now being helped in the community by the Resettlement Project.


Good morning Fiona, I can’t afford to buy you all some flowers at the moment, to say thank you. So I got you these for now! they don’t smell too great! Lol but I was told it’s the thought that counts lol it’s to say how grateful I am to you all for all you have done for me. You have all been so
supportive to me. All your time, help and support means the world to me in these tuff times! It’s why I keep going at times knowing that you’re there in my corner with me, Helping and supporting me to fix my broken life. I feel so blessed to have you in my life. when you used to come and see me behind my prison door it kept me going for another day and brought the light into a dark place. You have all given me the gift of HOPE when I had none. I will forever be grateful to you all for that.

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH Fiona, Breda, Ellena and Father
Gerry.

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17 February: Volunteer of the Year

sr moira

This year the winner of Irish in Britain’s Individual Volunteer Award was our very own Sister Moira Keane. Moira has been a Mercy religious sister for 60 years, working on the margins of our society.  Her work over many years, in particular as a prison Chaplain for 12 years, brought her into contact with the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, where she has been a volunteer since 2012.  


Moira has an extensive and exceptional resume of volunteering, described as “a natural carer” with “boundless energy”. She gives invaluable hours to assist with prison visits, advice, advocacy, suicide attempt prevention, pastoral care as well as providing much needed support for distressed family members. 


Moira has worked on a number of ICPO projects as well as relieving caseworkers of admin and telephone duties when she’s in the office.  This is crucial respite for staff who oftentimes are dealing with a backlog.

Moira just keeps giving; she visits prisons if and when needed and often in her own time outside of her office hours.   Moira also puts herself forward as a resource for ICPO staff and volunteers, providing a listening ear and practical support where appropriate.  She has facilitated staff away days and also on occasion has opened her door to provide staff with much needed respite and even a break away. 


As ICPO provide a support service to Irish prisoners and their families, we are extremely fortunate to have a volunteer who has remained with us for more than seven years; and someone who has more than 12 years’ experience within the prison service as a Chaplain.


Moira’s wealth of knowledge is vast and we know what a difference she makes in the lives of Irish prisoners and their families; and how her expert support can lead to a healthier Irish prisoner community and aid rehabilitation.  For this reason we couldn’t think of a more fitting winner of IIB individual volunteer Award, than Sr. Moira Keane.
Moira’s undoubtedly impressive and endless resume of experience, skills and knowledge come even second to her wonderful gifts of loyalty and trust.  She has boundless energy and a magnificent sense of humour that keeps her and those around her going and going.  Her honesty, which she makes no apology for, is second to none.  Moreover, it is doubtful there is anything in the world that Moira wouldn’t help a vulnerable person with if in their best interest.  She has proved this time and again, leaving those working with her in awe.  


The impact of Moira’s voluntary work can be summed up as: improving the emotional and material well-being of Irish people in prison; and helping to reduce isolation for them and their families while supporting staff in a practical and pastoral way.
All in all a worthy winner of this prestigious award.

Breda Power, London Prisons’ Visitor

Are you Interested in Volunteering for the Irish Chaplaincy….
We have many opportunities, including: befriending, prison visiting, answering the phone, casework, admin, fundraising, comms.
Contact Declan Ganly:  declan.ganly@irishchaplaincy.org.uk  

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