Monday 24 June 2019

Ardee prison worker Sr Angela marks 40 years in Chile jail

Mid Louth Diary

Hubert Murphy

There are people from all over the region working in different places all over the world.

But how many spend their daily lives helping prisoners in a jail in Santiago, Chile!

That's the life of remarkable Ardee nun, Columban Sister Angela McKeever who has spent most of her religious life in Chile, decades working with prisoners.

Her remarkable story is told in the latest edition of 'Far East' and Sr Angela gives a great insight into her calling.

She has just completed 40 years in the country and 25 years visiting the 'Peni' - the oldest jail in Santiago.

It was built about 1820 and was supposed to be for 500 men. Today, there are 5,000 in the place and up to a few years ago, the figure was 7,000.

But each day Sr Angela attends and does her best to help the men, many addicted to drink and drugs. Others make weapons for fights and gang warfare is rife.

Angela works with other religious groups, allowed to enter the cells and exercise area.

There is also a women's section and Angela recalls meeting an inmate who said her seven sons were in the men's jail at the same time.

Angela was in Chile when a terrible fire broke out in the jail, some 81 men killed in the 2010 blaze.

'On the whole, jail is a cruel place steeped in darkness. We go there bringing some hope and light from the word of God. At times you do meet some who want to come out of the darkness and change their hearts of stone and walk in the light of God. So we keep on going, keep on hoping, keep on praying for those prisoners.'

Angela has written about 'rivers of pain and suffering which flow through the prison cells' and although doing great work in the jail, the men soon return after they are released.

She remarked, "My hopes have been dashed so many times; it's only by God's grace we keep going. It is by faith in him, who loves the very worst of these prisoners, that we find deep peace and a joy in reaching out to these men.' Sr Angela joined the Columban Sisters in 1966 and after her profession trained as a nurse in London.

Drogheda Independent