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The Ministry Continues: A Special Feature on COTK’s Prison Ministry

All beautiful things come from humble beginnings. It all started with a simple desire to reach out to others - that being actualized by personal visits to the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) initiated by the late Fr. Manny Melendrez during the mid 90s. He went there to evangelize and to bring hope to the people who have suffered months to years in isolation. The late Sis Yolly Velasco also carried that same desire in her heart to share the word to these women. Both of these beautiful people are still remembered by the other Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) in the CIW up to the present.

Those personal, spontaneous visits did not end in vain. Rather, those little acts of kindness gave birth to an even greater ministry that is still evident until today. Continuing the legacy that both Fr. Manny and Sis Yolly have left in their respective lives, several people from the Cathedral of the King responded to the call of a commitment to the PDLs of CIW...hence, the existence of the Prison Ministry.

The Prison Ministry, headed by Dcn. Lito Robles and Dcn. Nestor Ison, has been faithful to its vocation for the past 20 years. They started their ministry to a total of 70 PDLs, who eventually increased to 200; but several years later, they were able to reach out to almost 400 women in the advent of other religious organizations backing out due to a very strict system maintained by the institution. The ministers have long conducted regular visits to the CIW wherein they not only share the word, but also do counseling and anointing of the oil for healing, provide snacks and soap - which is among the main requests of the PDLs - as well as bring gifts for the birthday celebrators. It used to be a monthly visit, and was then changed to a quarterly activity, in compliance with the CIW administration. Moreover, every Christmas season, the regular visits become extra special as they bring the PDLs more food and groceries. There is also an annual presentation which serves as the highlight of the program, and prizes are also prepared for the winning performers. The Prison Ministry has striven for several years to offer these women a warm Christmas celebration to somehow ease the pain of being behind bars during this festive season. Many people within and even outside the Cathedral of the King family have been a vital part in all the success of this ministry. Many people have donated and participated in any way possible and such are just among the numerous proofs that God has never forgotten His children; and that His love and faithfulness is made available to ALL.

January 2020 came and the team was again allowed by the administration to conduct monthly visits. It was truly a great news for them as this was in line with the aim of planting a stronger foundation of God’s word and promises into the hearts of every woman whom they have ministered to. However, the pandemic occurred and it has caused a huge change, not only in our lives, but more so in the lives of these PDLs. Given our country’s situation, regular visits of families, friends and even various ministry groups to these women have been subjected to major restrictions since March for health and safety purposes. Hence, for the past several months, the amount of help and assistance – in terms of their physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs – have also been greatly limited. We all have struggled during this pandemic and such does not exempt these people. However, the COTK Prison Ministry remained true to its mission and vision and so they have found ways to continue the support to these PDLs, even in the time of COVID-19. Last July, Dcn. Nestor Ison, as the representative of the group, endorsed boxes of bath soap and laundry soap, as well as gallons of alcohol to the CIW. October came and Dcn. Nestor Ison, Sis Edith Lao, and Sis Rosemarie Medina once again delivered boxes of bath soap and laundry soap, together with boxes of several medicines to 370 PDLs of the same institution.

Christmas 2020 is fast approaching and we all are aware of the high possibility of celebrating this much-awaited festive season in a way entirely different from the usual. This time, we may not be able to freely go to the malls, or travel to different parts of the country or the world, or even hold grand family reunions like we usually do. Nevertheless, no matter what the situation is, the spirit of giving and genuine care for others must remain alive in our hearts – because that is what makes us “human”. This is also the very standpoint of the COTK Prison Ministry. They strongly believe that despite our current situation, the vocation still continues. As they say, “Nothing can stop us from fulfilling our ministry...not even COVID-19.”


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