Say Queijo!

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Say Cheese!  It’s the same expression Brazilians use when someone is about to take their picture…even though the phrase is in English.  They all know the English word “Cheese” even if almost no one speaks English in Brazil.

So, when someone is about to take our picture in Brazil, I will yell “Say Queijo”, the Portuguese word for cheese.  Everyone thinks for a second and begins to laugh.

Here are some pics of one of the Brazilian women’s prison we visit.  (Their faces have been obscured in order to respect their privacy.)

In the pics you can see the courtyard where we meet and read the Gospel together and sing.  We also normally give the “girls” rosaries and religious reading materials. There are usually several other missioners with me when we visit too.

Please take a minute to think about and pray for these women and their families.

Thanks for reading!

Tiago

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Looking Back by Fifi

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(The final of four new reflections from a Dutch women in a São Paulo prison.  We call her Fifi.  In this reflection, she keeps alive the memory of her son, Mikai who died within a week of his birth.  Please pray for the Fifi and her son Mikai.  Please also keep the incarcerated women in São Paulo’s prisons in your prayers.  Fifi has given her permission to share her reflection via this blog post although her name has been changed.)

Sometimes I am looking back to the worst moment (of my life) the death of my son and depression.  Then I start thinking; Wow, was I in my depression.

It is hard to lose your child and keep asking “Why?” and “Why me?”

I know now that he is healthy/happy and being taking care of.  Even if he is not here anymore, he is with me every moment of the day.  He is watching over me in my dreams, at work, everywhere I am.  One day I will be together with him and we will be a family again.

Him and God give me the power to get out of my depression.  I am thankful for that

Now I am only thinking about the nice moments we had together.  Today I am laughing and not crying.

Dear Mikai,

I am proud to be your mommy and to be called mommy (by you.)  Thank you Mikai, my beautiful son.  I love you!

Fifi

Stairs to Heaven by Fifi

 

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(The third of four new reflections from a Dutch women in a São Paulo prison.  We call her Fifi.  In this reflection, she sends a short note to her son, Mikai who died within a week of his birth.  Please think about and pray for the Fifi and her son Mikai.  Please also keep the incarcerated women in São Paulo’s prisons in your thoughts and prayers.  Fifi has given her permission to share her reflection via this blog post although her name has been changed.)

Everyone goes one day to heaven.  Some sooner than the others.

Children are meant to survive their parents.  They are not meant to go first.  Unfortunately, the Lord sometimes has other plans for the children. They go up the stairs of heaven first; before the parents.

One day they will all be together again when the Lord wants it.  When that happens, the parents go up the stairs of heaven and the child is waiting behind the gate.

Dear Mikai,

One day I will have you in my arms again when the Lord wants it. I love you.

Fifi

Just to Scream by Fifi

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The Meeting of the Rivers near Manaus Brazil.

(I received four reflections from Fifi (a Dutch woman) this week so I will post them over the next several days.  This is the 9th in a series of refections by foreign women prisoners in Brazil and the fifth by Fifi.  In this reflection, Fifi SCREAMS and then feels a little calmer.  I hope by writing her reflections she feels a little calmer too.  Please think about and pray for the author “Fifi” and all the incarcerated women in São Paulo’s prisons.  Fifi has given her permission to share her reflection via this blog post although her name has been changed.)

Anger/aggression/sadness and frustration; where is it coming from?  I have no idea but sometimes I just don’t wanna feel it.

Just to feel nothing for a short while, feel complete peace.

Only me in a place and to scream all the feelings out, letting myself go for one time.

To cry/laugh/scream, to throw everything out.  And to be calm again and to go to a fresh place in the world.

Fifi

Life Behind Bars by Fifi

 

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(This is the 8th in a series of refections by women prisoners in Brazil and the fourth by Fifi.  In this reflection, Fifi shares her feelings on her life in the Brazilian Prison and how prison life has made her more thankful for the small things inlife.  Please think about and pray for the author “Fifi” and all the incarcerated women in São Paulo’s prisons.  Fifi has given her permission to share her reflection via this blog post although her name has been changed.  Additionally, I have made some small edits for readably and added my own words in parentheses.

If you are inspired to comment on Fifi’s reflections, please add a supportive note in the comment section below and I will ensure she gets your comment.)

In the night I am thinking about my life.  I miss Holland.

The freedom to do what you want and go where you want.  Here you can only leave your cell when there is prison yard time, when you go to work or if you have to transit somewhere (like the medical unit or administration offices.)

That is when you are thankful for your life at home and for the luxury (of home) compared to prison

Here you learn to live differently.  You are thankful (for the small things on the outside), what you have, to go shopping when you want, and eat what you want.

Prison has helped me to think of my life, what I will change, and what to be really thankful for.  But everything happens for a reason.

Open (Prison) Doors

 

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Photo taken in different prison and different time from the story below.

A recent post on one of my favorite blogs Inmate Blogger reminded me of an interesting story I would like to share with you.  The Inmate Blogger post provided important prison quotes/verses and asked its readers to share others with its audience.  Here is my favorite quote taken from one of the prisoners I met with last year and I shared via a comment on the post.

We were finishing up one of our religious visits to a Sao Paulo prison in the north of the city.  This particular prison is extremely overcrowded with 30-50 prisoners in cells meant for 10-15.  All the doors of the cells open to a large football field-sized courtyard where the prisoners can congregate and exercise outside of their cells. Unfortunately, the cell doors (of bars) are only open for roughly 10 minutes in the morning to let the prisoners out.  If the men do not leave their cells during this “open period,” the cell doors close again quickly and they are locked in their cells for the rest of the morning.  So roughly half of the men, those who left their cells during the “open period,” are in the prison courtyard while the others are locked in their cells.

We spent about an hour in the cellblock reading the Gospel, reflecting on its powerful message and praying with the men in the courtyard and any others locked in their cell who could watch and listen to the liturgy through the cell bars.  As we were making our way to the exit after our visit, one of the prisoners who we were praying and visiting with, looked at me with his eyes firmly planted on mine and said, “Thank you for coming. Our doors are always open for you.”

Wow!  I was immediately stunned and noted the irony.  Here is a man locked up everyday for most of his 24 hours and he was telling me his doors were always open to us.  I thanked him for the very warm response to our visit and shook his hand before the guards closed the cellblock doors behind us.

Its hard to describe the hospitality and welcome we receive when we make our visits to the prisons, but this one quote is still the most beautiful thing any prisoner has ever said to me.

Obrigado for Walking the Way Together

IMG_4336Just a very short post to you to share my thanks to all who posted a comment for Fifi (Netherlands) and Dawn (Canada) last week on their refections and poems.  I was able to share your powerful words  with them over the weekend and they were both very grateful.

Fifi was especially surprised and pleased to read all the loving comments on her thoughts about depression; especially when I explained to her all the different countries that were represented in the comments.  She is still struggling with her own loneliness and depression while living in prison but your words and thoughts provide comfort to her and the other women prisoners she will share them with.

Fifi immediately gave me another reflection for me to share with you.  Its written in her native Dutch language so I need a couple of days to translate it first.  Please be patient with me.

We are walking this camino and mission together.

Obrigado and abraços!  Thanks and hugs from Brazil.

Tiago