The following comes from an October 22 Angelus article by Jorge Luis Macias:
TECATE, MEXICO — Dozens of Catholics travelled to this border town to visit thousands of men in prison in El Hongo.
Convened by the Charity Missionary Theotokos at St. Anthony Church in San Gabriel, the visitors passed numerous security checkpoints before participating in the Holy Mass and sharing food with prisoners.
Every year, the group brings men’s briefs, T-shirts, socks and hygiene products for inmates. They began the tradition 18 years ago in a city jail in Mexicali. As part of the recent feast of Our Lady of Mercy — patron saint of prisoners — pilgrims and members of the Prison Pastoral of the Diocese of Mexicali joined Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz and Father Nicolas Batta Tierrablanca, priest of the Order of La Merced and spiritual leaders of prisoners in prayer.
“I see that God is in every one of them,” said Socorro Batanero, coordinator of the pilgrimage and parishioner of St. Anthony Church in San Gabriel. “One gets to feel as if you are in heaven; you see the prisoner’s fervor and their love for God. That tells me that they have found forgiveness for what they have done before in their lives.”
Professor Hilda Maria Larios Castañeda, member of the prison pastoral care of El Hongo, said the annual visit paid by the pilgrims of California is critical in the life of the inmates.
“That somebody cares about the needs they have is very valuable,” Larios Castañeda said. “As a Church, we are their family and they see us as family.”