Prisoners and Their Children are Not Forgotten at Christmas

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Prisoners and Their Children are Not Forgotten at Christmas Christmas is a tough time of year to be in prison. If you are a mum or dad, it can be particularly distressing. One mum told us ‘I didn’t want my children to think I had forgotten them.’

Pact is the national Catholic charity providing support to people in prison and their children and families. Through Pact’s Operation Elf appeal, hundreds of mums and dads in prison will be able to give their child a Christmas gift this year at a Pact Family Visit Day. This simple gift-giving helps mums and dads inside to maintain their identity as a parent and strengthens vital family bonds.

Operation Elf is Pact’s inspiring appeal which evolves each year as they strive to reach as many parents in prison across England & Wales as they can. This year, Pact’s Faith in Action team focussed on facilitating a range of parish-prison partnerships across a growing number of dioceses. In a concrete example of the Catholic Social Teaching’s subsidiarity principle, each partnership was organised differently to best suit those involved.

In Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception parish in Devizes, Clifton diocese, Pact’s parish rep Anne-Marie spoke at all Masses and held a collection. Parishioners responded with an amazing £1005 to help dads in nearby HMP Erlestoke give a modest gift to their child at a Pact Christmas Family Day.

In the dioceses of Arundel & Brighton and Portsmouth, parishioners in Sunningdale and Ascot responded to Pact parish rep Alice’s invitation by donating several car- loads of gifts to support dads at nearby HMP Coldingley. Members of these parishes have supported Pact’s work at Coldingley prison in a variety of ways over several years.

Following the sad death of parish priest Fr Dominic McKenna, parishioners at Borehamwood in Westminster diocese organised a wonderful collection of 30 gifts and an additional £400, to support men in prison in HMP Pentonville. Parish Administrator Sue Partington reported that parishioners were keen to continue their partnership with Pentonville in memory of Fr Dominic for whom this was a cause ‘close to his heart’.

In the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Parish rep Yvonne organised a collection of 92 simple gifts at St Chad’s Cathedral parish for parents in prison in the West Midlands to give to their children.

Gifts to support parents in HMPs Downview and High Down on the border of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton and the Archdiocese of Southwark, were generously donated by parishes from both dioceses: St. Ann’s Banstead and St. Elphege’s Wallington supported Downview; Holy Cross, Carshalton, once again provided gifts for High Down. In Kent, ‘Toy Sunday’ at the Catholic Churches of Westerham & Biggin Hill Wester will enable dads at HMP Elmley to give a gift to their child during a Pact Family Visit Day.

Schools have got involved in Pact’s Operation Elf appeal too. The chocolate raffle at St. Mary’s Catholic Federation in Carshalton, raised a fabulous £526 whilst Holy Cross School, New Malden, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Redhill, made beautiful Christmas cards in which mums and dads could write a special message to accompany their gift.

Members of the Anglican Mothers’ Union are longstanding, strong supporters of Operation Elf. This year they have provided gift cards and monetary donations totalling more than £1000. Their efforts will particularly enable mums and dads in prison to give their teenage child a gift card so they can go and choose a gift and chat about it with their parent.

One mum told us, ‘Your acts of kindness enabled me to send my little girl her first Christmas gift from her mummy since I was remanded in 2020. It has given us both so much joy and helped her understand that I love and think about her every moment of my day. Bless you.’

There are many more individuals, groups, and workplaces, who have supported Operation Elf – too many to list here. Thank you to everyone who has participated in supporting mums and dads in prison and their children. Your generosity helps them to look forward with joy and hope to being able to make a fresh start and lead good lives together in the future.

We know that when family bonds are nurtured where appropriate, a person leaving prison is 39% less likely to return to crime. This is a work of the common good and Pact deeply appreciates all those who have contributed in some way to supporting Operation Elf this year.

If you are interested in joining the vibrant community of Pact parish reps or in being part of Operation Elf next year, talk to Pact’s Faith in Action team: