Most Rev Vincent Long van Nguyen OFM Conv, the fourth Bishop of Parramatta, has washed the feet of inmates in a gesture of respect, humility and love as some of the most marginalised members of our community.
He made a pastoral visit to inmates and prison staff at Parklea Correctional Centre on Holy Thursday, 14 April.
Bishop Long washed the feet of 10 inmates as part of a Catholic Mass, which imitates Jesus Christ performing the same ritual for the twelve apostles at the Last Supper.
He told the inmates prison ministry was close to his heart.
“The washing of the feet ritual is a powerful reminder for all of us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus – to live our lives not in rivalry or dominion, but of service, love, collaboration and partnership,” Bishop Long said.
Governor Paul Baker said he was pleased Bishop Long had chosen Parklea to hold Holy Thursday mass.
“Parklea has five chaplains on our team of various faiths to ensure we are able to provide spiritual and emotional support to our inmates, their families and staff,” Mr Baker said.
“The chaplain’s role is to listen and provide counsel to inmates and their families when they need help, and when COVID restrictions permit, church services are held in our chapel.
“Having Bishop Long take time out of his busy schedule to deliver the mass here at Parklea is an important boost for the inmates when most people are spending the Easter weekend with their families.
“His communion with the inmates is a reminder that we are all equal in God’s eyes and everyone should be treated with decency and respect.
“I also see the primary purpose of chaplaincy services as offering hope to those who feel their future is hopeless – the promise of a brighter future is one we can all identify with.”
Parklea Catholic chaplain Richard Korkor said Bishop Long’s visit showed the inmates they are not forgotten.
“During his ministry, Pope Francis has visited people on the margins, and he has washed the feet of prisoners,” Mr Korkor said.
“I believe that Bishop Long mirrors the Holy Father’s ministry and mirrors the person of Christ to these inmates in giving a voice to the voiceless, and an opportunity to be seen and heard.
“His visit represents not just to the staff and management, but to the inmates, that they are in people’s thoughts.
“After a particularly tough two years, the bishop’s visit represents a feeling of hope, a moment of reprieve.”
Following the liturgy, Bishop Long spoke with prisoners over a cup to tea and hot cross buns.
This is the fifth time Bishop Long, as Bishop of Parramatta, has visited a prison on Holy Thursday. Parklea Correctional Centre is operated by MTC Australia on behalf of Corrective Services NSW.