Admitted on a leave of absence, accompanied by the Director, two educators from the IPM, Father Alessandro Giambra, chaplain of the same institute, and Father Francesco Bontà, a Salesian, Director of the San Cataldo Oratory, the two minors spent the first part of the meeting in a cultural journey of knowledge of the San Cataldo area, concluding their day at the oratory where they met with about 60 young people and animators of the Salesian center.
Inevitable, the initial awkwardness on both sides; in a total silence, the IPM Director invited them to appreciate it as a “gift” since it is precisely in silence that one listens to and understands each other.
Several reflections arose during the discussion in a stimulating exchange of questions and testimonies that made this meeting exciting, especially when the theme of freedom, so little appreciated in ordinary life and so much desired when deprived of it, was addressed.
The youth from the oratory were given the opportunity to learn about the true experience of prison life, which is quite different from the fictionalized one presented by some TV series; the IPM youngsters were given the opportunity to learn about another reality, made up of youngsters who cultivate the desire to be “good Christians and honest citizens."
The meeting resulted in the desire to start a collaboration between the Salesian Oratory and the Penal Institute.
The moment of dialogue was followed by a brief moment of fraternity lived in a Salesian atmosphere: a little football, chats with friends, not a few laughs ... all seasoned with time for refreshments.
If the meeting ended with the boys returning to the IPM, the reflection continued for a long time on the various WhatsApp groups with some beautiful and profound reflections from the students: “It was nice to know their story, and to see in their eyes the light of being free for a while;” “It’s not a given that since they’re in prison, they’re bad people, because most of the time you enter prison for a mistake that marks your life;” “Before being prisoners, they’re people like us...”
The beautiful moment lived together was an opportunity to remember that the prison environment is close to the Salesian experience because it was precisely from Don Bosco’s encounter with the young people of the “Generala,” the then juvenile prison in Turin, and from the encounter with their life stories and their suffering, that the ancient and ever new appeal emerged, “If someone had taken care of them...”
“And if, for obvious reasons, no photos remain as a memory of this meeting, we have the certainty that in the hearts of the youths, the beautiful emotions experienced will remain etched. Not only the doors and gates were opened but also and especially the hearts!” commented Luciano Arcarese, educator at San Cataldo, Salesian Cooperator.