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Prior to the building of the current prison in Juticalpa, the Catholic Church had and continues to have, a well established prison ministry. Every Saturday different groups from of all our parishes visited the state prison in Juticalpa. Typically, these groups were accompanied by a priest, who celebrated Mass for the inmates. Afterwards, we usually spent a couple of hours giving out cigarettes, medicine, clothing, playing cards, canned food and more. That state prison was built 90 years ago to hold a capacity of 100 prisoners. Unfortunately, such a facility proved to be inadequate as inmate numbers rose to over 500. Living conditions deteriorated to the point where literally, men were living and sleeping on top of one another, worse than animals. On a national level, Honduras has a very serious prison problem. In Olancho, we thought as a Church, we had to do something about the very serious and urgent situation. It was like a bomb, waiting to explode!


In 2005, after much conscience building throughout the diocese, a very active and generous member of our parish donated 10 acres of land. In no time at all, we had a serious plan drawn up and with one thousand dollars, we began the construction of the prison. Intitially, we began to dig trenches, haul gravel and sand and putting in the first foundations. Our efforts quickly got noticed. The president of Honduras, taking note of the great work being done, showed up one day with a cheque of ten million lempiras. Our budget was tight at nineteen million lempiras, so we were thrilled to receive half of our costs, with only another half to go. Our goal was to build a prison for 800 people! Once again, our benefactors in Toronto, USA and Europe chipped in. Here in Olancho, each parish started a series of activities to raise funds for our brothers behind bars. It took us eighteen months of hard work, blood, sweat and even some tears of joy as we approached the completion of the project.


On a sunny day December 9, 2007 Bishop Mauro Muldoon, ofm blessed the new prison. President Manuel Zelaya cut the ribbon at the grand opening ceremonies. This marked an important day in the history of the Catholic Church in Olancho. Our prison project was an extension of our brotherly love for all the inmates, to help the least of His brethren "...I was sick and in prison and you did visit me...(Matthew 25:36)". Not only have we visited the least of His brethren, but we have endeavored to better their way of life, helping to ensure that as people, they live and are treated proper to the dignity of human beings.


Today, 567 of our brothers live behind bars in far better conditions than in the past. All the inmates are grateful to the Franciscans and we still continue with our Saturday visitations. In Olancho, we believe that because of life's circumstances, the state can limit one's freedom, but nobody can ever interfere with one's dignity!