THE PRISON EXPERIENCE COMES TO AN END

 

As a member of the charitable work for the prisoners, Eugene had a certain success in most of his undertakings. Leflon describes his eventual failure in not getting old stale bread delivered to them. The reaction proved to be the stimulus that made Eugene resign from this position:

He was not so successful with Carles, the baker, however. Much to the contrary; the man’s abuses, which “Demazenot fils” had dared to denounce, became worse than ever. In spite of repeated warnings, the baker persisted in exploiting the prisoners, for he evidently enjoyed a certain protection. He even went to the extent of insulting the Semainiers, when they complained to him about the bad quality of his bread. The administrators finally became aroused when one of their recently named directors, Jerome Vial, resigned his duties in September, in protest against these intolerable insults, and they then decided to give an ultimatum: one of two things—either Mayor de Fortis will replace the baker, or he will dispense the members from verifying the man’s deliveries. However, the said Mayor de Fortis was determined to maintain the status quo, arguing that the Semainier had all the power that was needed to exercise effective control.

 

Meanwhile, like his colleague Vial, Eugene de Mazenod handed in his resignation. But, while Vial had given as his reason the impossibility “of adequately fulfilling the obligations which each of us assumed when we accepted the duties that we were called upon to share equally,” Eugene, on the other hand, contented himself with giving, as his reason, domestic affairs, “which are absorbing all the time, he would like to devote to the charitable works to which he had been called.”

Did he, too, feel that it was useless to try to help the prisoners through a mode of action that was meeting insurmountable obstacles, as well as disinterest on the part of his colleagues? Did someone hint that his youthful zeal was somewhat excessive and out of keeping with the traditional reserve of the organization? Whatever the case may have been, no one tried to stop him from resigning. If the prisoners lost out, the “Charitable Works” recovered its placid ways, for according to the reports made at its future meetings, the organization confined itself to strictly administrative tasks and signed their checks without being too much concerned about human and Christian charity.

At least the experience had proved useful in revealing to Eugene a material and moral misery he never even suspected of existing. ” Leflon I, p. 286

All this became a learning opportunity for the young Eugene, who was undergoing life-changing experiences at this very time concerning his personal “domestic affairs.”

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“In spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser and happier as a result.”   Joseph B. Wirthlin

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One Response to THE PRISON EXPERIENCE COMES TO AN END

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This could be said to be happening in some ways today. It reminds me of the story of a first world company which moved it’s manufacturing plant to a large third world city. The company told it’s customers that the move was because it could make it’s products more cheaply there than it could at home and so charge the customers less – and it reminded those same customers that it would be a good thing for the people in the third world country because it would open up new jobs for them where there had been none before. The company neglected to disclose that the pollution from the new plant would decimate the lands and waters, and did not mention that it would be children who would work all day in their plant with little in the way of breaks or food and that the days would be very long with the pay being only a few pennies. Rather the company would proudly speak out of how it was a win-win deal for all. Not an uncommon practice in this time, but that doesn’t make it right either.

    I am reminded of a time in my own life that I had forgotten about. Many years ago I worked for an organization which worked with federal day parolees – high risk parolees. After being with them for a little while I, along with some of my colleagues began to notice some irregularities in how some of the parolees were being treated and what they were being told to do. When we started to speak out things got very ugly and very scary. We spoke out to the authorities but things did not change and so most of us made the decision to quit, which was very hard to do, some of them had children to feed and mortgages to pay. Two of us ended up moving from that city to the one where I now live. We did not do what we did with a roar, but thankfully some changes were made due to our speaking out as we did. For me it was important not to ‘bend and go along with what had been in my mind as basically wrong’. It was an incredibly hard and scary time to go from having no job and then finally getting one that I really did like, and then to quitting because of my personal beliefs and ethics.

    Funny but there is no anger rising up within me as I look back on that time. God’s mercy not only included strength and some wisdom but healing of my heart.

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