A year of prison ministry in the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service Foundation, Inc. (PJPS) as a Jesuit Volunteer taught me an important lesson in life—rediscovering the seed of goodness that God has planted in the hearts of all people, including the sinners. I believe that the PJPS community shaped me to become a better person. Being with the persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) was a first-hand encounter of God’s forgiveness, mercy and justice. A PDL once told me, “Bro… nagkasala ako sa lipunan at sa Diyos kaya ako nandito. Pero sa kabila ng aking pagkamakasalanan, hindi ako sinukuan ng Diyos. At sa aking pagsisi sa nagawa ko, alam ko na dinala Niya ako dito sa Bilibid upang ibalot ng kanyang pagmamahal at awa. Tinuruan niya ako kung paano buhayin ang binhi ng kabutihan na Kanyang itinanim na sa aking puso. Araw-araw N’yang binabago at hinuhugasan ang mga pusong makasalanan. Salamat sa lugar na ito dahil dito N’ya ako tinuruan na maging mabuting tao ulit.” (trans. #1) God indeed is very present in the prisons.
I realized too that it is never too late for anyone who has committed terrible, or even worse acts in the past to be reformed and get in touch with his/her goodness within. It is vital to give one a chance to be in a suitable and relevant reformation program and activities.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the PJPS community where I had real encounters with Jesus in the prisons. My prayer: Nawa’y lagi kong maisapuso ang mga natutunan ko sa PJPS. Kaisa ako sa PJPS sa patuloy na paghawak sa paniniwalang may kabutihan sa puso ng bawat tao, lalong lalo na sa bawat PDL. Amen. (trans. #2)
trans. #1 “Bro… The reason why I am here is that I have sinned against the society and God. But despite my sinfulness, God did not abandon me. And as I repended, God brought me her and He could embrace me with His love and mercy. He taught me how to make alive the seed of goodness that God planted in my heart. God is changing me everyday, and He washes the hearts of sinful men and women. Thank you for this place where God taught me to become a good person again.” trans. #2 May the lessons that I learned in PJPS be always kept in my heart. I'm one with PJPS in believing that there's goodness in everyone's heart, especially in the heart of every PDL. Amen.
Rommel “Baldo” Gersava is a graduate of AB Philosophy and a former seminarian from St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary in Iloilo City. He was assigned to work in PJPS as pastoral associate for formation in June 2019.
With his experience in seminary work, he spearheaded programs that served the moral, spiritual, and humanitarian needs of PDLs in New Bilibid Prison. Some of his endeavours and initiatives include conducting a weekly feeding program for PDLs in Minimum Security Compound, coordinating with parish personnel for liturgical concerns, and serving as Values Formation teacher for Children in Conflict with the Law.
Having fulfilled his responsibilities in PJPS in June 2020, Baldo is set to work for Ang Arko ng Pilipinas, Inc., a community for persons with disabilities, in Cainta, Rizal.