Print Version    Email to Friend
A valiant woman in prison ministry

HONG KONG (SE): “It takes two to tango,” a bit of proverbial wisdom tells us. Another sage jewel tossed around in casual conversation goes, “Behind every great man is a great woman.”

Scripture too chimes in with its own bit of wisdom from the Book of Proverbs, “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband does safely trust in her, so that he shall have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 10:31).

Reverend Peter Lo Woo-lui, who became the first permanent deacon to be ordained for Hong Kong diocese on 5 July 1997, discovered that the support of his wife, Teresa Lo, has done far more than just put finishing touches to his ministry in the prisons of the territory.

During the past 15 years, Reverend Lo has fulfilled many roles in prison chaplaincy, finally working as an assistant to the Correctional Services Chaplain, the late Maryknoll Father Sean Burke.

During that time he did extensive visitation in high security facilities, prisons for men and women, as well as the aged and young people.

But he always maintained a special affection for prisoners from mainland China and has recently come out of retirement to run prayer sessions with them.

He said that 130 prisoners from the mainland had received baptism during his time and they were always sent back home with introductory letters to their prospective parish priests.

A prolific writer, Reverend Lo has also authored eight books and has at least two more in the pipeline. He has received permission for them to be made available to people through the prison libraries and they are specifically designed to be cell-friendly in size, colour and presentation.

“They are large and contain plenty of photographs, with colourful designs in order to catch the eye quickly. Everything is printed on a white background, making the contents stand out and easier to see in what are often poorly lit prison cells where people spend a large part of their day,” he explained.

He describes the purpose of the books simply as spreading the faith.

He adds that this is a first in the prisons of Hong Kong, as never before has this type of publication been made available in Chinese.

The next book he is planning is entitled, Please pray for the staff of the rehabilitation section. He also plans to put out one called, Please pray for the families of the prisoners.

He says that the books are aimed at creating an awareness within the highly structured and restrictive atmosphere of a prison that it is still a community of people and people do need each other’s support.

Mostly the books are presented in two parts; notes from homilies that he has given in the past and then some interesting stories related to prison life and ministry.

They also carry pictures of events that have been sponsored by the chaplaincy, as well short reflections on them. 

He says that this is where the support of his wife has been of paramount importance.

Although he gets a lucky break from the prison system, as the books can be printed cheaply, for as little as $15 each at Stanley Prison, the cost is still high and distributing them around the territory’s 24 prisons is a time consuming and arduous job.

“My wife not only works as a volunteer on the chaplaincy team going into the prisons and visiting people, but from her own resources has put up money to help pay for the publication of the books,” Reverend Lo told the Sunday Examiner.

“She has also played an indispensable part in another initiative; Christmas presents for prisoners,” the permanent deacon explained.

“At first, the Correctional Services Department gave permission to give out the gifts in eight prisons around Hong Kong and later upped it to 12. But now she is able to go to all 24 institutions each year. A tremendous task,” he said.

He explained that since this costs a lot of money, he has begun to sell his books through charitable outlets in the city in order to supplement the costs.

“All up, around 12,000 prisoners have received a gift through our chaplaincy work for the past two years at the festive season,” he explained.

Teresa Lo truly is a jewel who has brought joy and peace to many locked away hearts.