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The Southern Cross : April 2012
April 2012 Page 3 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross news | An Adelaide Catholic woman has spent the past 16 years exchanging hundreds of letters about her life and that of her family's with an American prison inmate on death row. Later this month, Barbara Taylor will meet her pen-pal Bill Proctor -- a convicted murderer and rapist -- at San Quentin's State Prison in California. "It doesn't really matter to me what he's done," says Barbara, 59. "He was sentenced to death in 1983 and he's been in there all of this time; he was 20-years- old when he committed the crime and he has no family," she says. "I don't know whether he is innocent or not -- I don't really care." On April 19, the pen pals will meet for the first time. They have spoken by phone nearly a dozen times over the past 12 years and have exchanged hundreds of letters each month, including photographs. "I'm ecstatic," she says of her visit to the US prison. "He has become a real friend to me." Barbara, an Elizabeth parishioner, says she shares with Proctor, 49, news of her own life and that of her family and sends him money to buy prison basics, like shampoo. "He writes back about very little because there's not much happening in his life but he is interested in what happens in Australia." Barbara came to know of Proctor through a socialist party newspaper handed to her in the mid-1990s in an Adelaide rally protesting against Pauline Hanson's anti- multiculturalist politics. In the newspaper, Proctor was seeking pen-pals. "I've always been interested in the work of Helen Prejean," says Barbara. "I've always been against the death penalty and when I saw the article I felt sad for him (Proctor) and that he was so isolated. It was his brokenness that affected me most." Internationally acclaimed author Sister Helen Prejean is best known as portrayed by Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon in the US movie Dead Man Walking, with Sean Penn. Sr Helen, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, began her prison ministry in 1981 and became pen pals with convicted killer Patrick Sonnier, who was sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana's Angola State Prison. She wrote about the experience in a book that was nominated for a 1993 Pulitzer Prize. Barbara says the opportunity to visit Proctor only arose after a generous invitation to travel to the US with her daughter Sarah and her husband Kim. She says she feels relaxed about the prison visit. "I have nothing to fear," she says of Proctor. "It's more about what his friendship has been able to give me, than what I have been able to give him." Proctor was sentenced to death in 1983 for the rape and murder of a 55-year-old school teacher. On the Canadian Coalition Against the death penalty website, a prison inmate seeking pen pals called Bill Proctor says: "I love being a Christian, I also enjoy artistic and intellectual pursuits, I have plenty of conversation and opinions I'd like to share about life, love, moral value, truth, happiness, peace and freedom, etc. etc." FAITH HAS NO PREJUDICE: Barbara Taylor settles in to write letters to death row prison inmate Bill Proctor -- who she will meet face-to-face in the US later this month. Photo: Nat Rogers Pen pal with death row By Rebecca DiGirolamo Continued from page 1. Assistant chaplain to the Polish community Father Dominik Sobala says the Resurrection Mass on Easter Sunday morning was also an important part of Polish Easter. The Mass is preceded by a procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the Resurrection Church in Unley. "Easter is a very important time for the Polish community because, like Christmas, the families come together -- sometimes three and four generations," says Fr Dominik. Towards the north-east of Adelaide's CBD, a small population of migrants have transported from the central- eastern coastal region of Le Marche, in Italy, a quirky game called "Scoccetta", which is known in other cultures as the egg tapping or egg knocking game. On Easter Sunday, some "Marchigiani" continue the custom using coloured boiled eggs (prepared days earlier) in a game of pairs whereby each member of the pair takes turns to smash each other's egg. The person whose egg remains undamaged usually wins a small pool of money. The ritual varies from family to family and has evolved, says Marche Club member Cathy Papandrea, from a custom many migrants remember well as children in Italy. Her brother Frank recalls some competitors going to extreme lengths to win scoccetta. "There were people who would try and find river pebbles in the exact shape of an egg and others would siphon the yolk out and carefully inject molten wax into the empty egg for an edge," he says. In Pooraka, it is the solemnity of Good Friday which is most celebrated by the Vietnamese Catholic Community, says chaplain Monsignor Minh-Tam Nguyen. He says a congregation of about 500 people usually attend the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday at the community centre. He explains part of the service involves a procession of up to 15 people behind a glass coffin containing a statue of Jesus. The statue is then placed in a recreated tomb within the community centre for veneration. "I can only reflect on the history of my country," says Mgr Nguyen of the 15-year-old custom of the procession. "Vietnam is a war- torn country and many migrants have witnessed a great deal of suffering and can connect to Christ's suffering," he says. The sombre reflection however turns to celebration on Easter Saturday with a 7.30pm service at the centre which attracts up to 1500 people. "I think Easter is the most important feast of the Church," says Mgr Nguyen. "Easter created the Church." Easter Mass times are on page 25. BATTLE OF THE EGGS: Lucy and Gabriella Rugolo (front) rehearse the Easter Sunday tradition at the Marche Club in Paradise with generations of the Travaglini, Papandrea and Vagnarelli families. Traditions continue Photo: Nat Rogers