31 March 2008

10 Prison Inmates Baptized In Cincinnati Prison

From The Catholic Telegraph , the archdiocesan newspaper of Cincinnati, is this Easter story of 10 inmates received into the Church by Archbishop Pilarczyk.

ARCHDIOCESE — Ten inmates at Lebanon Correctional Institution (LeCI) experienced the sense of hope and promise of new life that accompanies the Easter season when they were welcomed into the Catholic Church on March 23.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk presided at a Mass at the close-security prison during which the men received the sacraments of initiation. The men were Daniel Charles Baker, Eric Edward Harmon, Scott William Hampton, Jason Allen Harris, Jonathon Dean Leggett, Bernard Perfetto, Dean Allen Preston, David Stephen Sour, Benjamin Charles Walton and Timothy Wilson.

The archbishop baptized 10 inmates, welcoming them into the church.
Through our Lady of Sorrows Parish in nearby Monroe, both LeCI and Warren Correctional Institution are ministered to by a team of Catholic volunteers committed to serving the spiritual needs of their incarcerated Christian brothers, explained Christine Shimrock, who serves as a prison chaplain. The volunteers, representing a number of area parishes, strive to emulate the services provided at the parish level including Mass, instruction and one-on-on counseling. At LeCI, the Catholic group, comprised of approximately 30 inmates, meets weekly and Jesuit Father Gene Carmichael presides at Mass for the men twice monthly.

Shimrock, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Mason, said the opportunity to develop and share their faith is significant for the inmates on several levels. "Society is so quick to judge people for their mistakes, but God doesn’t work that way. It’s important restoratively for the inmates to recognize that we’re all forgiven. More than 85 percent of the inmates will return to society and, as a citizen, I would like someone to return having repented. This ministry enables the inmates to return full of faith and with some spiritual goals."

"They also benefit from the sense of peace and fellowship because they don’t find that in the prison culture," Shimrock added. "They find others who believe in and support them too. It’s the one place they won’t be judged, and they’re given the fundamental tools they need to rebuild their faith and their lives."

The 10 men petitioned Archbishop Pilarczyk to celebrate Easter Mass at the prison and confer the sacraments by writing letters and, along with the volunteers and LeCI staff, were thrilled to welcome him.

Joining the catechumens and their sponsors were volunteers from the prison’s Kairos program and many of their family members.

Shimrock praised LeCI’s administration for the decision to allow the inmates’ relatives to be present for the Mass. "This is unprecedented," she said. "Families aren’t allowed past the visitors’ area, so to see the place where the men worship is so meaningful. The prison administration and staff have been so supportive of our program. They realize that when the men are faith-filled, it trickles down to the entire prison."

During the offertory, food items were collected from inmates.
"It’s really something special today for the men being baptized," said Warden Timothy Brunsman, who attended the Easter liturgy. "We’re thrilled to have the archbishop here."
Also on hand for the joyous service were Fathers Carmichael, George Klein, Mark Schmieder and Terry Meehan, pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows.

In his homily, Archbishop Pilarczyk spoke of the joy of the Easter season saying, "Easter is the celebration of new life and Jesus’ return to the living. In baptism, we begin to live a new life — the life of the risen Jesus."

"Life’s a wonderful thing," he added. "It’s a great gift. Today we thank God for life. May you find peace and contentment in the life of the Lord."

Wearing crisp white shirts, the elect were then called forward to be baptized and confirmed. After the archbishop conferred the sacraments, the assembly welcomed the new members of the Catholic Church with resounding applause. The men later received the Eucharist for the first time.

Eric Harmon, who attended a Catholic high school, said he decided to participate in RCIA because "It was time to put myself spiritually where I needed to be and that is being a member of the Catholic family."

Being Catholic in prison is a challenge, Harmon acknowledged. "The pettiness goes to the extreme at times, and it’s rough to keep on the right path with the corruption going on around you, so I pray a lot," he said.

His fellow inmate, Bernard Perfetto, said what drew him to Catholicism is "the message of love, forgiveness and hope — three things that are in short supply in prison. It (becoming Catholic) really gives me the feeling that I’m a servant of God and that means a lot when you’re confined in a place like this."

Perfetto said his faith will also give him the courage to re-enter society when the time comes. "It gives me hope to know that there is a faith community I can be part of on the outside, a place where I will be accepted."

Raised with no religion in his life, Benjamin Walton said he felt a sense of belonging when attending Catholic Mass and found RCIA to be "educational and enlightening."

"I know this is where I want to be," he said of the Catholic Church. "I’ve been so excited. This is the day I’ve joined Christ. I can’t stop smiling."

Walton was especially excited to have several family members join him for the occasion, including his grandmother, Sharon Ray.

"I’m so proud that he chose this path," Ray said. "I wouldn’t have missed this day for the world."

Among the other relatives present were Lizabeth and Gary Preston, whose son, Dean, received the sacraments. Although not Catholic themselves, the Prestons said they wholeheartedly supported Dean’s faith journey and spoke of the difference it has made in his life.

"I’ve seen him grow a lot in his relationship with the Lord," Lizabeth Preston said. "This has also strengthened our bond. We’re much closer now. "

"He seems more at peace in all the chaos around him," Gary Preston added. "It’s only been through Christ that he’s been able to achieve that."

After many years of searching, Jonathon Leggett’s faith has also brought him a sense of peace. "I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders," he said. "Given the things I’ve done in the past, I never thought I could be forgiven. Knowing God has forgiven me is uplifting."

Bringing Hope To Those Behind Bars

H/T The Deacon's Bench for this article in The Chronicle Herald about Deacon Brian Smiths work to bring hope to those in prison. After 12 years as a full time chaplain at a men's correctional facility, he currently is ministering to female inmates 3 times a week. He describes some of the differences,

"From all he’s seen and experienced over the years, Brian feels incarceration is harder on women than men, particularly because of the separation it represents from kith and kin.

Not only that, he says, but many women, even though they may have committed a crime, are more likely to be the real victim, in some way. Brian reminds me that many women are abused at home or in a relationship, or are forced into addiction or some other vice by a relative or a loved one."

The message Brian tries to take with him into prison is one of hope.

"I like to think I’m giving them some kind of hope for a better life, for a better tomorrow, for them and their children."

It doesn’t always work, he admits. Some inmates will never be rehabilitated or feel remorse.

"You just have to love them and keep on trying to support them in any way you can."

He tells me that part of his prison duties is to give bereavement notices to inmates. He remembers one middle-aged inmate whose son had died violently. When Brian broke the news, the man fell to pieces.

"He felt himself trapped," he explains. "He wanted to be with his son. He felt he’d let him down because he wasn’t there to be with him, that he’d failed as a parent."

Brian remembers the heartbroken inmate kicking and screaming and crying. As with so much of life behind bars, Brian found it tremendously draining.

Just how tough is it in prison these days? Brian tells me 90 per cent of inmates are there because of some addiction.

"The attitude of inmates, when they’re together or in a group of other inmates, they have one personality: big tough guys who flex their muscles."
"They have another side?" I interrupt.

Oh yes, says the deacon. "When you take them into the chapel, or in the office and shut the door, they . . . go back in time; they remember when they were children." They remember being taken to church, playing while Mass was being held. They think back to some of the things their parents and grandparents tried to teach them.

"Some of the big tough guys get really teary eyed," says Brian. "They feel like a failure; that they’ve let someone down. "He shakes his head sadly. "They don’t recognize that they let themselves down."

Brian tells me that all prison inmates are offered a Bible, and that those who accept it become so absorbed in it that within a month the pages becomes dog-eared and heavily underlined.
The deacon isn’t surprised. When your world is reduced to a small cell, you start feeling no one cares.

"These are truly lost souls," he reflects.

He remembers befriending a young man who was in Burnside for a home invasion. The inmate had become an adherent of the Bible but, tragically, had been diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have long. Brian arranged for him to conduct the readings during regular prayer services and it was during this period that the dying man revealed he’d never been baptized. He asked to be admitted to the church. The inmate asked for full-immersion baptism but the only vessel large enough was the tub in the prison laundry.

Brian decided it would do just fine, so that’s where the ceremony was held, presided over by a priest and witnessed by the other prisoners. The deacon, who took the young man as his godson, will never forget the moment.

"When he came up for the third time, he had the biggest, most contented smile on his face. He’d found Jesus — in the bottom of a laundry tub in a prison chapel."

Despite its tremendous difficulties I think most people involved in prison ministry will tell you that it is the most rewarding ministry they have been involved with. Please remember them in your prayers and consider what Jesus said, "When I was in prison, you visited me."

There is more of the article to read here.

28 March 2008

The Eucharist - Remedy Against Socialism

There is an essay over at The ChesterBelloc Mandate taken from The Church and Social Problems dealing with the encroaching of Socialism and how the remedy for this evil is in the frequent reception of the Eucharist. This is an excerpt and you can read the full article here.

Here, therefore, is the main ground why we say that the growth of Socialism presents no illusion, and that it is a reality which we shall be called upon to reckon with even far more seriously in the future.

To every unprejudiced student who still is imbued with the truth of the supernatural and makes of it the guiding light of his thinking and his acting, Socialism is the most complete expression of all that was embodied by St. John in that one word, "the world” as opposed to the spirit of Christ. With "the world” whether found in Capitalist oppression or in Socialist class-hatred and Materialism, the Christian can have no common cause. From it he can merely look for deadliest opposition, even though it should come to him under the guise of well-feigned friendship.

The weapons which first and foremost we must therefore have in readiness are those of the spirit, and the mightiest among these is the Holy Eucharist. "How" we might once have asked, "are we to surmount the indifference, the irreverence, the doubt and denial which the agnostic surroundings of our Catholic population are so likely to beget?" This is no longer a problem for us. The Holy Spirit Himself has clearly taught us the answer. It is most evidently contained in those great, providential decrees on Frequent and Early Communion. Should we fail to avail ourselves of these even to the utmost, the negligence indeed were folly; but disobedience by setting them aside were fatal unto death. Our greatest hope is in the Sacred Heart which beats within the Eucharist.

The arm of God is not shortened and the wonders of the Eucharist in the Church of the early centuries shall repeat themselves to-day. The same power that conquered the paganism of old can triumph over the godlessness of the modern world. What was the source of strength to the early Christian in days like our own if not the Holy Eucharist, received by the faithful at every Mass and borne in napkins of immaculate white to the prison cell? Thus was the flame of living fire kindled in the breast of the believer, and spreading outward and onward under the breath of the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal storm, it at last enwrapped the earth in a conflagration of Divine Love.

These decrees, therefore, are not hasty conclusions and arbitrary laws. They have been given only "after mature deliberations." There is the divine foreknowledge of God directing us through them. It is only at our peril that we can afford to ignore them.

To the Socialistic destruction of authority and promotion of class-hatred we shall present the invincible charity of Christ, the Judge and Saviour of the world. To the vaunting pride and triumphant march of the hosts that are poured forth against us from the gates of hell we shall show, like the saints of old, the Sacred Host, displayed upon the walls of our citadel.

The duty laid upon parents by the Holy Father regarding the early and frequent Communion of their children is strongly to be insisted upon. Early and frequent Communion alone, with that devotion to Our Lady always so tenderly entwined with it, can assuredly save the Home and the Child.

In conclusion we must appeal to the Catholic laity heartily to cooperate on all sides in the urgent work of firm, vigorous and truly Catholic organization. A spirit of Catholic solidarity is the need of the hour. The opportunities for undertaking and ccomplishing original work in the social service are certainly not wanting; but there are likewise countless Catholic enterprises already organized which are languishing for want of the support they most richly deserve. Let the reader choose among these and give to the service of his choice his whole heart's devotion. It is no time to stand idle. The Lord of the vineyard is seeking through the world for laborers to enter His service. Though His call should come to us only at the eleventh hour, we must not fail to heed it. His service will amply repay us.

18 March 2008

Catholic Support for Hilary

As I posted last week on the outcome of the Spanish elections and the voters preference of economics over moral issues and how it could be a sign of our own upcoming elections there was this article in the Sun Chronicle in Massachusetts. H/T The Remnant.

Political observers say Catholic voters are ignoring her stand on social issues such as abortion and are backing her for a number of other reasons, many having to do with economics.

Ray Flynn, the former mayor of Boston and ambassador to the Vatican, said Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have always enjoyed good support from Catholics because they are identified so closely with issues involving "social and economic justice."

Flynn said the Clintons back the kind of policies on health care, job creation, taxes and law enforcement appreciated by working class people, including Catholics.

A supporter of Hillary Clinton, Flynn said he has been campaigning for her in Pennsylvania, where there are large pockets of Irish and Polish Catholics, making the state fertile ground for her candidacy.
St. Augustine wrote in the City of God, Book III, "I must now turn to those calamities which are the only things our accusers have no wish to endure. Such are hunger, disease, war, plunder, imprisonment, massacre and horrors I mentioned in Book 1. Though these do not make men evil, evildoers regard them as the only evil. Yet, they feel no shame that they themselves are evil amid the things they praise as good. They are more pained if their villa is poor than if their life is bad, as though man's greatest good were to have everything good except himself."

St. Walburga's Latin Mass Update

The Latin Mass that was going to be on Easter at St. Walburga's had to be cancelled. Fr. felt that given the solemnity of Easter that it wouldn't be right just to have a low Mass but there will still be the Mass at St. Augustine's in South St. Paul. The regular 2nd Sunday Latin Mass will still be held next month.

12 March 2008

Spanish Vote for Economics Over Morals

In what is probably a portent of our own election in a few months the Spaniards voted with their pocketbooks, re-electing the current Socialists. Read the story at Catholic World News.

U of Notre Dame to Allow V- Monologues (again)

Once again the University of Notre Dame has agreed to allow the performance of the notorious "V. . . . a Monologues" play in what University president Fr. Jenkins deems necessary to a well rounded education,
"My decision on this matter,” Father Jenkins said, “arises from a conviction that it is an indispensable part of the mission of a Catholic university to provide a forum in which multiple viewpoints are debated in reasoned and respectful exchange--always in dialogue with faith and the Catholic tradition--even around highly controversial topics. Notre Dame's policy on controversial events rests on the conviction that truth will emerge from reasoned consideration of issues in dialogue with faith, and that we will educate Catholic leaders not by insulating our students from controversial views, but by engaging these views energetically, in light of Catholic teachings.”
Showing a perverse and scandolous play is not necessary to prevent our students from being insulated from such views. Fr. Jenkins forgets that by permitting such perversity to take place he is responsible for the sins committed as a result. Allowing people to commit sins of self-abuse on stage and then defending such actions in the name of academic freedom is absurd. Fr. Jenkins states there will be a panel discussion afterwards to present the Catholic teaching of issues. To suggest that the public showing of the play is necessary to precede a presentation of the true Catholic teaching on the matter is insulting to the intelligence even to those of us who did not receive an education at UND. One hopes there will be a number of priests hearing confessions at the end of the discussion. Fr. Jenkins admits the play is bad but he allows it anyway. 2000 years ago there was a procurator in Judea that believed in the innocence of a man but condemned him to death anyway rather than be seen as an enemy of the emperor. He chose unwisely. Read the excellent statement from Bishop D'Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese regarding this decision. Pray to Our Lady in reparation for this dishonor against her and the dignity of all women, particularly from a University bearing her name. There is more of the story at Catholic News Agency.

11 March 2008

Pray for Priests And Their Sense of Aloneness

As a reminder to always pray for priests and religious and the difficulties they face in their vocation there is this letter from an Irish priest on his excellent blog Clerical Whispers. H/T to Deacon's Bench. Though this priest does not give this opinion there are others who feel that this problem could be solved if only priests could be allowed to marry. There are a number of good comments that make the case that is more complex than that and really not the solution at all.


The new edition of the Rosary Confraternity newsletter has an excerpt from Pope Benedicts Lenten message on the importance of almsgiving which he identifies as ". . .a specific way to assist those in need and, and at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly good."

The Pope praises almsgiving as one of the traditional tasks that ". . . accompany the faithful in . . . process of interior renewal." He also distinguished almsgiving from "mere philanthropy," calling it "a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands inner conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ."

As Lent draws to a close we must remember that the interior renewal we have been working toward throughout Lent is not something that ends on Easter to be forgotten until Lent next year. Almsgiving is a duty that we must continue to perform each time an occasion presents itself.

New Grand Master For The Order of Malta

From the news release from the Order of Malta in Rome.

Fra’ Matthew Festing, 58, an Englishman, becomes the 79th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta,elected this morning by the Council Complete of State (the Order’s electoral body). In accepting the role, the new Grand Master swore his Oath before the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi, and the electoral body. He succeeds Fra’Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master (1988-2008), who died on 7 February.

The new Grand Master affirms his resolve to continue the great work carried out by his predecessor. Fra’ Matthew comes with a wide range of experience in Order affairs. He has been the Grand Prior of England since the Priory’s re-establishment in 1993, restored after an abeyance of 450 years. In this capacity, he has led missions of humanitarian aid to Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia after the recent disturbances in those countries, and with a large delegation from Britain he attends the Order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes with handicapped pilgrims.

Educated at Ampleforth and St.John’s College Cambridge, where he read history, Fra’ Matthew, an art expert, has for most of his professional life worked at an international art auction house. As a child he lived in Egypt and Singapore, where his father, Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had earlier postings. His mother was a member of the recusant Riddells of Swinburne Castle who suffered for their faith in penal times. He is also descended from Sir Adrian Fortescue, a knight of Malta, who was martyred in 1539. Fra’ Matthew served in the Grenadier Guards and holds the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army. He was appointed OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen and has served as her Deputy Lieutenant in the county of Northumberland for a number of years.

In 1977 Fra’ Matthew became a member of the Order of Malta, taking solemn religious vows in 1991. As well as his passion for the decorative arts and for history, for which his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the Order is legendary, as is his very British sense of humour, Fra’ Matthew spends any free time possible in his beloved Northumberland countryside.

One other piece of good news from this is Fra Festing's previous support for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. He was one of a number of signers of a letter last year to Pope Benedict supporting the wider use of the Tridentine Mass. And more recently there was Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary rite for Fra Bertie at the Chapel of the Grand Priory in London.

Fr. Laird speaking on Becoming the person Christ created you to be.

Fr. Peter Laird Vice Rector and Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at the St. Paul Seminary will speak at St. Albert's Church in Albertville on Friday, March 14th at 6:30 p.m.
"Becoming the person Christ created you to be."
The talk is suited for everyone, men and women,
mothers and fathers,
husbands and wives, young and old!
Come, listen, and learn how to be men and women of Christ!
Stations of the Cross will follow at 7:30.

06 March 2008

The Laboure Society

Tonight we had our monthly meeting of the Serra Club of Wright County held at the beautiful Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo. The guest speaker was Cy Laurent who is the founder of the Laboure Society. Mr Laurent founded the society after realizing that many religious vocations were being either delayed or lost due to the fact that any aspirant to the priesthood or religious life must be free of debt before entering diocesan or community formation. Much of the debt is a result of college tuition especially from Catholic colleges and universities. It is truly outrageous that those attending a minor and/or major seminary at a Catholic college/Univ. are expected to pay the full rate of tuition even when they continue on and are ordained. Of course someone who goes through the seminary and drops out should be expected to pay but not those who are ordained. Truly we must re-examine our priorities when we give free rides to atheletes who have zero to no chance of every playing professional sports yet expect young men who will donate their life to the Church for very little salary to pay 20-30K each year for tuition. So until our Catholic colleges and universities develop a conscience and help ease this financial burden entirely or at least partially we can support the efforts of the Laboure Society to see that these young people are able to pursue their vocation. It's mission is simple, The Laboure Society exists to provide financial assistance to individuals who must eliminate personal debt in order to pursue their vocation to priesthood or religious life in the Catholic Church.

In addition I encourage you to consider joining your local Serra Club to foster vocations to the priesthood or religious life. To find out more information visit Serra USA .

Parental Interference In Child's Vocation

H/T Deacon's Bench for this article on parental interference in their children's vocation

Excellence Award

A gracious thank you to Tracy at Pinewood Castle for recommending me as an Excellent Blog. Tracy and her family help in coordinating the Tridentine Mass at St. Walburga's, publishing our bulletin and help prepare the altar. She also has an excellent blog for Mom's and homeschoolers. She's very creative and has great ideas to school the children with links to numerouse resources. Part of my duty in accepting this nomination is to suggest 10 other excellent blogs. Since I was one of her 10 and she was already nominated and because I'm not sure if it is proper blog excellence award etiquette to nominate the person who nominated you, I will simply say her blog is deserving of the award and well worth checking out and I will list another 10.


This blog and the opinions are all my own and in no way imply the endorsement from any organization. Nor does a recommendation of another blog or web site imply my agreement or endorsement of everything found on their site.